The summer of 2009, when Sourav Ganguly was removed as captain of Kolkata Knight Riders, it stirred a hornet's nest. Questions were asked of the then Knight Riders head-coach John Buchanan and his controversial ‘multiple captaincy theory’.
“The theory came in as a surprise. That is something many of us did not have a clue of,” Ganguly had told Sportstar.
But Buchanan — in an exclusive interview with this publication — has hit back, saying that the game had passed Ganguly when the Indian Premier League (IPL) came in. “The game had passed him (Ganguly). In fact, it had passed a lot of players. Had T20 cricket come three-four years before, they would have been in a far better position to play,” Buchanan said.
The Australian coach admitted that Ganguly did not have his support as a captain or as a player. “That was always an issue with Sourav as he knew that he did not have my support in T20 cricket. "But I had a lot of respect for him as a person, as an Indian icon, as a person who would be very valuable to Knight Riders, but not necessarily as a player,” Buchanan said, adding: “So, I can only presume that his (recent) comments (in the book A Century Is Not Enough ) are possibly somewhat covered by my view on his game as it was in 2008-2009.”
Buchanan, under whom Australia won the ODI World Cup in 2003 and 2007, agreed that T20, as a format, was still in its infancy during the first few seasons. “In the early days, there was a lot of uncertainty about what the format was, how to play the game, where franchises were going, who were the best target players. I have had these conversations with Sourav and Shah Rukh Khan,” he said.
“I certainly believe that Sourav had a role to play in Knight Riders, but I just did not feel that in terms of the T20 format and how Sourav was playing. This again has something to do with physical, technical and mental aspects of the game,” the seasoned coach added.
Buchanan also revealed that he had spoken to Ganguly quite extensively after the first edition of the IPL and that there were numerous discussions between the two over the direction KKR needed to take the next year. “We all tried to handle the situation really well. At the end of the first season of the IPL, Sourav and I had a number of conversations. We had a number of meetings with the owners, and I told distinctly about Sourav’s role in the team. I thought we went about the right away.
“Of course, there were differences of opinion, but unfortunately the end result really (was not good) when we went to South Africa. The tension contributed significantly to the result we got there. These days, if you are not getting results, the coach is the first one under the microscope. We did not get a satisfactory result,” the coach added.
While KKR had a less than favourable outing in 2009, it was the fight between Ganguly and Buchanan that hogged the headlines. Even though Ganguly returned to KKR as the skipper in the third edition, Buchanan had a rather unceremonious exit.
Looking back at those times, does he feel that the situation could have been handled better?
“We tried to handle it right way behind the scenes. But obviously, as the team was not playing well in South Africa, so the innuendo spread quickly and the media was good at picking it up,” Buchanan said.
It has been almost a decade since they parted ways, but neither Ganguly nor Buchanan seems to have forgotten the turbulent days at KKR, which eventually strained their relations.
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