Calcutta, Sept. 15: In what will rank as unprecedented in captain-coach relationships, Greg Chappell asked Sourav Ganguly to step down on the eve of the ongoing Test in Bulawayo.
Sourav, who scored 101 and also joined the 5,000 Test runs’ club today, confirmed that he was asked to step aside.
The captain, however, declined to name who asked him to do so.
“I didn’t identify the person at the media conference, after stumps, and I’m not going to do so now' Please'” Sourav told The Telegraph late tonight.
Well-placed sources, though, have named Chappell as the one who wanted Sourav to step down.
While manager Amitabh Choudhary (an IPS officer) must now defuse the situation, the repercussions are bound to be felt beyond the Zimbabwe tour, which is scheduled to end on September 24.
Chappell, one learns, conveyed at least two things to Sourav at a one-on-one during Monday’s practice session: (a) His form didn’t merit selection in the XI; (b) That the in-form Mohammed Kaif had to be played (at his expense).
Apparently, Chappell also said something about the three-day warm-up tie in Mutare.
That dialogue upset Sourav who returned to the dressing room and had a word with Choudhary.
According to sources, the manager promptly spoke to vice-captain Rahul Dravid, who felt “this wasn’t the time” to ask Sourav to step aside.
Those trying to divide Team India ought to appreciate the vice-captain’s response.
After talking to Dravid, Choudhary called a meeting between Sourav, Chappell and the vice-captain himself.
That meeting, in the dressing room, lasted half-an-hour and Chappell eventually agreed with Dravid that it “wasn’t the time” to change captains.
Nobody else was present when the quartet sorted things out, but a senior bowler did walk in when Sourav and the rest were dispersing.
It couldn’t be confirmed, but Sourav may have blurted something on seeing the senior bowler. It seems he ‘leaked’ the explosive story to the media.
Neither Choudhary nor Chappell responded to calls to their hotel rooms. The latter, however, has declared he would “only” share details of the team’s composition (with the media).
Significantly, Sourav’s ‘revelation’ came a day after V.V.S. Laxman’s remark: “There have been negative vibes in the team and outside and I just wanted to prove myself.”
The “team” finger is pointed at Chappell.
As recently as last month, Chappell complained to the Board of Control for Cricket in India about the “attitude” of some players on the season-launching (and his first as coach) tour of Sri Lanka.
Chappell’s appointment is till the 2007 World Cup, but the Board should first ensure harmony in the dressing room.
The post-Zimbabwe review now has a different dimension.