A cricket writer of more than three decades, Gautam Bhattacharya has covered more than 150 Test matches, 700 one-dayers and 12 World Cups. He has followed Sourav Ganguly’s career ever since he made his Ranji Trophy debut. He is the author of two bestselling books: ‘Sach’, a book on Sachin Tendulkar, and Pankaj Roy’s authorized biography.
Confidence to prepare without any support
The day we began, I was curious to find out about Sourav’s approach. Surely he would come prepared and would have scribbled a few lines beforehand. After all, it is not an interview or just an informal recollection. It is for a book that is going to stay. However, Sourav approached the entire project without any notes. It was mind-blowing. I saw the same trait in him the other day as he went to Kolkata for the finale of the reality show Dadagiri with Sachin Tendulkar. I asked him, ‘Mr Quizmaster, where are the quiz questions for the final and where are the answers?’ He said, ‘I have not seen them beforehand. I prefer to do it on the show. Otherwise, the spontaneity goes.’ I was surprised. But then I asked myself, ‘Why were you surprised? Haven’t you seen this before?’
He has an elephantine memory and remembers almost every sentence, every small detail. Of course, with scores and averages there were a few misses here and there. But come to think of it, for someone who has played close to 450 internationals and five IPL seasons in a sixteen-year-long career, how does he remember everything so vividly?
After having worked with him closely, I feel he has still not gotten over his cricketing disappointments. He doesn’t show it but deep inside there is a wound that still bleeds. And if you have followed his story, you would know that the disappointments are justified. Towards the later stages of his career, despite his consistency as a player, Sourav’s life was virtually a roller-coaster ride. He was either the captain in the IPL or remained unsold. In one particular season, he was the highest scorer and yet always singled out for a disaster.
Like Tendulkar, Ganguly has an almost unreal passion for the game. I discovered that tomorrow if someone credible enough approaches him with an offer to take away his bank balance and all his property but gives him the opportunity to play for India in exchange, it will leave Sourav smiling from ear-to-ear. When Sourav said, ‘Service professionals are fortunate as they can switch jobs; for us it is India or nothing,’ I could see his deep-rooted pain.
Having covered him all these years, I knew how he fought his battles outstandingly, how he handled the pressure. But the interviews for this book went beyond the surface. In the past, I would observe things two- or three-dimensionally. Now I was being allowed a three-sixty-degree view. I must say, he is possibly one of the most determined individuals I have been fortunate enough to interact with, and I have interacted with the Gavaskars and the Imrans in their prime. Sourav certainly belongs to the league that believes a battle continues even after you have lost it badly.