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Centrestage with Greg and Sourav

Rarely has a nation of a billion plus been more reviled as by the coach-cricketer spat. HT takes stock.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2005 13:31 IST

In the Chinese calendar, or any one for that matter, 2005 could probably go down as the Year of the Finger. Indian coach Greg Chappell's attending to his suddenly wounded middle digit in the general direction of a group of bawling/brawling Bengalis just as he was getting onto the team bus, sparked off a major debate that threatened to overshadow anything else that happened in the year.

And lots did happen. Be it certain self-proclaimed protectors of Sania Mirza's skirt length, the seven weightlifters taking French leave from the National camp after hearing that they could be fouled out by international dope police (marshals), or the visiting England women's cricket captain making references to "wildlife in bed".

Then of course, we had the Karthikeyan saga through the year—will he cross that line or won't he, will he make it in before the last guy or end up being "the end" in another brave finish? It was life in the fast lane as we had never seen it.

But we had the ordinary stuff too. The by now routine news of some top-level National athletes being caught (for the umpteenth time) with their hands in the dope jar. Or the hockey team crashing to their worst ever performance (yet again). Or KPS Gill declaring he would change the world, even while finally taking a bum rap for something (surprise, surprise) he did in the days of gory.

But the year, folks, definitely belonged to that delightful duo, Chappell and Ganguly. History has seen some famous couples: We've had Calvin and Hobbes, Tom and Jerry, Adam and Eve, even Bonnie and Clyde. Who knows? It probably won't happen in our lifetimes but somewhere down the line, the world will look and finally judge where our desi soap and its principal characters figure in that famous roster.

They will definitely have their place in the chronology of cricket but rarely has a nation of a billion plus been more rivetted and reviled, been more bemused or beguiled, or had more fun collectively than when technology took the forefront in the Chappell-Ganguly saga come September 2005.

It was a time of leaks. The X-files finally came to light when an enterprising reporter from Kolkata got hold of a portion of Sir Greg's missive to the masters about how the Indian skipper ("former" hadn't been prefixed yet) was the bane of Indian cricket. The coach had picked up a lot in the month or so he had been with the team. Chappell's secret email to several scribes was also leaked (including to Ganguly) and Ganguly's "secret" presentation to a mediating committee was (right again), leaked.

Finally, after a long lesson on how exactly dirty linen could be best washed in public --- where accusations of the sort only witnessed between wicked mum-in-law and pure daughter-in-law or vice versa on the daily soaps did the rounds --- we had a kiss and make-up session (remember the pool table photo?) that was actually another front!

Still, there had to be a winner. And while it was obvious that Chappell's mojo was on an upswing, it was equally obvious that in the karmic circle of reason that rules the lives of our superstitious sportstars, "former" (the deed was done by now) skipper Ganguly's time was coming. And coming soon.

There were several bit players in this triumphant human drama, too many to be counted. But many obviously wanted the part of Brutus/Cicero/Cassius to Ganguly's Caesar.

The final act is yet to be written. But written it will be, probably across the border. And we media people would have a field day with references to the "foreign hand".

First Published: Dec 31, 2005 03:19 IST