What prompted Greg Chappell to drop in at Sachin Tendulkar’s Bandra residence and ask him to consider replacing Rahul Dravid as India’s ODI captain for the 2007 World Cup? Here are some numbers that might throw some light on this unusual request.
For starters, the revelation might seem all the more curious since Dravid’s captaincy had seen India break new barriers in terms of chasing down totals after he took over in 2005.
The five-wicket win at Kingston’s Sabina Park on May 18, 2006 was their 14th straight successful run-chase. A run that would be broken two days later at the same ground with hosts West Indies pipping them by a one-run margin. The following six months then saw India slip dramatically in the 50-over format, which might have alarmed their coach.
India only won five out of 14 ODIs from that point on, eventually losing the series in the Caribbean 4-1 before being thrashed 4-0 in South Africa.
They also failed to reach the semifinals of the Champions Trophy played at home and were beaten by both Australia and the West Indies in Malaysia. It wasn’t just Dravid the captain but the batsman too who suffered a reversal in form-averaging 21.38 and scoring just two half-centuries. Whether it was alarmist enough for Chappell to seek a change of guard is debatable but this is what Tendulkar remembers about that Bandra night.
“Just months before the World Cup, Chappell had come to see me at home and, to my dismay, suggested that I should take over the captaincy from Rahul Dravid. Anjali, who was sitting with me, was equally shocked to hear him say that ‘together, we could control Indian cricket for years,’ and that he would help me in taking over the reins of the side,” Tendulkar writes in his autobiography Playing it My Way, excerpts of which have been released by Hachette India.
LACK OF RESPECT
“I was surprised to hear the coach not showing the slightest amount of respect for the captain, with cricket’s biggest tournament just months away. I rejected his proposition outright. He stayed for a couple of hours, trying to convince me, before finally leaving,” he further writes.
With the World Cup just a couple of months ago, Tendulkar, who had averaged 41.87 in the same period after recovering from shoulder surgery, reveals in his book that he wanted Chappell to be kept out of the tournament.
“I suggested to the BCCI that the best option would be to keep Greg back in India and not send him with the team to the World Cup. That is not what happened, of course, and the 2007 campaign ended in disaster ,” he writes.
As it turned out, India and Tendulkar were dumped out of the World Cup in the first round itself, following humbling losses to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Chappell subsequently cut ties with the Indian team.
“In my opinion, Indian cricket benefited significantly when the BCCI decided to end Chappell’s tenure in April 2007. Several of our senior players were relieved to see him go,” writes Tendulkar.
Chappell’s stormy relationship with Sourav Ganguly and other senior players, including VVS Laxman, finds a notable mention in the book.
“His attitude to Sourav, for example, was astonishing. Chappell is on record as saying that he may have got the job because of Sourav but that did not mean he was going to do favours to Sourav for the rest of his life,” he recalls.
THREAT TO VVS
“On one occasion, he asked VVS Laxman to consider opening the batting. Laxman politely turned him down, saying he had tried opening in the first half of his career because he was confused, but now he was settled in the middle order and Greg should consider him as a middle-order batsman,” writes Tendulkar.
“Greg’s response stunned us all. He told Laxman he should be careful, because making a comeback at the age of thirty-two might not be easy,” he adds.
While insisting that Chappell had to ‘take responsibility for the mess’, Tendulkar also recalls the former Australian captain reveling in India’s glory and hiding in their losses.
“I also remember that every time India won, Greg could be seen leading the team to the hotel or into the team bus, but every time India lost he would thrust the players in front. In general John and Gary always preferred to stay in the background, but Greg liked to be prominent in the media,” he writes.
Tendulkar is witheringly scornful in his summary of Chappell, who he refers to as a ‘ringmaster’, and his contentious tenure. “I don’t think I would be far off the mark if I said that most of us felt that Indian cricket was going nowhere under Chappell.