Sourav Ganguly © Getty Images
Sourav Ganguly felt that the Indian team led by him crumbled under pressure in the 2003 World Cup final against Australia © Getty Images

Oct 19, 2014

Defending India‘s often-criticised character of crumbling under pressure, former captain Sourav Ganguly said that the current side is better adept in responding to difficult situations than in the past.

“In 2003, we lost to the best Australian side under Ricky Ponting. But today, the Indian team won’t buckle under pressure,” Ganguly said at the Aaj Tak conclave ‘Salaam Cricket‘ on Saturday.

Addressing a large gathering, Ganguly remembered the loss against Australia in a one-sided final in 2003, saying it was very difficult to captain the Indian cricket team because of the expectations surrounding the sport in the country.

“Stones were thrown at us after the Johannesburg loss. We Indians react under pressure. But we are used to it [pressure]. You have to deal with it,” he said.

Talking about pressure in the upcoming edition of showpiece event, 1987 World Cup-winning Australian captain Allan Border said there is a unique pressure attached to the 50-over event.

“It’s once in a four year chance to show your skill, talent and mettle in the cricket’s showpiece event,” Border said.

Border opined that pressure would be there on defending champions India to repeat their 2011 success as the country is so passionate about cricket.

“Flavour of cricket fans here is second to none,” he said.

Clive Lloyd, the legendary West Indian and winner of 1975 and 1979 World Cup, said he felt the pressure when he represented the culture and dreams of thousands of Caribbean islanders.

“Pressure is always there. We are a side comprising players from different islands, representing different cultures. England is one country. India is one country. It is very difficult to get people together in the West Indies. You represent different people.” Lloyd said.

And about the 1983 Wold Cup loss to India, Lloyd said that what happens on a particular day matters.

“Whoever plays better, wins. India did play well. It gave them that lift.”

Asked whether the West Indies had crumbled because of over confidence, Lloyd said it could be one of the reasons.

Ganguly meanwhile pointed out that pressure can have both positive and negative effects.

“At times I felt that with so many talents we were sleeping giant. A little bit of aggression in the field would perhaps wake them up. With Indian team, a little bit of shake- up will augurs well. Look at the England tour where we were beaten comprehensively in the Tests but then there was a complete turnaround in ODIs,” Ganguly said.

He also regretted taking off his shirt on the Lord’s balcony after India’s win in the NatWest triangular series in 2002, calling it a mistake as well as a way of “relieving the pressure”.

Arjuna Ranatunga, the influential captain who led Sri Lanka to their only World Cup victory in 1996, said compared to India, the islanders treat cricket as a game rather than a religion.

“The team that absorbs pressure has a better chance. That is what I have observed since 1975,” he said.

However, Ranatunga confessed that there were instances when he also felt the pressure to deliver.

“There was more pressure on at least some of the senior players in the final of World Cup 1996 as there was more Sri Lankans and Pakistanis were also supporting us compared to the semis at Eden Gardens where one lakh people were rooting for the home team,” he said.