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Captain-coach rift divides Indian cricket team

Growing differences between Ganguly and Chappell over team composition is creating a rift in the Indian camp.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2005 13:30 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Growing differences between captain Sourav Ganguly and coach Greg Chappell over team composition is creating a growing rift in the Indian camp.

The matter boiled over on Thursday in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where under-fire Ganguly told reporters he had been asked to step down as captain on the eve of the ongoing first Test due to his poor batting form, media reports said.

The left-hander laboured for six hours to score 101 against one of the weakest attacks in Test cricket, but at least it fetched him his first international century since making 144 against Australia in Brisbane in November 2003.

Ganguly did not say who had suggested he stand aside, but the media pointed directly at Chappell, the former Australian captain who took over as India's coach in June.

"In what will rank as unprecedented in captain-coach relationships, Greg Chappell asked Sourav Ganguly to step down on the eve of the ongoing Test in Bulawayo," screamed the Telegraph newspaper from Ganguly's hometown of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta.

The paper spelt out the drama enacted a day before the first Test began.

It said that Chappell conveyed two things to Sourav -- his form did not merit selection in the team and that in-form Mohammad Kaif had to be played at his expense.

"That dialogue upset Sourav who returned to the dressing room and had a word with team manager Amitabh Choudhary," the newspaper reported.

"The manager promptly spoke to vice-captain Rahul Dravid, who felt this was not the time to ask Sourav to step aside."

"After talking to Dravid, Choudhary called a meeting between Sourav, Chappell and the vice-captain himself."

"That meeting, in the dressing room, lasted half-an-hour and Chappell eventually agreed with Dravid that it was not the time to change captains."

"Those trying to divide Team India ought to appreciate the vice-captains response," the daily said.

Chappell told reporters in Bulawayo on Thursday: "Sourav and I discussed the balance of the team and there were a number of issues but that's all I want to say at this stage."

Ganguly, when asked directly if Chappell had sought his ouster as captain, said: "You know what has been happening in Indian cricket."

"Other people are making the decisions, my silence says everything so I will stick to it."

Ganguly, who has established an Indian captaincy record of 19 Test wins since taking over from a reluctant Sachin Tendulkar in 2000, was considered lucky to be back as skipper for the Zimbabwe tour.

Before the Bulawayo Test, the left-hander had managed just 927 runs in his last 20 Tests, in contrast to nearest contender Dravid's 2,082 runs at an average of 74.35 in the same period.

Ganguly's uninspiring century against Zimbabwe has not silenced his critics.

"How ironic that a first century in almost two years should lead to more questions than answers," wrote Indian cricket specialist Dileep Premchandran.

"By accumulating 101 tortuous runs at a mind-numbingly slow pace, Ganguly only provided more ammunition to those who question whether he is worthy of a place in the side on batsmanship alone."

"Watching a man who had mauled the greatest spinners of his time pat back maidens against non-entities like Keith Dabengwa and Gavin Ewing was a chastening experience and one that reminded you that Father Time can be a cruel old fellow."

"The time has surely come to ask Ganguly to prepare the closing lines."

After the second Test against Zimbabwe in Harare, the Indians will prepare for a gruelling schedule that includes 16 Tests and a minimum of 38 one-dayers from late October to June.

First Published: Sep 16, 2005 13:30 IST