Indian skipper Rahul Dravid, already under attack for his timidity in not enforcing the follow-on against England in the third cricket Test at The Oval, faced more embarrassment on Wednesday with his pace spearhead Zaheer Khan contradicting his claim that the reason for his decision was the bowlers' tiredness.
Zaheer, who took 18 wickets to emerge as the Man of the Series, said in London, "As far as I am concerned, I have given everything to this series. I don't think I was tired or anything... Not really."
Zaheer's disclosure is bound to strengthen the criticism that Dravid had not enforced the follow-on despite a 319-run lead over England because he wanted to play absolutely safe, an argument that flies in the face of any cricketing logic.
After choosing to bat a second time, India got a fright when reduced to 11-3 before Dravid consumed 96 balls to make a laborious 12 runs and Ganguly hit an excellent 57 to put the team beyond danger.
A stubborn Dravid has stood by his decision, arguing that he knew his bowlers well and that they were tired. Zaheer has now dismissed this in an interview to a private TV channel.
In fact, Zaheer had bowled 22 overs in England's first innings, taking 3-32, RP Singh had bowled 18 overs, Sreesanth 21 and Kumble 29.1 -- a total of 103.1 overs.
In comparison, England's four main bowlers - Ryan Sidebottom (32 overs), James Anderson (40), Chris Tremlett (40) and Monty Panesar (45) - bowled a total of 170 overs.
Zaheer's comments prompted former India wicketkeeper and former selection committee chairman Kiran More to say that it showed there was a lack of communication in the Indian dressing room.
"I am very surprised that Zaheer made this statement after the captain took a stand in a press conference. I think there is a lack of communication in the dressing room," More said.
"What Dravid did, made history, but I think it was a mistake by Dravid for not giving them the follow-on. It's a wonder to me, it would have been a greater feeling to have won the series 2-0," he said.
Legendary off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna was also critical of Dravid's decision, saying the excitement of the series win had been greatly diluted by not wrapping it up 2-0.
"I don't think there was any real danger of India losing the match by batting last. I don't see England having taken any big lead to put pressure. Having taken such a big first innings lead, Dravid should have enforced the follow-on," Prasanna said.
"The argument that the bowlers were tired also does not hold water. They are playing a Test match and the bowlers are expected to bowl long spells. It's not a one-day match, bowling 60 overs in a Test match is quite common."
"They are professionals and they are expected to bowl whenever required. Since the bowlers were physically fit I would have expected them to bowl."
Another distinguished former India player, Gundappa Viswanath, wrote in a newspaper, "I was very disappointed when the Indians chose not to enforce it (follow-on)."
"I don't buy this theory about the bowlers being tired. After all they are professional players. Also it was the last two days of the series, wouldn't that have been incentive enough for the bowlers to go all out one more time?"
"And if it was a case of not wanting to bat last, surely they would not have had to bat for more than an hour or so... I am afraid no excuse is good enough for me."
"I understand that such decisions are usually taken based on the consensus reached by the senior members of the team but in this case, they got it all wrong," he said.
Former Indian captain Ravi Shastri wrote in his column in Hindustan Times, "Dravid did not opt for it which cricketwise might have been up to question but in terms of a nation starved of overseas wins made sense. Between two goods Dravid went for the better one."
"The fact that none of the party had experienced an overseas win as big as this has to be taken into account. On the other hand a few of the same in the past would have made the entire unit look at it in a different light."
"Follow-on, going for the kill, giving a knock-out punch or even a kick in the ribs when you have someone on the mat would have been a foregone conclusion," he wrote on Wednesday.
Another former Indian captain K Srikkanth could not see any logic in Dravid not enforcing the follow-on.
"Perhaps Dravid's play is too safe. His priority was to win the series. If I were the skipper I would have gone for the kill because England could not have won the match from that situation. They could not have taken a big lead to put any pressure on India," he said.
Former Indian captain Bishen Singh Bedi sought to steer clear of the debate, saying, "We have won the series and that's it. There is no point in raking up a controversy now".