VVS Laxman makes startling revelation! Abrasive Greg Chappell sowed the seeds of discontent in team
In his autobiography, VVS Laxman explains how then coach Greg Chappell's attitude and approach almost destroyed Indian cricket
After Tendulkar and Ganguly, another Indian batting great has slammed Greg Chappell in a book. In 281 and Beyond, VVS Laxman has described the controversial Australian as, "Brusque and abrasive, highly opinionated and rigid." Laxman admits he hoped Chappell would help India excel further after John Wright's 2005 departure, but that was not to be. In fact, whatever India achieved in Chappell's tenure was more because of the players, Laxman writes.
I had been a huge fan of Greg Chappell for a very long time. I had admired his presence at the crease in photographs and videos of him — elegant, almost majestic. Tall and upright, he struck the ball beautifully and had wonderful hands, especially when he fielded in the slips. During my two interactions with him long before he took charge as our coach, I had come away with my knowledge enhanced and my respect for him multiplied.
India batsman VVS Laxman arrives for a net session at Birmingham on the 2011 tour of England. Pics/Getty Images
When Greg was named as John's (Wright) successor, I was both happy and excited. I looked forward to feeding off Greg's knowledge and his vast reservoir of expertise. Given where Indian cricket was at when John parted ways with us, it was imperative that we had a strong, respected individual who could lift the morale of the team and dispel the clouds of uncertainty hovering over our heads.
We had made a lot of progress as a unit in 2003–04, but I for one felt that we had not been allowed to build on that in the season that followed. For various reasons, none of them cricketing, we had been reduced to a house divided.
Blewett was right
During the summer of 2005, I went to England to play club cricket for Lashings. Among my teammates that year was Greg Blewett, the Australian batsman. Blewett told me that I needed to be careful with Greg. Greg had been the coach of South Australia when Blewett played for the state, he said, adding that the former Australian captain had created a lot of instability within the team. I didn't take Blewett seriously. I thought he was just letting off steam.
Our first formal introduction to our new coach was at a camp in Bangalore, ahead of a triangular one-day tournament in Sri Lanka. Greg was there with Ian Fraser, his assistant, and it was a camp that was uniquely different. Greg introduced us to various other aspects, one of the more interesting ones being the de Bono method of lateral thinking, with the six hats and the works. From the skills point of view as well, it was a very good camp.
I got dropped
My struggles with the 50-over format continued in Sri Lanka, this time not helped by back spasms, which had become something of a constant companion. I was in a lot of pain and with my movements restricted, I missed the first two games. I played the next two with limited success, and was dropped for the final. When we reached Sri Lanka for the tri-series, Greg had his first one-on-one with me. He wanted me to play my natural game, to play aggressively. He told me that I was a very important member of the side.
The instability in the team environment was in some ways because of a new selection panel, and Sourav himself was under pressure because he was not scoring as many runs as he would have loved to as captain. I felt that with Greg coming in, I would get a fair chance to establish myself. I did, however, quickly realise, like a majority of my teammates, that Greg wasn't quite the messiah Indian cricket was looking for. We did produce the results, undoubtedly.
Our 50-over team won a record 16 consecutive ODIs while chasing, we scored our first Test win in South Africa, we won a series in the Caribbean for the first time in 35 years. Apart from the unforgettable heartbreak of the first-round elimination from the 2007 World Cup — and it hurts me even today, though I wasn't a part of the squad — we strung together a fairly good run in both Tests and ODIs, but I must stress that the results were less due to the coach and more due to the players.
Brusque and abrasive
It's not as if my teammates and I are determined to paint Greg as an evil monster. As I have already said, I was among those most delighted at being presented with an opportunity to work alongside and under him, but it didn't take long for our respect to dissipate because of Greg's attitude and approach. 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.
No respect for coach Greg
If we had misgivings when it came to Greg—and we did have plenty, yes—it wasn't because of our egos. We never felt we were bigger than the game. I can certainly speak for myself, and I will say this much — Greg sent out conflicting signals, treating me with a callousness that I found shockingly unacceptable. I will always respect Greg Chappell the batsman. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Greg Chappell the coach.
Excerpted from 281 and Beyond by VVS Laxman, published by Westland Sport.
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