Sachin Tendulkar’s scathing attack on Greg Chappell today received the whole-hearted backing of two of his then teammates — Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh — even as the Australian hit back at the batting maestro’s claim that he tried to topple Rahul Dravid as captain.
A day after Tendulkar’s revelations that Chappell tried offering him the captaincy at the expense of Dravid barely a few months before the 2007 World Cup, the Australian denied discussing such a possibility with the now-retired legend.
In his autobiography — ‘Playing it My Way’ — which is due for release on Thursday, Tendulkar has claimed that the Australian visited his house and tried to convince him to take over the captaincy from Dravid.
But Chappell said he was stunned by the claims.
“Whilst I don’t propose to get into a war of words, I can state quite clearly that during my time as Indian coach I never contemplated Sachin replacing Rahul Dravid as captain,” Chappell said in a statement.
“I was therefore very surprised to read the claims made in the book. During those years, I only ever visited Sachin’s home once, and that was with our physio and assistant coach during Sachin’s rehabilitation from injury, at least 12 months earlier than what was reported in the book,” he said.
Chappell said he enjoyed a pleasant afternoon at Tendulkar’s home and the captaincy issue never came up for discussion.
Tendulkar, in the book, said that he was shocked by Chappell’s suggestion and the lack of respect shown to Dravid.
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”.
However, Zaheer and Harbhajan supported Tendulkar’s version of the events, stating that they too had been victims of Chappell’s dictatorial style of functioning.
While Zaheer claimed that Chappell tried his best his to prevent his comeback into the national team and called him a “control freak”,
Harbhajan said that the Australian “temporarily destroyed Indian cricket” and targetted the senior players.
“After he was appointed the coach of the Indian team, he once came up to me and told “Zaheer, you will not be playing for India till I remain the coach,” Zaheer said.
Zaheer said that Chappell’s two-year phase in Indian cricket was “easily the worst and darkest phase” that he could remember.
“I understood one thing. This man had agendas and was getting personal. He had his set ideas and if you didn’t fall in line, then you have to be prepared to fall by the wayside. He tried to finish my career but I believe I came back even stronger in South Africa during the end of 2006,” said the left-arm pacer, who has 311 Test and 282 ODI wickets in his 14-year-international career.
Zaheer didn’t stop short of calling him a “control freak”.
“He had some issues with the senior guys in the team. He tried many ways to stop my comeback into Indian team during the phase when I was out of the team for nearly a year. I came to know later that everytime when my name was discussed, he (Chappell) would find means to delay my comeback by 3-4 months,” added Zaheer.
Harbhajan echoed the sentiments but added that a few players in the team were complicit in feeding wrong information to Chappell.
“Chappell destroyed Indian cricket to such an extent that it required at least 3 years to again get back on track. The worst part was some players in that team, who sucked up to the coach and would supply selective misinformation creating bigger rifts,” Harbhajan said.
Harbhajan also made another shocking claim that Chappell was writing a damaging e-mail to the BCCI about erstwhile skipper Sourav Ganguly, when India were in the midst of a Test match against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.
“Sourav was batting out there in the middle and this man was typing a critical e-mail against Sourav, sitting right there in that dressing room. He had no interest in the proceedings of the match,” he recalled.
“There were seven guys that he wanted to get rid of. Sourav was his primary target followed by myself, Virender Sehwag, Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh,” claimed Harbhajan, who is India’s third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.
Some former cricketers like Maninder Singh and Kirti Azad were also critical of Chappell and said that Indian cricket declined during his controversial tenure.