London, March 1: Greg Chappell has spoken about his estrangement from Sourav Ganguly after a long silence since the two fought a bitter war during and after the Zimbabwe tour last September and he sounds almost understanding.
“Certainly there is no way I would have got the job here without his influence,” Chappell said in an interview to the British paper, The Guardian, acknowledging his debt to the former India captain.
Much of the circumstances in which the two parted ways are known. Chappell said: “We clashed because his needs as a struggling player and captain and those of the team were different.”
But in the course of the interview, he revealed an understanding of the situation Sourav was in at the time that is new.
India’s coach iterated that he had told Sourav that if he wanted to save his career, he should consider giving up the captaincy. “He was not prepared to do that. What I didn’t realise at that stage was how utterly important to his life and finances being captain was,” Chappell said.
Sourav was the biggest earner among Indian cricketers after Sachin Tendulkar when he was captain by way of sponsorships and endorsements and would have seen his brand value slipping since losing the position and now even his place in the team.
Running into crores every year, the monetary stakes are high for the top players and, therefore, the reluctance to step aside.
Whether or not this is the reason Sourav wants to play on is not known but it is likely to be one consideration, at least according to Chappell.
The coach recalled how Sourav had come to him some years ago for help with his batting. “I helped him' so maybe he thought I would be his mate and support him now. Certainly there is no way I would have got the job here without his influence. I’m sure he thought he would be able to run me as he did John (Wright) in the latter part of his time as coach.”
There have been reports of Wright saying in private when he was coach about his difficulties with Sourav but the New Zealander has never acknowledged them.
The Chappell-Sourav tussle has often been described as a battle for control. But Chappell said: “I’m not the hard-nosed control freak that I have been portrayed (as). I’m thorough, a realist, a pragmatist and I’m honest. Much has been written and said, a lot of it misleading, but in essence I told Sourav that if he wanted to save his career he should consider giving up the captaincy.”
It was this chat during the Zimbabwe tour, which Sourav made public then, that triggered the almighty flare-up, with Chappell writing to the cricket board about the then captain’s alleged faults and fallibility.
Chappell said in the interview how Sourav allegedly refused to step aside. “He was just hanging in there. Modest innings were draining him. He had no energy to give to the team, which was helping neither him nor us. It was in his own interest to give himself mind-space to work on his batting so that it could be resurrected. He was not prepared to do that.”
The Australian, who described his experience as the India coach as someone living inside a “goldfish bowl”, admitted that the controversy would continue. “But I have learned if I can’t be totally impervious to it, then it is beyond my control. I have to let it wash by and say, ‘People have their reasons for saying what they do and I can’t be distracted by that,’ and do what I believe in.
“At the end of my time, whenever that might be, the team and therefore I will be judged ultimately on the results we achieve, not whether I have been able to convince this or that member of the media that what we are doing is in the best interests of Indian cricket.”