Calcutta: Sachin Tendulkar probably didn’t get to see Greg Chappell launch into an ethereal drive on the TV, but became a fan of his, courtesy coverage in the print Media.
Chappell, after all, was a class act.
There would be the odd contact between the two after Sachin himself became an international cricketer, but it was only on the 2003-04 tour of Australia that he had a lengthy interaction with Chappell.
He hadn’t been getting big scores in the Test series and felt Chappell would be the best guide.
Sachin took the advice so seriously that it alarmed a fellow-guest at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne. She feared a hole was being drilled from the room directly above. That too at 1 am!
It was occupied by Sachin, who’d embarked on shadow-batting at an unearthly hour and the lady guest jumped each time the bat hit the floor.
Chappell had this to say: “Earlier that day, Sachin had a one-on-one with me… He hadn’t got many runs in that Test series till then and was very keen to score in the remaining innings (at the MCG and the SCG)…
“I suggested a few things technically… Also that he shouldn’t look for cheap runs… That he ought to build his innings… Given his dedication, Sachin began trying out small adjustments and psyching himself up that night itself… It was incredible.”
Obviously, the nature of their (as also Sourav Ganguly’s with the Australian) relationship began to change once Chappell succeeded John Wright 23 months ago.
Sachin has gone on TV to deny a rift, but differences certainly existed. And, if the Board was to take a head-count among players, Chappell would probably be isolated.
The respect Sachin enjoys both within and outside the dressing room is enormous.
Actually, there were whispers as far back as May last year, in the West Indies, that Chappell wasn’t particularly disappointed that a shoulder problem would keep Sachin out of the Test series there as well.
Then, it’s hardly a secret that Sachin never quite embraced Chappell’s ‘philosophy’ of sending him down the order in ODIs.
For the statistically inclined, 37 of his 41 hundreds have come as an opener, a position Sachin finds most comfortable.
Well-placed sources of The Telegraph have revealed Sachin was very cut up with Chappell (and Dravid) over the tactics employed on the last day of the third and final Test in Cape Town, three months ago.
On a turning track, he was brought on to bowl when the South Africans were on the threshold of victory.
That inexplicable decision (Anil Kumble was the lone specialist spinner) made captain Graeme Smith remark, “after the game got over, we said to ourselves that if Tendulkar had bowled 20 overs, things could’ve been very different.”
Sachin had suggested he be given the ball much earlier, but was rebuffed.
It’s largely because of what happened in Cape Town, that on returning home, Sachin accepted chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar’s offer to become the vice-captain.
“Sachin agreed as it would give him a voice of authority and he could have a formal say in strategy… In other words, Chappell and Dravid would have to listen,” a source explained.
Like most in the team, by the way, Sachin wasn’t at ease with Chappell’s right-hand man (and business partner) Ian Frazer, the outgoing bio-mechanist.
Seen as Chappell’s “spy,” many were convinced he “bitched” about them. Frazer, in fact, came close to being sacked when Jagmohan Dalmiya was calling the shots.
Even if there was no ‘face-off’ between Sachin and Chappell during the World Cup, the former probably believes that elder brother Ian was ‘influenced’ into writing that he should call it a day.
Nobody may confirm, but those on the circuit are aware that the warmth went out of the Sachin-Chappell relationship long before Team India went out of the World Cup.