India awaits judgment day
The spat between Sourav Ganguly and Greg Chappell has held Indian cricket captive over the last few days. Both sides will finally get an opportunity to present their side of the story when they put forward their cases before the review committee of the BCCI, which will meet in Mumbai tomorrow (September 27). There was some doubt about the participation of Ganguly, who lost his grandfather in Kolkata today, but media reports suggested that he would reach Mumbai tomorrow morning to defend himself against the charges levelled by Chappell.
The committee, comprising Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, along with Ranbir Singh Mahendra, the board president, SK Nair, the secretary, and Jagmohan Dalmiya, had originally been set up to review the performances of the Indian team on the tours of Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, but in the light of the current controversy, the captain-coach issue will surely form the chunk of the discussions.
Chappell has clearly not been enamoured of Ganguly and some of the other members of the Indian team in his short stint as coach of the team. However, the spat came out in the public following Ganguly's suggestion that he was asked to step down before the Test in Bulawayo. An uneasy truce followed, but just in its aftermath came the email from Chappell to the board, the entire contents of which was leaked to the media.
The details of the letter show the extent to which relations have soured between the two. Chappell has accused Ganguly of desperately hanging on his captaincy, even at the cost of harming the team's harmony. Question-marks have been raised about Ganguly's mental and physical fitness, and his ability to stay afloat in international cricket. Ganguly hasn't put forward his defence before the media yet, but the Bengali daily Anand Bazaar Patrika did quote sources claiming one abrasive remark: "You can imagine the the character of a person who within hours of a truce goes and writes such an e-mail."
These are extremely serious allegations, and the six-man committee will have its hands full in trying to resolve the matter. The credentials of Gavaskar, Shastri and Venkataraghavan, all former national captains, are impeccable, but the pitch has been queered by the presence of Dalmiya, known to be a Ganguly supporter. Raj Singh Dungarpur, a former BCCI president, even accused Dalmiya of being responsible for leaking the email to save Ganguly. "Ganguly knows he has the license to kill as long as Dalmiya is there," Dungarpur thundered, and then went on to accuse Harbhajan Singh, who came out in open support of his captain. If Dalmiya is a Ganguly supporter, then Shastri, it seems, is in the other camp, and is among those who favours a change in captaincy.
Increasingly, it seems, both Chappell and Ganguly cannot work together. The review committee can only offer its recommendation to the board, and not make a final decision, but the direction in which they veer could well decide the direction the Indian team takes over the next few years.