EVERY time Greg Chappell so much as opens his mouth about Indian cricket, he seems to lob a grenade.
Timeless Steel, Cricinfo’s anthology as tribute to Rahul Dravid has already stirred up enough controversy because of Chappell’s piece in which he alleges that the former India captain did not receive full support from his teammates when he was in the saddle.
On the face of it, this might appear downright inflammatory to those who believe that it was Chappell himself who caused so much turmoil in Indian cricket during his stint here. But to be objective, there are other aspects that need to be considered.
Foremost of these is that Chappell is entitled to his opinion as a fundamental right; the flip side of the foremost is that he need not necessarily be correct. Just to play devil’s advocate, his perception of a divided team could have been enhanced because of the excruciating circumstances he himself was embroiled in.
For instance, players in the same dressing room at loggerheads with each other for a spell of time — and others getting sucked in willy-nilly — is not new in any team sport.
Cricket history, in fact, is replete with such stories.
Even the venerated Don Bradman was not the most liked in the Australian team because most of his teammates thought he was a snitch who leaked privileged information to the media.
Sobers and Kanhai were not on the best of terms for more than a decade, Bedi and Wadekar had serious differences as did Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. In recent times, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke almost came to blows. Greg Chappell himself did not get along with Kim Hughes when the latter was captaining Australia.
Egos, personal ambition, differing game plans, seniority ( or the lack of it), laziness, overzealousness can all lead to personality clashes among team members. To imagine the dressing room as a heavenly abode where players live as one and in peace is foolish.
Mutual dependency is the glue that frequently keeps a side from falling apart.
To get back to Chappell and his turbulent years in Indian cricket, while it is true he was an ‘ insider’ because he was the coach, it is also true that he rapidly became an outsider as several players – not just Sourav Ganguly — fell foul of him.
VIRENDER Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh were among those whose aptitude and/ or attitude Chappell brought into question. This led to frequent changes in the team as the months rolled by.
As it happened, all these players played stellar roles in India becoming the top- ranked Test nation and World Cup champions subsequently, but that’s not of the essence here.
In a sense, his discord with some players is hardly new. I would have rather that Chappell had mentioned names now, but that would clearly have invited action for defamation. But whether the alienation from so many players colour his perspective or whether he has hit on a sore wound is the moot question.
Dravid himself, at the book launch in Mumbai, clarified that though Chappell was a strong personality, the teams that played under him “were my own’’, implying that the coach did not influence selection beyond a point and that he was quite happy with his teammates.
Yet, this remains an intriguing phase in Indian cricket. In the wake of the shocking defeat in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, Chappell resigned. It was thought that Dravid may be sacked too, but he retained his captaincy and led India to victory in the Test series in England.
A year earlier under him, India had beaten the West Indies in West Indies, the first time in 35 years. The Test series against South Africa later that year was a taut contest, India surrendering a a1- 0 lead to lose the series 1-2.
Inexplicably, just when it appeared that Dravid had redeemed himself from the World Cup fiasco and was in for the long haul, he quit the captaincy after returning from England. Now, as he did then, Dravid maintains that he gave up the captaincy because he had lost enthusiasm for the job.
Greg Chappell: Some players worked against Rahul
Not too many captains give up their jobs so easily. Interestingly, in Indian cricket, there have been three such instances.
Before Dravid, Gavaskar quit in 1984-85 despite winning the World Championship of Cricket and Sachin Tendulkar gave it up in 2000 after the 0-3 drubbing against Australia.
Both, however, had compelling reason to do so. Did Dravid have one too? We’ll probably have to wait for his autobiography to know.