Former England captain Nasser Hussain believes that Sourav Ganguly played an important part in transforming India into a feisty side that is now feared by teams adding that that aggression came to him, and current Indian captain Virat Kohli, naturally.
Ganguly, who is now the president of Board of Control for Cricket in India, has been credited for turning around the fortunes of the team in the late 90s in the aftermath of the match-fixing scandal. The image of the Indian skipper waving his T-shirt from the Lord’s balcony after winning the Natwest Trophy final has become an iconic moment.
Hussain was the England captain in that series and has seen Ganguly operate as the leader of the Indian side from close quarters.
“Indian teams were incredibly talented but I always found playing the Indian team before Sourav, they were a sort of nice. Very friendly. You respected them but weren’t scared of them. Sourav made that side a tough, feisty side.
“And he still had his nice and very friendly people in there like Sachin (Tendulkar), VVS (Laxman). But what he made sure was that side was tough. Whether it was Harbhajan (Singh) or Yuvraj (Singh) or Sourav himself. You knew you were in a battle with them,” said Hussain on the Sony Sports’ interview show titled ‘Pit Stop’.
“In my opinion, he started the revolution in Indian cricket. And see where it is now,” he added.
Hussain also had a word of praise for Kohli saying the current Indian captain is always competitive, even while playing football as a warm up before the match.
“You watch Kohli playing football in the morning before a game, he is like it is a World Cup football final. You look at Kohli’s run chases in ODIs. It’s not just about Kohli the batsman. Its about Kohli saying: ‘we want to win this game. If I get a 100 and we lose, that means nothing to me. I need to get a 100-150 and we have to win’,” Hussain said, adding no player can put on such a show unless it came naturally to them.
Hussain said that Kohli’s in-your-face attitude as captain is not a show that he is putting on for cameras; the likes of Ganguly, Kohli and Hussain himself were characters who were naturally aggressive as otherwise they would have been found out by media or teammates.
The former England captain, who will be part of the commentary team for the upcoming West Indies tour to England that begins next month, was also asked about his view on the saliva ban and the effect it could have on the bowlers.
Hussain felt that the ball would still move in England but insisted that the bowlers will have to make certain adjustments to the thought process simply because they are used to a certain way for years.
“It will have a factor. Cricketers have trained their brain for 20 years. Someone like Jimmy Anderson is used to putting saliva on the ball while walking back to his run up. It’s just what you trained your brain to do for number of years. And it will be difficult to re-train the brain,” he said.
Hussain also backed Rohit Sharma to come good as an opener in Test cricket.
“If Rohit Sharma is not a Test match opener, I’ve been watching a different game... If you go and ask fellow cricketers who your favourite players, a lot of them will say Rohit Sharma,” Hussain said.
“Fellow cricketers watch Rohit Sharma and say this bloke seems to have so much time to bat.”
Rohit, who has become an ODI great, has only played 32 Tests. Hussain advised caution to Rohit at the start of the innings.
“Test match cricket at the top of the order is about having time, it’s about having a technique as well. You have to cover your off stump, like Virat did in England against Anderson, the way he left him outside after all his problems of the previous tour, that is a Test match cricketer.
“And that’s the only thing Rohit has to do when he goes away from home and when ball is moving around. He has to just spend half an hour and say to the bowler you can have this half hour I’m going to leave you, I’m going to take the slip cordon out of play.”
India are scheduled to play four Tests in Australia later in 2020. The Chennai-born cricketer remembered the 2018 Edgbaston Test where India had dropped their premier No 3 Pujara and went on to lose the match by 31 runs, saying Kohli and Co will need to be spot on on team selection Down Under.
“I think India need to select well because they have so many great batsmen so it’s very easy that when Rohit doesn’t do anything for two games, Prithvi Shaw will get in, and when he doesn’t do well, someone else will get in.
“Select, stick by them and give them a long run. They are very fine players and eventually if you don’t get runs in Australia then you’ve got a problem because like I say it is a good place to bat you will find out who your Test match players in Australia.”
India will also play a day-night Test on the tour, at the Adelaide Oval from December 11-15.
“Australia in general is a very good place to bat and the one game where it might do a little bit is the day-night Test. So if you get an opportunity of it moving around, you better make sure you use it.
“Probably since the Kolkata follow-on Test (at Eden Gardens in 2001) all these years ago, India-Australia has become an iconic series. Also because of IPL, and the sides knowing each other so well, and the clashes between them it’s become a real watchable series. Australia have gone on to No 1 in the Test rankings after the sandpaper gate scandal. I think it will be an incredibly watchable series.”