Kolkata, Jul 21: Former Bengal all-rounder Kalyan Mitter, who will be conferred the Cricket Association of Bengal's Kartick Bose Lifetime Award, gave Sourav Ganguly the credit for Team India's success under Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Describing Ganguly as the best Indian skipper ever, the 75-year-old said that Dhoni is an 'okay' captain who is reaping the fruits of seeds sown by the retired Prince of Kolkata.
Best remembered for his stint in the Lancashire League in the 1950s during which time he played alongside Dattu Phadkar and faced the likes of Roy Gilchrist and Wes Hall with aplomb, the stylish right-hander said, “I will not put Dhoni in the class of Ganguly.”
“Ganguly was special - of a mentor class. He built Team India from nowhere (when the team was mired in fixing scandal). In my opinion Ganguly was the best captain India had,” said Mitter, who was also a part-time off-spinner.
Mitter confessed that he stopped watching cricket as it became an overdose following the advent of Twenty20.
“T20 is all entertainment and no cricket, something that affects the cricketer's mentality for a five-day format. Like a coin, it also has another side too. Cricketers are financially secure, unlike in our days.”
“I had stopped watching cricket after the World Cup. But I am waiting eagerly for the India-England Test series. It's the real test of character,” the septuagenarian, suffering from leukomia, said.
Mitter had earned a lot of praise from the legendary Phadkar who had once predicted that the former would become a star batsman for India.
Though the stylish Bengal all-rounder did not make it to the national squad, he proved his mettle against the likes of Gilchrist and Hall when he played for Rochadle in the Lancashire League.
Later, when the dreaded Gary Sobers-led West Indies team toured India in 1958-59, Mitter, representing Combined Universites, confronted the West Indian pacers duo smartly.
The West Indies tore apart the University lads for 49 in first innings where Mitter top-scored with 17.
“But I could not make the India cut that will be my only regret. I did not give up and continued playing. I must have lacked something for which I could not play for India,” Mitter said, disappointment writ large on his face.
Mitter, however, earned fame for Bengal side under Pankaj Roy as twice - 1955-56 and 1958-59 - they finished Ranji Trophy runners-up, losing to Bombay on both the occasions.
“Beating Bombay was like beating India. They were the powerhouse in a star-studded team boasting about nine Test cappers. On the first occasion, I was very young and remember Pankaj Roy falling sick. But we gave them a fight in our second final and came very close to win it before going down by conceding first innings lead,” he recollected.
Mitter represented Bengal from 1953 to 1964, before a job with Tata Steel took him to Bihar where he played till 1969, when he hung up his boots.
But he returned to Bengal with success, this time as a coach when the state once again finished runners-up in the 1993-94 Ranji season.
Mitter felt sad that the two-time champions Bengal are yet to figure in a Ranji Trophy final since 2006-07, and has a word of advice to the cricket administrators.
“Honestly, I'm out of Bengal cricket. I think the cricket season here is short. We must do something to have more cricket. We need more cricket grounds, regular tournaments. More four-days cricket,” said Mitter, who represented Sporting Union, Mohun Bagan among others.
Influences of Roy and elder brother Jyotish took him to cricket while Englishman Bert Wensley, during a coaching stint in CAB, spotted his talent.
But it was under the tutelage of Kartick Bose that he made it big.
“Getting the lifetime award named after my 'guru' is the ultimate reward for my contribution to cricket. I feel so proud,” he signed off.