Their soured relationship was no secret but the attack launched by former Indian cricket coach Greg Chappell on Sourav Ganguly in his just-published autobiography reveals the Australian’s much deeper bitterness towards the ex-Indian skipper.
There was “no bigger panicker” than Ganguly, writes Chappell about the elegant left-hander.
Chappell acknowledges that Ganguly’s support was one of the reasons he got the coach’s job in 2005. But states that the Indian’s idea probably was ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’
“He expected I would be so grateful to him for getting me the job that I’d become his henchman in his battle to remain captain. I, on the other hand, took on a job with the primary responsibility to Indian cricket and the Indian people,” Chappell says in the book ‘Fierce Focus’
During his three-year tenure as coach, Chappell was accused of dividing the team, a charge he virtually confirms.
Chappell said such was the hierarchy in the team that youngsters were petrified of speaking before a senior such as Sachin Tendulkar in the team meetings.
The former Australian captain said he began to separate team meetings into three groups — senior, intermediate and junior — so that he could hear their thoughts, which were later broken down by current skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who had begun to gain in confidence and assert his leadership at that time.
‘Dhoni was smart’
“The real ray of hope for Indian team was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the most impressive young cricketers I’d ever worked with. He was smart, and able to read the game as perceptively as the best leaders,” Chappell wrote.
“If I wanted to know what was going on in the middle, Dhoni became my go to man. He would eventually breakdown one of the biggest problems in the India teams,” he added, referring to the young players’ reluctance to express themselves,” said Chappell.
”...the youngster would say, ‘I can’t speak before so-and-so. If I speak up before a senior player, they will hold it against me forever.’ Some were petrified, flat out refusing to say a word in a meeting before, say, Tendulkar had spoken. It was so hierarchical, it made Australian teams look like commune,” he wrote.
Dhoni made his Test debut after Chappell took over as coach.
Recalling his tumultuous stint with India, Chappell said at times he had to deal with mood swings, fluctuating commitment to fitness and senior players’ unwillingness to get out and mix with the local culture and enjoy tours.
Chappell also delved on his stormy relationship with Ganguly.
Speaking about the unhappy equation, Chappell said it turned bitter when the then skipper started expecting him to be his saviour.
“I wanted to help India become the best cricket team in the world...If that means eventually they could only become that team without Sourav, then so be it,” Chappell said.
He described Ganguly as a player “caught with self doubt and his own struggle to survive“.
“Sourav had great batting and leadership talent, but never realised his potential because he was consumed by what he saw as the threats around him,” he wrote.