How Saurav Ganguly learnt to face Shoaib Akhtar

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Despite winning against Sri Lanka and West Indies, coach Greg Chappell was worried because Team India generally travelled poorly and living out of a suitcase was something they were always terrible at. Most importantly, whenever they missed their favourite dish, the team more often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

India’s ‘Power Play’ came mainly from players munching their pet snacks at regular intervals. Grapevine was that the coach, known for his innovative methods, had whipped up something special for WC.

Before leaving Bombay last night, he agreed to share the recipe he had in mind to bring the World Cup home.

“I heard you are making special preparations for the World Cup?”

“That’s right. Food maketh a man and behind the success of great cricketers are their favourite dishes. I have found by experience that Team India throws a match away from a great position, even if they get a whiff of doubt their favourite course may not be available for dinner. On some occasions, they have fought like the devils from a hopeless position to win a match when the aroma of mouth-watering food wafts from pavilion on to the pitch. Nowadays, I keep a cook next to me always.”

“Could you please elaborate?”

“Sure. I have gone thro’ Sachin’s bio and the whole world knows he likes hilsa fish cooked over slow fire after marinating with wine. But I was shocked to find, match after match, they were feeding him with peanut butter sandwich with jam and banana.  That’s staple food for a tennis player and a forerunner of tennis elbow. That’s how Sachin got his famous Tennis Elbow!”

“That’s terrible!”

“If I have hilsa from Tendulkars’ in hand and call Sachin for training at midnight, I am sure his nose will pick it up in Bandra and he’ll come running! Did you know Dravid, all along, was given tortoise soup with snails dipped in yoghurt as hors d’oeuvre during one-day matches? No wonder his strike rate was crawling! I replaced it with rabbit soup cooked with hare’s legs from Topkapi dipped in Australian chilly sauce. Look, how he raced up to 10000+!  He now takes even Dhoni’s catches standing in slips!”

“You have unusual coaching methods which even Lords won’t have a clue. How did you fix Ganguly’s problems?”

“These are out of box solutions. I analysed Ganguly’s problems in Zimbabwe itself but the solution took long time in coming! Dalmiya had told me Ganguly likes rosogulla and he can’t be without it for even as long as ten minutes. That’s the time he was spending at the wicket earlier! In one-day matches, when he is facing Shoaib Akhtar or Glen McGrath and the white ball is fired at close to 100 miles per hour, he thinks a rosogulla is coming his way and tries to get his mouth in position.  The result is usually clumsy, loss of face, and ridicule.”

“So, what was your solution?”

“Solution? Now, I give him a few rosogullas before he walks to the pitch! This helps him get over the craze at least for a   couple of overs. Both K.C. Das and Ganguram, makers of world–famous rasogullas help me in this. During drinks breaks, one of their staff dressed as the 12th man takes a box of these to the pitch for Ganguly to choose from.  Sourav scored as many rosogullas as runs in the recent series against Sri Lanka! But I am not complaining!”

“It’s a brilliant move! Are there favourite eats for other players too?”

“You bet there are, mate. It’s my job to find ‘em out!  Kumble loves boondi laddus and I always give him one, the size of cricket ball complete with resins, kesari, sugar crystals and cashew nuts. We get boxes of laddus from MTR in Bangalore! It gives Kumble a feel of the ball even before he gets to bowl!”

“Fantastic.”

“I know Srinath retired prematurely as they couldn’t get him Mysore Bonda and Mysore pak from Guru Sweet Mart.  Imagine losing a great pace bowler like that! I always make sure Sreesanth gets his chicken with green and red chilli powder sprinkled all over. That’s how he got his back on Nel in Jo’berg and did a Kathakali! For the Rajkot match, I got Dinesh Karthik his Thairu Saadam  from Dasaprakash so he remains cool; he has become a good finisher for us!”

“Mr. Chappell, I’m sure by the time you are done with Indian team you’ll have a Cricketers’ Recipe Bible! My last question—how will you get these in West Indies as they are all special dishes from different parts of India?”

“A very good question indeed. We have already selected a team of cooks under the captaincy of Jiggs Kalra!  They are already in the West Indies getting used to the local conditions before we land this evening!”

Cross-posted on kosambari