| Flintoff and Sourav: No love lost
London, Sept. 29: Copies of Andrew Flintoff’s autobiography, Being Freddie, will be arriving in India in the next couple of weeks, so that Sourav Ganguly can look up the unflattering references to himself.
His detractors will pounce on Flintoff’s observations as corroborative evidence for Greg Chappell’s accusations against the India captain.
Ganguly, who spent an unhappy 2000 season with Lancashire, Flintoff’s county, should not be surprised, though.
Flintoff, whose book was written with the help of a sports journalist ' Michael Atherton is one of the few England cricketers who feels confident about being able to put down his own thoughts ' writes briefly about Ganguly’s Lancashire season.
“Ganguly just didn’t work out at all,” says the England all-rounder, who played a crucial role in the Ashes defeat of Australia this summer.
“You can accept a player not playing well, because we all have our ups and downs in our career, but he just didn’t want to get involved.”
In his confidential e-mail to Indian cricket board chief Ranbir Singh Mahendra, coach Chappell alleged that training reports showed Ganguly “as the person who does the least fitness and training work”.
In all, 180,000 copies of Flintoff’s book have been printed in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, which is a huge number for a first run. Ganguly may feel he wants to give his own version of events, possibly in a confidential e-mail, so that the widest possible publicity can be guaranteed.
“He wasn’t interested in the other players and it became a situation where it was 10 players and Ganguly in the team,” whines Flintoff. “He turned up as if he was royalty ' it was like having Prince Charles on your side. There were rumours he was asking people to carry his coffin (cricketers’ sports bag) for him, although he never asked me.”
Chappell accused the captain of following a policy of “divide and rule”. “Certain players have been treated with favour, all of them bowlers, while others have been shunted up and down the order or left out of the team to suit Sourav’s whims,” he wrote in the e-mail which got leaked.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, however, said the impression was a misconception.
“Ganguly has been portrayed as somebody who comes from a royal family, actually his nickname is Maharaj, which is like emperor in Hindi, but I don’t think so.
“I find what little I’ve seen of him that he’s a very hard-working cricketer,” PTI quoted Gavaskar as saying in Australia.
“He likes to get into the nets and work at his batting and bowl in the nets, a lot more than perhaps do 20 laps of the ground or whatever that some other cricketers do.
“I think he’s a hard-working cricketer, it’s just a misconception, I think.”
Flintoff says Ganguly “turned up for his first net session with Lancashire, when you would have thought he would have wanted to make a good impression, and got hit on the back of the knee by Mike Smethurst. Those sort of blows do hurt, but you normally rub it a bit and make sure you grin because everybody else is laughing. Ganguly didn’t see it that way and got the hump and we didn’t see him again for two days”.
In his e-mail, Chappell also accused Ganguly of faking injuries “that usually disappeared as quickly as they had come”.
There is no love lost between Flintoff and Ganguly. Flintoff took off his shirt in Mumbai after winning a one-day match on the last tour there four years ago ' an act Ganguly copied after India won the 2002 NatWest Series at Lord’s.
Flintoff adds: “I’ve been out for dinner with him since that season a couple of times on England duty, the most notable time being that winter in Kenya for the ICC Trophy. We went out to a little curry house he had found and saw the umpire Venkat sitting over the other side of the room. Straight away he got up and went over to talk to him for 20 minutes while I sat like a spare part eating my curry on my own.”
Diplomatic relations between the two great players have been resumed but the outlook is frosty.
“We say hello to each other now and we are pleasant to each other, but it doesn’t go any further than that,” concedes Flintoff. “I don’t dislike the bloke, but it’s a struggle with him.”
Ganguly should be warned: Flintoff’s bouncer has become more menacing. On the other hand, Flintoff has also taken a bit of stick in the past from the Indian left-hander.