MUMBAI: The disgraced Aussie trio of former skipper Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft have received sympathy and backing from the most unlikely quarter.
Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly, who ironically had quite a few run-ins with the Kangaroos in his playing days, believes the cricketers, banned by Cricket Australia (CA) after indulging in ball-tampering during the third Test against South Africa at Cape Town, aren’t “cheaters.”
“I sympathize with Smith. He is a fantastic player and he will come back and keep scoring runs for Australia. I don’t think it’s cheating… actually (I) don’t believe it’s cheating,” said Ganguly at a glittering launch of his book ‘A Century is not Enough’, which was attended by batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, current India star Rohit Sharma and many other former India cricketers, on Wednesday night. “I wish them (David Warner and Cameron Bancroft) luck, and hopefully they will come back and play well. It’s not right to call it cheating,” he re-iterated.
Meanwhile, the evening saw many lighter moments, which spoke about the camaraderie that Ganguly and Tendulkar still share. The retired batting maestro seemed to be playing a ‘cheeky’ stroke off Ganguly when he quizzed his former skipper: “You’ve had a terrific career. A hundred at Lord’s..Indian captain. Bengal Cricket Association (BCA) president…what next..BCCI president?” ‘Dada,’ though, was quick to throw the ball back to the Master Blaster’s court. “Only if you fight Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) (elections) for secretary’s post. So you tell me…because at the moment the Supreme Court is kicking all of us out. You’re then the only person left with no tenure, no time, no age. You’re as fresh as a morning flower. So, if you put your hand up, I’m ready to put my hand up too,” replied Ganguly.
The ‘Prince of Kolkata’ also had a funny answer in store for Rohit’s query about how he dealt with the difficult situation of choosing between spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh while playing Test outside the sub-continent. “It was simple Rohit. The best thing was one Friday, I got fired by Kumble, and the next Friday, I got fired by Bhajji. It was as simple as that. Whoever I left out would come to my room and say: ‘If you think I’m not good enough, find someone else.” And I’d to tell them: ‘You’re good enough, and you’ll play the next game,'” said Ganguly, while remembering how it was even tougher on this issue to deal with pacer Ashish Nehra.
In an evening filled with rare anecdotes, Rohit recalled how Ganguly’s famous shirt-twirling act at the Lord’s balcony to celebrate India’s triumph in the Natwest Trophy final in 2002 inspired his friends to take their shirts off too while watching the match. “I was 13 or 14. We were watching it at our friend’s house. As soon as he removed his T-shirt, we all took off our T-shirts and we kept doing it until he stopped. There were some chest-bumps as well,” recalled the 30-year-old.
Reminiscing that moment, Tendulkar too chipped in: “As soon as he started to do that, I told him ‘What are you doing? You don’t even have six-packs!” Looking embarrassed about that incident, Ganguly revealed: “VVS Laxman was actually pulling my shirt down at that moment, while Harbhajan asked me ‘what should we do?’ ‘You too take off your shirt’ I told him.”
Ganguly had huge praised for not just Rohit and his captaincy, but for his wife Ritika too. “I feel happy when Rohit gets out and I am sad when Rohit scores a hundred because of his wife. I’ve never seen a cricketer’s wife who’s so passionate about cricket, and I truly appreciate it,” complimented the 45-year-old.