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Greg pushed Indian cricket back

Sachin Tendulkar's deep anguish at his and other senior players' attitude being questioned by coach Greg Chappell was shared by a number of senior players contacted by TOI.

They felt the coach has mounted a smear campaign to tar their reputation while seeking to absolve himself of all blame for the World Cup debacle - something, they feel, he shouldn't be allowed to get away with.

One of them told TOI that Chappell has been indulging in "low one-upmanship" ever since he became the coach. "He has been smartly using the media right through his tenure and has been allowed to get away with a lot of mudslinging.

All these days we kept quiet because we respect the sanctity of Indian cricket. Besides, we didn't want to stoop to his level," he said.

Yet another senior player, who has kept quiet despite not exactly being Chappell's favourite bowler, finally spoke up to hit out against the coach. "It's quite obvious that Chappell has a guilty mind. That's precisely why he is having a go at anyone and everyone. He's also trying his best to shoot over Rahul's (Dravid) shoulders, saying that the seniors have undermined his authority. But please get this straight, Rahul has the respect of every member in the team," he said.

As for his statements about divisions in the team, this player asked, "Why is it that all these things are surfacing only now after the World Cup debacle? C'mon yaar, all the seniors have been playing together for over 10 years.

We have personally seen many ups and downs, and also the swings in the team's fortunes. There is a special bonding among us, which only we can understand. It's also about our friendship and our culture which an Aussie will never understand."

The seniors also accused the coach of repeatedly leaking the team's gameplans to the media. "The discussions within team meetings are supposed to be confidential. But most of them used to be passed out by him. We were all very upset but could do nothing to stop him," said another player.

"If only Sourav (Ganguly) had heeded the warnings (about not hiring Chappell as coach) of several Australian players, including the highly-respected Steve Waugh, Indian cricket would have been saved of this 'tamasha'," he added with obvious bitterness at the nasty turn that Indian cricket has taken in the aftermath of the World Cup flop.

A respected Indian cricketer choked with emotion as he went on to recall Chappell's 'high-handedness.' "In life, we have our share of good and bad experiences but, to be honest, I have not come across anyone like him before. He has made life hell for all of us. It's definitely the worst experience of my cricketing career."

He asked: "Tell me, why have we had endless controversies ever since Chappell took over? Why is it that only one man is at the centre of all of them?"

He added: "Also please tell people that there was no problem with seniors. The fact is that Chappell never spoke to the players for three-four days, and this was during the World Cup. He just doesn't listen to anybody. Is that how a coach behaves during such an important assignment?"

When his attention was drawn to Chappell's reported statement about senior players acting like the mafia, the cricketer burst out: "By referring to the seniors as 'mafia', he has shown his true colours. That's how he thinks! No cricketer would like to be described that way. How can he even think like that? It's a disgrace!"

This senior also tore into Chappell's allegations that the youngsters were being treated badly, including the use of some 'abusive' methods against them.

"That's not the Indian way," he said. "Tell me, has any youngster ever complained about a senior? Has anyone asked Dinesh Karthik or Sreesanth or Suresh Raina? Who is he to pass a judgment on his own? By saying that the seniors have blocked the youngsters' entry into the side, he has not only targeted the seniors but has also polluted their minds. Now every youngster will look around with suspicion. That will be his contribution to Indian cricket!"

The seniors were unanimous in their opinion that Indian cricket has suffered a lot of damage under Chappell. "It's definitely not a good advertisement for Indian cricket.

The harsh truth is that Indian cricket hasn't gone forward under Chappell, although we had a great team that made it to the finals of the 2003 World Cup and won a series in Pakistan in 2004. In fact, it has gone back by at least four years thanks to this gentleman. We were definitely a much better side, almost like one big family till this man came around!"

Asked what the seniors would do if Chappell takes what he has reportedly said to the BCCI committee later this week, a senior said, "There is a limit to everything. He has been using the media and getting away with it. If he still doesn't stop his mudslinging, we will give it back to him with interest!"

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