The Greg-Sourav row

"CHAPPELL is a genius; Sourav is much below him in stature." This assessment of Raj Singh Dungarpur, former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, puts the continuing spat between Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly in the right perspective. Raj Singh is also a part of the majority perception that castigated Sourav for going public with a statement that he was asked to step down by Greg Chappell before the first Test.

What prompted Sourav to react in such a manner to a discussion inside the dressing room will ever remain a mystery. It is na�ve to assume that Sourav had not bargained for the turbulence that such a revelation would trigger across the world of cricket. That it caused such a stir was no surprise.

The storm appeared to have died down with a reported patch up. Greg was generous enough when he said, "It is passed, it is history. And my only ambition now is to take the Indian team to the next level." Photographs of the two participating in a pool game and shaking hands were aimed at easing the tension.

There is a persisting scepticism whether the impact of the showdown will ever be mitigated. As though to confirm this came the bombshell in the form an e-mail by Greg Chappell to the BCCI President, Ranbir Mahendra. The contents, published first in a vernacular daily, quoted Greg's assessment of Ganguly as "having no physical or mental fitness to continue as captain." The coach reportedly listed other shortcomings, too, in the skipper.

The need for both to work together is never greater than it is now, placing the interest of the game above everything. To achieve this, the Indian captain should walk more than half way and accept Greg as the one who has the knowledge and experience to push Indian cricket out of the present rut, the series win in Zimbabwe notwithstanding.

Greg's approach is transparent. The endeavour is to shape a formidable Indian team for the World Cup in 2007. For this, the youth content has to be projected with more vigour. Reports surmised that the differences arose over Mohammad Kaif, whose form preceding the Test was striking. It was undeniable that Sourav was struggling, suggesting a loss of form, growing flaws in technique, and above all, a lack of confidence. Sourav must have felt that a weak Zimbabwe was the best opposition to regain his rhythm. But all he could accomplish was a lacklustre century that did no credit to his renowned fluency.

It is a pity that there is an undercurrent of tension between the captain and the coach, whose expertise Sourav sought not long ago to correct his technique to tackle pace. When the Board approved Greg's nomination after an expert panel identified the Australian as the best equipped among the applicants, it was thought that Sourav would indeed be the first to welcome the selection.

The first sign that everything was not fine surfaced before the team's departure to Zimbabwe. Quite a few, including the captain, trickled in just in time before the flight, forcing the authorities to cancel the media briefing. Quite understandably, Greg was miffed at the attitude of the players. It was said that Greg wanted the players to assemble in Mumbai two days before departure to discuss the strategy for the tour. But that did not come through.

Even assuming that what happened in Mumbai was an aberration, the embarrassment caused to Greg Chappell by Sourav during the first Test cannot be viewed as such. The mode adopted needs to be condemned. It was unethical and uncalled for. If Sourav had thought of creating a sympathy wave for himself, the calculation couldn't have been more wrong. On the contrary, it prompted a debate over the efficacy of his captaincy leading to a chorus that nothing would go wrong if Sourav was relieved. This, notwithstanding a few personal landmarks that the captain had achieved during the tour.

Sourav is on the threshold of the twilight zone. This realisation must dawn on the ageing warhorse. A hectic programme lies ahead, involving such powerful combatants as Sri Lanka, South Africa and England, not forgetting the traditional rival, Pakistan. Sourav should earn his place as a player before staking claim for continued leadership. Is this the beginning of the end?