Indian cricket is unable to come to grips with its many recent controversies. It first began with speculations of match-fixing fuelling the doubts in the minds of people. Then it went on to the issue of captaincy and now there is a very public spat between the team's two most visible powerhouses, the captain Sourav Ganguly and the coach Greg Chappell. The engine-room for all these problems, I believe, is the team's prolonged poor results.
As a player I know that speculations of match-fixing are the deadliest assault on the very fulcrum of Indian cricket, its national team. Floating names of a cricketer's involvement or nexus with antisocial elements without even the faintest shred of proof has now become a common practice. I find the aspersions cast on the integrity of some of the current players with whom I have played very disturbing. These are the repercussions of the match-fixing scandal of 2000 that has contaminated the very spirit of the game. Unfortunately, the dirt from that time will always stick on current cricketers as well as those in the future. Every time the media brings up the spectre of allegations and speculations of match-fixing, seeds of doubt are sown deeper in the hearts and minds of India's cricket-loving public. As cricketers, this situation has gone completely out of our control but there is nothing we can do about it.
Now the current row between Ganguly and Chappell has become a media spectacle. Dressing room matters should never be revealed for individual gains or to settle scores. In such an emotionally dynamic sport, differences between players and the support staff are very natural-and very healthy. We have all had our arguments. Once these differences are vented publicly, the same information takes on another ugly and unwieldy dimension. The status of the dressing room as a sanctum sanctorum has to be guarded with an unwritten code of conduct, if not with an inherent sense of moral correctness. These may sound like lofty words far removed from the sweat and grime of a dressing room, but that's the way it is. When Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar were captain, there were no lesser issues around, but some good sense prevailed and prevented private discussions from leaking out of the dressing room.
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For Ganguly, India's most successful captain now struggling for runs, Chappell's words might have seemed too harsh. The Test hundred in Bulawayo presented Ganguly with a great opportunity to stand tall and behave like a true leader-had he waited to resolve the matter on his return after winning the series. He had men of great integrity and credibility around him in Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble and they would not have let Ganguly down. Instead he chose to open a can of worms which he now has to deal with on his own. This incident has shown up Ganguly in poor light where he appears to be disregarding the long-term consequences for the team.
While not compromising on his professionalism Chappell too, I believe, has to tread sensibly and sensitively in understanding the culture in which he is now working. We are not sure whether Chappell had asked Ganguly to step down, or whether he merely gave him his brutally honest opinion when asked by Ganguly. To be fair to Chappell and assuming it was the latter, I don't think the eve of the Test match was a good time to tell the skipper that he wasn't good enough to be in the Test side. Chappell must have known that Ganguly had been picked as captain. It was understood he would be part of the playing XI throughout the series. The two did declare a seemingly well-orchestrated truce which, if not handled sensitively, could have a short expiry date.
Chappell minces no words while dealing with players. Before laying rules and conditions for the players, maybe he should set laws for himself and demand to be a part of the selection committee at all levels. It was Chappell's mistake in not taking part in the captain's selection. I know the argument is that Chappell was manoeuvred out of the selection team that picked the captain. But he should be as professional with the BCCI as he is with the players, when it comes to dealing with issues like leaving him out of captaincy deliberations. The team's think tank must look in depth at many other issues in Indian cricket rather than wash dirty linen in public.
The author played for India between 1991-2003 and took 551 international wickets.