New Delhi, July 13: Sourav Ganguly took over the reins of Indian cricket team in 2000 when the whole establishment was embroiled in the match-fixing saga that consumed several high-profile names. But Ganguly gave Indian cricket a new lease of life inducting a set of youngsters into the team.
Many of them like Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan became integral part of the Indian sides in the later years as well. And as a captain too, Sourav Ganguly left his mark leading a young side with aggression and instilling in them belief. Ganguly was not averse to look opposition players into their eyes, pioneering an image makeover of Indian cricket.
Former South African skipper Graeme Smith, a contemporary of Ganguly, highlighted this fact.
"You knew if you poked Dada, you were going to get something back always," Smith said on the Cricket Connected Show on Star Sports. "I have spent a fair amount of time with Dada now. Particularly in administration, we are having a number of conversations over the telephone. He is always calm and approachable, always interested in a good conversation," said Smith, the longest-serving South African captain.
Smith said the celebration of Ganguly at the Lord's balcony after winning the NatWest Trophy in 2002 symbolised his cricket.
"I think all of us remember that celebration, it was a beautiful sight seeing Dada. More than anything besides the humour of it all, it was the passion that he showed in celebration," Smith said.
"It showed how much India winning meant to him and to overcome the challenge of winning the NatWest Trophy in England, to win away from home, driving Indian cricket forward. I think that shot epitomises everything we have discussed today. But I do have a chuckle every time I see it now. Also, Dada was running short on the hair side on those days, so it is a very humorous shot. But from a passion perspective, that speaks volumes about Dada," said Smith.
Smith admitted that he had a few run-ins with Ganguly on the field but said the Indian counterpart never made him wait for toss a la Steve Waugh.
"No, he didn't," said Smith. "We had one or two moments when we were at each other a little bit. I was quite feisty in my youth as a captain and certainly we know that Dada never backed away," said Smith.