The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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After the charge, Bhajji by Chappell’s side
- Sharing a platform, coach acknowledges bowler’s contribution to team’s success

Rajkot, Nov. 8: They didn’t come arm in arm, but Greg Chappell and Harbhajan Singh did make a joint formal appearance ' possibly their first in public since the former’s face-off with Sourav Ganguly ' during a media conference at the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground this morning.

Usually, the captain and coach attend the pre-match Q&A session, but Rahul Dravid stayed away as did Virender Sehwag, who will be leading in the sixth (and penultimate) ODI against Sri Lanka tomorrow. As a senior pro, it fell on Harbhajan to take the second chair.

Dravid, who suffered cramps and also had a slight left hamstring problem in the last match two days ago, is taking a break. “If he had to, he would have played,” explained Chappell. India already has an unbeatable 4-1 lead.

India’s most successful off-spinner, it may be recalled, took Sourav’s side and launched into Chappell some 24 hours after Team India’s return from Zimbabwe, in late September. The coach, on the other hand, had described Harbhajan (and three others, including Sourav) as “cancerous” in an e-mail to somebody in the media.

That, too, got leaked and constituted part of Sourav’s counter-attack when the Board of Control for Cricket in India called him to present his side of the story at the post-Zimbabwe review in Mumbai. That’s when the much-publicised patch-up with Chappell was effected.

Sourav, of course, has since been banished.

To talk of the Chappell and Harbhajan show, they didn’t have to tackle awkward questions though the latter was asked whether he was under pressure at the start of this series. The answer was predictable: “I wasn’t.”

Chappell, for his part, lauded Harbhajan’s contribution. “He has been a very important part of our success and, in the high-scoring Jaipur ODI, his spell was as significant as (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni’s 183.'”

While the Chappell-Sourav patch-up hasn’t been put to test, The Telegraph learns that the coach himself broke the ice by interacting rather regularly with his most potent bowler during the Challenger Trophy in Mohali and the three-day conditioning camp in Bangalore which preceded this series.

Harbhajan responded in equal measure and made life so much easier for Dravid.

Being away in Australia for the Super Series, he’d missed both Mohali and Bangalore and probably dreaded walking into a frosty dressing room in Nagpur (which hosted the first match).

Dravid’s apprehensions evaporated quicker than the dew in these parts at this time of the year.

“Harbhajan has cleared his mind of many cobwebs,” is how a well-placed source put it. Must be, or else a ‘disturbed’ Sardar wouldn’t have returned fantastic figures on out and out batting tracks: Three for 34 in Nagpur, two for 19 in Mohali, none for 30 in Jaipur and one for 35 in Pune. He was rested in Motera.

For the good of Indian cricket, stuff like Chappell’s conduct created “fear and insecurity” among the players --- Harbhajan's No. 1 allegation on the day he backed Sourav --- is something that has been buried either in Mohali or Bangalore.

Nobody intends revisiting that spot.

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