Selectors talk of personality clashes and ego-driven dressing-room politics May 8, 2007

TV channel's sting 'reveals' divided Indian team

Cricinfo staff

Bhupinder Singh Sr: "Greg Chappell was not on talking terms with Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh" © Getty Images
Indian cricket appeared to be heading for another controversy with a TV channel broadcasting what it claimed were revelations by the national selectors of infighting, ego-driven politics and factionalism in the dressing room.

The "revelations" were part of a sting operation carried out by Headlines Today and its Hindi sister channel, Aaj Tak, which spoke to four national selectors - Ranjib Biswal, Bhupinder Singh, Sr, Venkatapathy Raju and Sanjay Jagdale, the last-named also the team manager at the World Cup.

There were two broad themes to the revelations in the sting: factionalism within the team, and Greg Chappell's performance as coach.

"Greg wanted to show everybody he is the boss. He was not happy with anybody," Bhupinder Singh sr, the North Zone selector, was quoted as saying. "There were instances when Chappell was not talking to senior players for 4-5 days. He was not on talking terms with Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh. It happened in South Africa [where India toured in December-January]."

He also said that Chappell adopted a "divide and rule policy" and was the additional ego in a team full of egos.

"Greg could not understand Indian cricketers' psyche. He was more like a schoolmaster than a friend," Ranjib Biswal, the East Zone selector, said.

The sting also raised alleged problems that Rahul Dravid had with Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. They were not supporting Dravid, says Bhupinder; some players were backing Tendulkar, some Ganguly. "They are sensing (sic) that if he fails then we have a chance to become captain."

"I won't call it factionalism but there were some personal problems," said Sanjay Jagdale, who was also quoted as saying that Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan had fought in the dressing-room.

The sting also featured Niranjan Shah, the board's secretary, who spoke on the role of sponsorship and endorsements. "Endorsement money is so huge, there is a chance of a grey area. They will get money if they are in the team, otherwise they won't. That's why it [pressure from sponsors to retain them] may be there. That's why the board has said only three endorsements per player."

The Board for Control of Cricket in India was yet to react officially to the revelations. "Let me watch the whole thing and then I will comment," one top BCCI official told Cricinfo. "In these sting operations video and audio can sometimes be doctored so we have to wait and see whether these are authentic or not. It would not be correct for the BCCI to make any comment at this stage."

Speaking in Dhaka, where India play the first of three one-day internationals, Dravid dismissed reports that Tendulkar and Ganguly had undermined his leadership. "To be honest with you, I felt I had as much support as I needed," he said. "I was very happy with the team that I had and the support that I had. Other than that I really don't know what it is and what it is all about. I am not going to react on these sting operations or any of this stuff."