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Reversing, Greg goes gaga over Dada

India coach clarifies it wasn?t personal; Sourav needed time away to take stock, reports Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2006 02:36 IST

Sourav Ganguly is not the only person who seems to have mellowed during his nine months out in the cold. Greg Chappell, the man seen as chiefly responsible for Ganguly getting the boot, seems to have calmed down remarkably about the man who he once seemed to loathe, even though he said it was “never personal”.

On Tuesday, a day after India’s historic first-ever Test win in South Africa, a victory that was inspired by a defiant Ganguly knock in the first innings, Chappell lavished praise on Ganguly, saying he “offered” the team a lot and that, if he continued in this vein, he had a “long stint” ahead in cricket.

Ganguly's always been a strong character and we could see in the time he was out that he's got a will, a desire to play for India again. It showed through in Potchefstroom and it showed through in this Test. -Greg Chappell

He also said that he was personally, “very comfortable” with Ganguly now, as was “everyone” else (the reference was to skipper Rahul Dravid). “Sourav made some comments in the team meeting the other day, about how the last 10 months have been a great learning experience.

He probably needed time away to reassess his own cricket, and also no longer being the captain. The thing that so few people understand is that there was nothing personal. The discipline that a good team requires is that everyone needs to be on the same page and working in the same direction.

Zaheer went through a similar thing and he’s come back. We had a discussion on Monday after the game, and he believes that he had to go through that to come back to where he is now. Sourav’s in the same boat.”

Admitting that it was “definitely a volatile situation” when Ganguly landed in South Africa, the Indian coach also added that things had proceeded very smoothly. “Because of all the emotion surrounding the whole thing it was always going to be an interesting period. I would like to think that both of us would be professional enough for this to go through reasonably smoothly.”

He said that Ganguly had received major support from seniors and juniors within the team and his being a “world recognised and well-credentialled Indian player” had helped make the transition easy.

Lauding the way Ganguly had batted so far here, he said the former Indian skipper was definitely a different batsman, “mentally”.

He said that even last year in Zimbabwe, where the whole ugly fracas began, he thought Ganguly had a lot to offer as a batsman. “The difficulty was that from the captaincy point of view, he was at a stage that was taking up a lot of the mental space he needed for batting,” said Chappell.

According to the Australian, what has made a difference to Ganguly was the latter’s own realisation that there’s more to life than cricket. “Sourav made a reference to gutsy play in a meeting when he was asked to speak.

I think it was Sachin who asked him what he meant by courageous, gusty play and he talked about how, in these past 10 months or so, he’s been able to reassess a lot of things and cricket’s not the most important and only thing in life and this realisation had taken the pressure off him from a batting point of view. It’s given him the chance to be a little more relaxed about his approach to batting.”

It was a little strange hearing this extravagant praise but it was interesting nonetheless. And here was the last word. “If you bat as if every inning’s your last, you’re not going to bat with freedom. And I think we saw some freedom from Sourav in this game that perhaps he’s not had in his batting for a long time.”

First Published: Dec 20, 2006 01:47 IST