The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cricket spins on vicious track

Calcutta, Sept. 25: Exactly a day after Sourav Ganguly asked the media to keep Team India out of his row with Greg Chappell, Harbhajan Singh unleashed his most lethal doosra.

If the coach’s e-mail to Board of Control for Cricket in India president Ranbir Singh Mahendra tore Sourav to pieces, Harbhajan savaged Chappell in hometown Jalandhar this afternoon.

The captain, of course, received his unequivocal backing.

Already on the backfoot after the e-mail got leaked, board mandarins were praying they wouldn’t have to contend with another explosion before Tuesday’s review meeting in Mumbai.

They hadn’t reckoned with the sardar, though. Late tonight, the board gagged everybody who went to Zimbabwe, but the damage seems beyond repair.

The season thus far is to be reviewed by three officials 'Jagmohan Dalmiya, Mahendra and S.K. Nair ' and as many former captains (Srinivas Venkatraghavan, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri).

Incidentally, they’re the ones who selected Chappell, four months ago.

Chappell was the lone invitee when the meeting was called. However, after the captaincy episode in Bulawayo and the e-mail, Sourav will also be there.

One needn’t guess what’s going to dominate and Harbhajan has made Chappell’s position almost untenable.

Among other things, he has accused Chappell of creating “fear and insecurity” and slammed him for trying to cause a “rift” between him and vice-captain Rahul Dravid.

Sure, the coach may also have much to say, but you can’t have a dressing room where there’s such mistrust and rancour.

It appears worse than the infighting in Pakistan dressing rooms when an Imran Khan wouldn’t be around.

In fact, those across the border must be having a nice laugh and coach Bob Woolmer would be chuckling. With all this tamasha, his job is bound to become easy when India tours Pakistan from January.

“God, it’s terrible' Reeks somewhat of groupism and points to terrible man management,” said a board official.

Chappell, who returned late last night, refused to take calls and, unusually, didn’t respond to an SMS either after Harbhajan went ballistic.

The star off-spinner’s assault confirms a September 19 report (‘Problem goes beyond Big 2 equation’) in The Telegraph that Sourav wasn’t the only one having a problem with the coach.

Sources in the team have revealed that Sourav actually went the distance to ensure Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan, two among the four who had differences with Chappell in the season-launching tri-series in Sri Lanka, didn’t give cause for complaint in Zimbabwe.

Going by Harbhajan’s tone, the coach obviously didn’t reciprocate.

“The captain asked Bhajji and Zak to meet every demand ' even if it meant bowling six overs at midnight!” the sources pointed out.

So much for Chappell’s accusation that Sourav was dividing the team.

Sourav also received a boost when, speaking exclusively from Mumbai, Amitabh Choudhary (manager on the Zimbabwe tour) brushed aside Chappell’s most damning indictment: That in his desperation to keep the job, the captain was effecting a schism.

“I was with the boys for a month and at no time did I notice any overt attempt (by Sourav) to cause a divide,” he said.

Choudhary added: “At this point, I don’t wish to say anything else' My report will have it all.”

Earlier, in an interview to a TV network, he’d dismissed another Chappell allegation ' that Sourav skipped practice sessions.

There’s a suggestion that Choudhary, too, be called for the review.

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