When you talk about Sourav Ganguly, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe the wild shirt celebration at Lord’s in the NatWest series final in 2002, or the aggressive tactics deployed on tours away from home, something no other captain dared to venture into before him. When you think of Sourav Ganguly, which adjective or emotion do you associate him with the most? Fearless, brave, rebellious, decisive would probably top that list.
For as long as he’s been around, and he has been around for a long time, Ganguly has managed to keep his stature as an icon preserved. His tenure as captain of the Indian Team was one of the brightest chapters in the history of cricket in the country.
When he took on as captain of the side in the early 2000s, the Indian cricket team was going through a period of crisis and doldrums. Ganguly came on board and revitalised the entire culture surrounding the team whose ripples are felt to this day.
When the BCCI went through a series of trials and tribulations given its involvement in match-fixing scandals in the IPL, it turned to the God of Offside to act saviour again. He had done it once before as captain, this time he would need to do it from the offices of the board, holding the most prestigious post of President.
However, there is more to this decision than meets the eye. On the surface, it all makes sense. Sourav Ganguly is a legend in the country whose halo extends beyond the sport. Therefore, it was only logical to appoint someone who held as much gravity and influence in cricket as him as BCCI President.
The day before being announced officially as President of the highest governing body for cricket in India and the most powerful cricket organisation after ICC, Sourav met with Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence in Delhi. This is where the catch lies.
Since coming into power in 2014, the BJP hasn’t stopped short in trying to control the entire administrative sphere of the BCCI and it has managed to be successful in that attempt. The newest board elected after the Lodha recommendations of Supreme Court also consists of Jay Shah, the son of Home Minister Amit Shah and Arun Dhamal, the brother of BJP MP Anurag Thakur. Shah holds the position of Secretary while Dhamal is the treasurer of the institution, making sure the ruling party holds the important cards of the BJP.
In light of these developments, it is not wrong to possibly consider that the role of Sourav Ganguly was politically motivated and that Ganguly had consented to play ball despite the enormous political angle attached to the scene. It’s true that it is Ganguly who still holds all the reins and influence as President, but there’s plenty of room to question what happens behind the scenes and how much control he really exerts outside of the sphere of influence of the party.
This is a far cry from his image as the captain who made Steve Waugh wait deliberately at a toss just to get under his skin. In many ways, that move was symbolic of Ganguly’s tenure as skipper- his India wanted to dance with the fiercest teams without showing them unnecessary over-the-top respect. His India was not to be taken lightly anymore. Ganguly’s India had cojones and he made sure to bring it out on to the pitches and leave a lasting memory.
Under the current BCCI constitution, Ganguly can only hold the post of President for 10 months before taking off a cooling period of three years until he can actively take over BCCI projects once again. The BCCI hasn’t seen a cricketer of Ganguly’s stature hold such a prestigious office before and at 47, he is one of the youngest BCCI Presidents ever.
He was not the frontrunner for the post though. It was widely believed that former cricket Brijesh Patel who has been an administrator with the Karnataka State Cricket Association for a long time would bag the job. He also had extensive backing of former board President N Srinivasan who exerts immense influence and power over the cricketing sphere in the country, or did at one point. Jay Shah was also among the list of names being tipped.
It was only after Sourav Ganguly met with Amit Shah on 13th October that the consensus around him changed drastically. Though Dada has always claimed to be politically unmotivated and has never aligned himself with a specific party, being the smart and calculated man he is, he has always kept himself in the good books of political parties in power.
When he burst onto the scene as the left-handed iconic cricketer he went on to become, he was closely aligned with North Bengal’s Ashok Bhattacharya who was a popular face of the CPM party which had been in power for a long time in West Bengal. When Mamata Banerjee took over the state, Ganguly maintained a close relationship with her. It was Mamata who announced that Ganguly would be holding the reins of the CAB after the death of Jagmohan Dalmiya.
While never being the face of a political party, Ganguly managed to place himself exactly from where he could benefit the most and this time was no different.
When the protests against the BJP’s divisive Citizenship Amendment Act was at its peak in December, Ganguly’s daughter Sana Ganguly posted an excerpt from Khushwant Singh’s book ‘The End of India.’ Khushwant Singh was highly critical of the Sangh Parivar, and his book was published when Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP government was in power at the Centre. Sana’s Instagram story went viral and was lauded by the citizens of the country. She later deleted it and the reason was cleared when Sourav Ganguly tweeted, “Please keep Sana out of all this issues .. this post is not true .. she is too young a girl to know about anything in politics.”
Please keep Sana out of all this issues .. this post is not true .. she is too young a girl to know about anything in politics
— Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) December 18, 2019
Ganguly’s tweet was met with intense criticism on the internet. Even his hardcore fans accused of him being spineless and not living up to the image of the fearless leader he once was.
Even in the latest T20 World Cup final which the Women in Blue ended up losing to Australia at the MCG, Ganguly tagged Jay Shah in his congratulatory tweet. It’s pretty clear how dearly he holds his friendship with the BJP, especially the Shahs.
— Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) March 8, 2020
It’s hard to reconcile this image of Ganguly with the one who decided to play Anil Kumble despite the BCCI ordering him to pick Murali Kartik for the 2004 tour of Australia or the one who promoted Sehwag as opener or sent VVS Laxman ahead of Rahul Dravid for the historic Test against Australia in Eden Gardens in 2001. The Ganguly back then stood up for what he thought was right and the ideals he believed in.
Prior to 2014, BJP tried to woo Sourav and even offered him a list of constituencies from which he could run for power on their party ticket. BJP are currently the second largest party in West Bengal and having Ganguly with them could pave the way for the party to take over the state once Mamata’s grip is loosened.
At this point, it is still unlikely that Ganguly will choose a career in politics. Affiliating himself to a party would mean alienating the section of his fanbase that believes in different ideals and Ganguly has never held a political post in his life.
Sourav Ganguly is charismatic and he is shrewd. This possible, alleged alliance with the BJP is a win-win situation for both him and the BCCI. With him as the face and the ceremonial head of the organisation, the BCCI gets to save face after the mess it has been through in recent years and Ganguly can help improve that tarnished image. For Ganguly, he holds the cards of the second biggest cricketing organisation in the world and has friends at the right places.
Sure, you can criticise him for not taking a stand for what’s right or losing that famous spine of his that cemented India’s position as a world leader in the game of cricket but you cannot criticise the mastermind that he is to make the most out of diplomatic affiliations with political influence in the country.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed are the author’s own and CricXtasy neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.