Chappell finally breaks his four-year-long silence
The clock has turned full circle. Now that another World Cup beckons after four long years, the bitterness of the famous spat of the World Cup in the West Indies seems to have subsided. Two characters were involved in that drama -- Greg Chappell and Sachin Tendulkar.
At the end of it all, Chappell resigned after a controversial tenure as India's cricket coach but never has it been known as to what triggered the storm.
Just before the 2011 World Cup, Chappell, now an Australian selector finally breaks his four-year-long silence on the issue. Chappell admits, today, faced with a similar scenario he would have handled Tendulkar differently. He would have completely left it to Tendulkar to pick his own batting order.
It now emerges that the Australian wanted Tendulkar to bat in the middle order but the veteran was not too keen to relinquish his position in the top order during India's ill-fated campaign in the 2007 World Cup.
Image: Greg Chappell (left) with Sachin Tendulkar
'I never ever doubted Tendulkar's commitment'
In a book on Tendulkar titled 'SACH', written by noted sports scribe Gautam Bhattacharya, Chappell has recalled the entire spat but insisted that he and Tendulkar buried the hatchet within a few days of the controversy.
"At the outset let me clarify I never ever doubted Sachin Tendulkar's commitment to the side. The only time I talked about him was in relation to the team's World Cup venture. If you talk about a breakdown in relations, that possibly happened only around this time. Basically we differed on his batting order in the West Indies," Chappell said in an interview published in the book which is due to hit the stands this week.
Chappell said the conditions in the West Indies demanded a power-hitter in the middle order and the choice was between Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar. Since Sehwag refused the offer to come down the order, Tendulkar was approached who agreed reluctantly.
"It wasn't just me alone. Rahul Dravid was also involved in the thinking which felt the matches were going to get decided in those middle overs and you needed the brilliance of either a Sachin or Sehwag to play in that position," Chappell revealed.
"Sehwag didn't seem very keen. So we sat down with Sachin who in any case was the first priority. We put it down to him and he seemed reluctant. He thought top-of-the-order was the best place for him as it has always been.
But we were still in the discussion as Rahul and myself were convinced no other batsman in the team would be able to do it. Sachin finally agreed. Next day he got back to Rahul. Though he made it known that he was not happy doing it. He felt that his reputation demanded two places higher in the order," he recalled in the interview.
Image: (From left to right): Rahul Dravid, Greg Chappell, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag
'That experience has taught me a lesson'
In hindsight, Chappell said he would have given the same suggestions but would have allowed Tendulkar to decide.
"...that experience has taught me a lesson. Today confronted with a similar situation I would still put the idea across to him and explain. But if he shows any kind of discomfort I won't push. I would let him decide," he said.
Soon after the debacle, Tendulkar gave an emotional interview to a daily in which he said his commitment to the team was questioned by Chappell but the Aussie said the two had a chat and parted ways amicably.
"With Sachin, I later on had a face-to-face chat. There was an issue about a write-up which had come out in the Times of India. We spoke the next day and I would like to believe parted on good terms. As I said earlier the only disagreement we had was over his place in the batting order which now is a thing of the past," Chappell said.
The former Australian captain went on to say that he admires Tendulkar for the ease with which he handles expectations of over a billion fans in a cricket-mad country.
"During my years as the Indian coach how people vied for a minute's attention from him irrespective of wherever he went! Emotionally and physically it must be very draining to cope up with that sort of attention day in and day out. But he has handled it remarkably well.
"He must be the most singlehanded devotee cricket has ever seen. Cricket has taken up so much of his life that at times you would wonder what is he going to do once he gives up the game!" he said.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
'Me and Sachin parted on good terms'
Chappell reiterated that his decision to quit as India coach was made before the 2007 World Cup disaster and the reason was clash of ideas with the BCCI.
"I had presented the BCCI my road-map for the project Commitment to Excellence and they approved it. Yet there was a clear philosophical clash as to which direction the group needed to go. I for one wasn't prepared to compromise. If I had conceded then there would be no fight," he said.
"But I wanted to remain true to my beliefs and cricketing thought's bottom-line -- it wasn't going anywhere and whatever I had set out to do remained unattainable. That is why I decided to quit which was much before the World Cup.
"So to set the record straight once again Sachin's statement in the press against me had nothing to do with my discontinuing as the coach. As I said earlier we had parted on good terms," he added.
Image: Greg Chappell