Laxman: Chappell took us backwards - Teammates come out in support of Tendulkar

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 5.11.14
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New Delhi: Sachin Tendulkar’s scathing attack on Greg Chappell has received the backing of three of his then teammates — VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh — even as the Australian hit back at the batting maestro’s claim that he tried to topple Rahul Dravid as captain.

Laxman said on Wednesday, that the Australian took “Indian cricket backwards” during his two-year tenure as the national team’s coach.

“Chappell took Indian cricket backwards,” the former middle-order batsman said.

Reacting to a series of startling allegations Sachin Tendulkar made in his autobiography Playing It My Way, Laxman said he totally believed in what the iconic batsman had written in his book. Sachin had mentioned that Chappell had threatened Laxman his career would be over after he refused to open in a Test match in India.

“This happened in 2006 at the Wankhede when India played England. Yuvraj Singh was picked ahead of me. We were going to the West Indies for a four-Test series after that and he asked me if I would open.

“I mentioned back in 2000 that I had decided I would not open anymore after it didn't work for me in the first four years. I was consistent in the middle-order since 2000. Chappell asked me my age and said, ‘don't you think 31 is too young an age to sit at home?’ I was astonished to hear this.

“I had a very good run under him. I was the second highest run scorer under him,” Laxman told a television channel.

Asked what policy India should adopt while selecting the coach, Laxman said: “As long as he is capable and able to deliver, it doesn’t matter whether he is an Indian or a foreigner.”

Zaheer revealed that Chappell had told him back in 2005 that the fast bowler “would never play for India” till as long as he remains at the helm and termed the period under the Australian as the “darkest phase of Indian cricket”.

“After he was appointed the coach of the Indian team, he once came up to me and said, ‘Zaheer, you will not be playing for India till I remain the coach,’” Zaheer said.

So how did he react when the coach came up and told him this? “I was so taken aback that I couldn’t react for some time. I was totally zapped. Like what do I do now? Do I revolt? Do I speak to the captain about what’s happening? Do I take his comments at face value? Why is he taking it out on me?” the 36-year-old Zaheer said.

“I understood one thing. This man had agendas and was getting personal. He had his set ideas and if you didn’t fall in line, then you had to be prepared to fall by the wayside. He tried to finish my career but I believe I came back even stronger in South Africa during the end of 2006,” said the left-arm pacer.

“He had some issues with the senior guys in the team. He tried many ways to stop my comeback into the India team during the phase when I was out of the team for nearly a year.

“I came to know later that every time when my name was discussed, he (Chappell) would find means to delay my comeback by 3-4 months,” added Zaheer.

Zaheer said that it was a difficult phase but the primary challenge was to move on with work in hand.

“I made a good comeback in South Africa as I decided to put all the negativity that came as a package with Chappell behind me and perform. I didn’t want to get insecure.”

Harbhajan echoed the sentiments but added that a few players in the team were complicit in feeding wrong information to Chappell.

“Chappell destroyed Indian cricket to such an extent that it required at least 3 years to again get back on track.

“The worst part was some players in that team, who sucked up to the coach and would supply selective misinformation creating bigger rifts,” Harbhajan said. (agencies)