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Is Greg Chappell a liar, Mr Mahendra?

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Last updated on: September 27, 2005 21:09 IST

Let this be a lesson to all you guys out there -- never, ever presume to seek solutions when you do not know what the problem is.

For near on two weeks now, everyone -- the media, the pundits, the fan blowing his hard-earned cash on beer to fuel his arguments -- has been analysing the Greg Chappell-Sourav Ganguly standoff.

The problem, some said, is a clash of cultures -- Chappell is the quintessentially abrasive Aussie, who does not know how to sugar coat his messages.

Nope, said others, the problem is Sourav Ganguly, who is in the midst of a form slump and desperately keen on holding on to his position.

You didn't know zip, did you? It took less than a day for the six wise men to analyse the issue from all points of the compass, and to conclude that the problem really was a relatively minor oversight.

The six wise men will do nothing

You see, what actually happened (and this is official) was, when the BCCI committee met three months earlier to appoint the coach, they forgot to tell him that it was important to work with the captain for the 'best interests of Indian cricket'.

You can't blame them, really. The committee comprised Sarvashri Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and S Venkatraghavan, former captains all, who presumed that such basics did not merit spelling out.

And -- you know how, per Murphy's Law, such things can happen -- when the selectors picked the captain ahead of the Zimbabwe tour, they forgot to tell him that he had to work with the coach.

Indian Cricket's Mahayuddh

That is all it is, really -- just a minor slip up in communications. And once the review committee in its infinite wisdom diagnosed the problem, the rest was simple: Captain Sourav Ganguly and coach Greg Chappell have been told, in clear, impossible to misunderstand words, that the idea is for the two to work together, not against one another.

This, the two gents were told, is cricket, not tug of war; you pull together, not apart.

Oh, and just to make sure the captain and coach work together, they have been told not to e-mail/talk to anyone else; the players (who really have no business pre-empting the wise men and trying to determine what the problem was) have been told not to talk, period.

There now, problem solved. Indian cricket has turned the corner -- correction, that should read 'another corner'. So why am I pissed off? Because, you see, there is one little issue that has been left unresolved.

How did this whole thing start? The genesis, you will admit, is Greg Chappell's feeling that Sourav Ganguly was not fit to lead the national side.

It is this feeling that triggered their conversation; this, that had Ganguly speak out on television; this, that formed the leitmotif of Chappell's lengthy, 'private' e-mail.

The mail said Ganguly was not fit to lead on two counts: One physical, one mental. Take the mental part first: Chappell accused Ganguly of playing divide and rule; of causing schism in the dressing room in order to hang on to his own place in the side. And Chappell offered up V V S Laxman as the guinea pig to prove this thesis.

Elsewhere Harbhajan Singh, fronting the defense, suggested that it was Chappell that was causing schism, playing one player (Singh himself) off against the other (Rahul Dravid).

Both camps agreed on one thing -- there is schism. And everyone -- fans, pundits, the media -- will agree on one other thing: schism within the team is bad. In this case, it is worse than bad -- Sourav Ganguly has worked for four long years to eradicate that very vice and to bring this wonderful sense of unity to the ranks, and all his work now gone for nothing?

So, there is division in the Indian dressing room. If Bajji is right, Chappell is the cause. If Chappell is right, Ganguly is the cause. And you will agree that a person -- captain, coach, whoever -- who deliberately sets out to cause divisions cannot be tolerated in the, what was the phrase, 'best interests of Indian cricket'.

Given that, does it strike you as curious that the six wise men, who undoubtedly have the best interests of Indian cricket at heart, are totally, completely silent on the question?

If the silence had been pervasive, if it had extended to all issues raised in recent days, we could understand it; we could reason, and say the idea behind the silence is to ensure that the situation does not get further aggravated.

The silence, though, is not pervasive, all encompassing. On one issue, the review committee is, through frontman Ranbir Singh Mahendra, very vocal.

Mahendra -- speaking for the committee -- rejected outright Chappell's allegation that Ganguly repeatedly faked injury to avoid facing fast bowling, and blew off training sessions.

"Some of the points, particularly with regards to injury, the captain Sourav faking injury etc, after hearing the concerned people, the committee came to the conclusion that whatever has been said is far from the truth," Mahendra said.

Hullo? Chappell's famous e-mail was an essay in explaining why Saurav Ganguly was not fit to lead the team. Ganguly was, Chappell said, physically and mentally unfit to lead.

The 'mental' part relates to the accusations of causing division, a la Laxman and others -- which, of course, has been treated with silence. The physical part relates to his blowing away training sessions, and feigning injuries.

Bear in mind that Chappell makes the further point that when he got that impression, he checked with several players, and they all told him that Ganguly clutching an elbow and going oo-aah-ouch was nothing new.

Nothing of the kind happened, Mahendra says. Phrased differently, Greg Chappell lied.

Lied, what is worse, with one transparent motive: to paint the national cricket captain in as bad a light as he could? Worse, he also said that he tried to make the team a party to this heinous lie.

Will the BCCI explain how it is in the 'best interests of Indian cricket' to have, as coach of the national side, a man who has -- by the BCCI's own admission -- lied so blatantly; in the process libeled a national cricket icon with over 15,000 international runs, not to mention a sterling string of triumphs, under his belt?

Now that you have branded Chappell a liar, Mr Mahendra, do you expect us, the fans and the media, to take him seriously any more; to give credence to anything he may say in future?

Having branded your coach a liar, Mr Mahendra, do you now expect the players in the dressing room to take him seriously, to respect him, to heed him?

Why, since you so obviously have the 'best interests of Indian cricket' so much at heart, have you not sacked this man outright?

Will you please explain how it was in the 'best interest' of Indian cricket to not sack Chappell (don't waffle about contracts, please -- no contract drawn up by any kind of professional fails to include a morals clause), to retain this man, in his post? 

Oh, but I forgot -- you did say no one will talk any more, did you not?

Prem Panicker