Dropping a bombshell, Sachin Tendulkar has disclosed that the then India coach Greg Chappell had made a “shocking” suggestion to him to take over India’s captaincy from Rahul Dravid months before the 2007 World Cup in West Indies.
“Together, we could control Indian cricket for years”, the Australian told Sachin Tendulkar during a visit to his home when he offered to “help me in taking over the reins of the side” from Dravid, the master batsman writes in his autobiography “Playing it My Way” due for release on Thursday.
Tendulkar is scathing in his criticism of Chappell who was the national coach from 2005 to 2007, describing him as a “ringmaster who imposed his ideas on the players without showing any signs of being concerned about whether they felt comfortable or not”.
Elaborating on the coach’s bid to replace Dravid, Tendulkar writes, “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 (Tendulkar’s wife), who was sitting with me was equally shocked to hear him say that ‘together, we could control Indian cricket for year’, and that he would help me in taking over the reins of the side.
“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”, Sachin Tendulkar writes.
He says that he had rejected Chappell’s proposition outright. “He stayed for a couple of hours, trying to convince me before finally leaving”.
So disgusted was Tendulkar with Chappell’s suggestion that a few days after the episode “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”.
Tendulkar had suggested to the Board that senior players could take control of the side and keep the team together. “That is not what happened, of course, and the 2007 campaign ended in disaster”, he writes in the book excerpts of which were made available by publishers Hachette India.
India’s 2007 World Cup campaign ended in a fiasco with the team winning only one of the three group matches against lowly Bermuda, and losing to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Lashing out at Chappell, Tendulkar says that the Australian must take a lot of responsibility for the mess resulting from India’s performance in the World Cup. “I dont think I would be far off the mark if I said that most of us felt that the Indian cricket was going nowhere under Chappell”.
Chappell was publicly questioning “our commitment and instead of asking us to take fresh guard, was making matters worse”, writes Tendulkar in the book co-authored by noted sports journalist and historian Boria Majumdar.
The master player says that several senior players were relieved to see Chappell go, “which was hardly surprising because, for reasons hard to comprehend, he had not treated them fairly”.
Tendulkar cites the coach’s attitude towards Sourav Ganguly which he describes as “astonishing”.
He writes,” 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.
“Frankly, Sourav is one of the best cricketers India has produced and he did not need favours from Chappell to be part of the team”.
Tendulkar writes that Chappell wanted to drop senior players from the team.
“Chappell seemed intent on dropping all the older players and in the process damaged the harmony of the side. 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.
“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.”
“In fact, I later found out that Greg had spoken to the BCCI about the need to remove the senior players, no doubt hoping to refresh the team,” the maestro writes.
The 41-year-old player was critical of the former Australian coach’s propensity to hog limelight when the going was good but had the habit of leaving the players in the lurch when all went downhill.
“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.”
Tendulkar recollected how disappointed they were after the shock first round exit during the 2007 World Cup and how he was hurt when people questioned the commitment of the Indian players.
“After we returned to India, the media followed me back home and it hurt when I heard my own people doubting the commitment of the players. The media had every right to criticize us for failing, but to say we were not focused on the job was not fair.
“We had failed to fulfil the expectations of the fans, but that did not mean we should be labelled traitors. At times the reaction was surprisingly hostile and some of the players were worried about their safety,” he writes.
Tendulkar said that the thought of retirement did cross his mind after the 2007 Cup debacle but family and friends insisted that he should carry on.
“Headlines like ‘Endulkar’ hurt deeply. After eighteen years in international cricket, it was tough to see things come to this and retirement crossed my mind. My family and friends like Sanjay Nayak did all they could to cheer me up and after a week I decided to do something about it. I started to do some running, to try to sweat the World Cup out of my head.”