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One of the most infamous chapters in Indian cricket, the feud between Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly has been the talking point among cricket fans for long. Ganguly was serving a six-match ban due to slow over-rate at the time when Chappell took the hot seat of team India’s head coach in the year 2005. Rahul Dravid was named the captain of the side for that particular period before Ganguly took over the charge during India’s away tour to Zimbabwe in September 2005.

India returned home with silverware, but there were signs of unrest among the players, especially the coach and the captain.

“Something from the very start of the tour was not right. I think some people who Greg had become close to may have told him that with me around, he would never have his way in Indian cricket and that may have triggered a reaction. Whatever it may have been, he was not the same Chappell in Zimbabwe compared to the one who had helped me get ready for the Australian tour in December 2003,” Ganguly stated.

When the trouble took place

Ganguly shared the incident when Chappell insisted that the batsman should be taking the guard in the field in spite of an injury.

“It all started with a side game in Zimbabwe against the Zimbabwe A team. I was hurting from a tennis elbow and the injury was starting to bother me yet again while I was batting in this match. It was an inconsequential side game and the best thing for me was to walk out and nurse the injury. Greg wasn’t around in the dressing room when I had retired hurt and it was only after a while that he came back to ask what had happened to me. I said I had a painful elbow and with a Test match coming up did not want to risk playing on. To my surprise, he insisted I go out and bat and I was forced to tell him I wouldn’t because I did not want to jeopardize my chances of playing the Test match.” he added.

“Greg came to me one evening and showed me a team he had picked for the Test match. Some key players were not in his playing XI and I was a little taken aback at what he was trying to do. I rejected his suggestions and said to him clearly that the people he wanted out had done great things for Indian cricket while he had just been there for three months. He needed to spend more time to fully understand the situation before he started taking tough calls.”

He wanted to make a Chappell’s team: Ganguly

“He, it was clear to me, was in a hurry to make the team “Greg Chappell’s team”. The problem with some coaches is that they come with a preconceived notion. They have a pattern in their mind, and unless you fit the pattern, you are out. These people are very rarely successful and have had to give way soon enough. Good coaches are those who come with a free mind and adapt to the system they are exposed to.”

When Ganguly approached Dravid

Amitabh Choudhury was the manager of the Indian team in Zimbabwe. He narrated how the event unfolded and what made Ganguly approach Dravid, following the skipper’s conversation with Chappell.

“I was sitting in the dressing room when I could see Sourav come into the dressing room. I asked Sourav what had happened. He was leaning on the glass front overlooking the ground and had a look of shock on his face. ‘The coach tells me I don’t have a place in the playing XI’, Sourav told me. I wasn’t expecting anything like this and it took me a minute or so to understand the significance of what he was saying.”

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Chaudhury wasted no time and suggested that Ganguly should talk to Dravid to address the entire issue.

“When Rahul met my eye, I indicated to him that we needed to have a word and it wasn’t possible on the ground. Back to the dressing room and I asked Sourav to tell Rahul exactly what Greg was suggesting. And once Sourav had done so, I mentioned to Rahul that this was not something Greg could or should have said and it was beyond his jurisdiction”

The manager added that Dravid backed Ganguly and the matter was taken to the coach by Choudhury himself. He also went on to say that Chappell had apologised to both Ganguly and Dravid and it looked like they would bury the hatchet. To everyone’s surprise, that was not the case to be, and the rest is history.

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Sayantan Bhattacharjee

A student of the game. Averaged 35-plus in gully cricket.