VVS Laxman’s autobiography ‘281 and beyond’ has shed light on one of the most controversial periods in Indian cricket history- the Greg Chappell era.
Former Australian captain and widely regarded as one of the best batsmen in the history of the game, Greg Chappell was appointed the coach of the Indian team in May of 2005 with much fanfare. However, what followed was one of the most tumultuous periods in Indian cricket history, which saw the ouster of Sourav Ganguly from the captaincy and the team itself.
Laxman has claimed in his book that under the former Australian coach team India was divided into two or three factions and there was a serious trust deficit. “The coach had his favorites, who were well looked after, while the others were left to fend for themselves. The team had disintegrated before our eyes,” he writes.
“Greg’s entire stint had been cause for bitterness. He was rigid and inflexible in his approach and didn’t know how to run an international team. He often seemed to forget that it was the players who played the game and were stars, not the coach,” Laxman notes in the book which he has co-authored with cricket writer R Kaushik.
Chappell had replaced the much-loved New Zealander John Wright as India’s coach. Under Wright, who was India’s first foreign coach, India had seen much success including the 2001 series win over Australia, Test and ODI series win in Pakistan and drawing the Test series in Australia in 2003-2004.
“Greg Chappell arrived in India to a groundswell of goodwill and support. He left the team in tatters, having played an influential part in the worst phase of my playing career. Results on the field might suggest that his methods worked to some extent, but those results had nothing to do with our coach,” Laxman asserts.
“He was brusque and abrasive, highly opinionated and rigid in his thinking. His man-management skills were non-existent. He quickly sowed further seeds of discontent in an already diffident team...I will always respect Greg Chappell the batsman. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Greg Chappell the coach,” he recalls.
Laxman also touched the topic of his retirement in 2012. He writes that he was convinced that he had made the right call as he listened to his “inner voice” and did not let “extraneous forces” influence the tough decision.
Laxman retired in a huff on August 18, 2012, less than a week ahead of a Test match he was supposed to play against New Zealand in front of his home crowd in Hyderabad.
“I didn’t retire because of extraneous forces and I wasn’t pushed into retirement,” he writes. There were murmurs of a rift between Laxman and then captain MS Dhoni and it was speculated that Laxman quit due to those differences.
“I had listened to my inner voice and it had not let me down. All my life, my actions had been dictated by this voice, but in conjunction with suggestions from those closest to me. This time, with greater maturity, I had gone entirely by it, disregarding advice from even my father,” he notes.
“Sachin was at the NCA and tried to convince me to defer the press conference. I had seldom disregarded Sachin’s advice, but I respectfully told him that this time, I could not honor his sentiments. I told him repeatedly during our one-hour conversation that my mind was made up,” says Laxman, noting that he had talked with several of his teammates including Zaheer and Sachin.
“It was not the fairy-tale ending that cricketers dream of, but to me, it was a fairy-tale ending nonetheless because I had stepped down on my own terms. The decision was more for myself than to please others... I had been strong enough to make the right decision,” he writes.
(Inputs from Hindustantimes.com/PTI)