Former Australian opener Matthew Hayden has re-opened a seven-year-old controversy by claiming that ex-India captain Sourav Ganguly and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh chickened out of the series-deciding 2004 Nagpur Test due to a fear of the green-top pitch there.
In his autobiography 'Standing My Ground', Hayden writes that the Australians felt at that time that the nature of the pitch had led to the sudden withdrawal of Ganguly and Harbhajan from the Test.
"The curator, a famously single-minded character with no love of the Indian hierarchy, ignored pleas to shave the deck and left a healthy covering of grass. It reminded me of Gabba (In Brisbane). To have that sort of wicket for the deciding Test of an away series - particularly in India - was the most pleasant surprise imaginable," Hayden wrote.
"When Ganguly and Harbhajan went out to see the deck a couple of days before the game, they looked like farmers inspecting crops after a hail storm. We predicted neither would play, and they did not. Ganguly withdrew with a leg-muscle injury that flared up suddenly, and Harbhajan had an even more sudden dose of food poisoning. We put their ailments down to acute cases of 'greentrackitis', where you develop a severe intolerance to green wickets likely to give you nothing as a spin bowler and plenty of headaches as a batsman," wrote Hayden. Hayden however, has plenty of admiration for the Indians for their cricketing ability and named four of them -- Harbhajan, Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag -- among the 12 best players he had played against.