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Chappell's tenure worst phase of my career - Zaheer

ESPNcricinfo staff

June 13, 2011

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In a revealing insight into one of the most tumultuous periods in Indian cricket, Zaheer Khan has said the tenure of Greg Chappell as India coach was the most disappointing phase of his decade-long career. Zaheer said he was unable to perform during that time as he was constantly worrying about whether or not Chappell wanted him - along with several other senior players - in the team.

"It was as if you've been framed. It was like 'we don't want you in the team. It's not about performance, we don't like your attitude, you're stopping the growth of cricket in the Indian team'. I felt it personally because I was dropped straight after the Sri Lanka tour, even though I had not performed badly," Zaheer said on NDTV's Walk the Talk show.

"I was fortunate enough to go to South Africa to represent the Asia XI [in the Afro-Asia Cup]. I got about nine wickets and I was recalled for the next series. In that phase it was always a struggle. When you're fighting within the team, when you have a war to fight in your own camp, it is always difficult to win."

Chappell took over as India coach in May 2005 but his tenure - characterised by his zeal to draft in young players - was plagued by serious differences between him and senior players, including Sachin Tendulkar, in the Indian team. He also had a public spat with the then captain, Sourav Ganguly, who was dropped and later recalled. At the end of his tenure, following India's early exit from the 2007 World Cup, he decided not to seek an extension of his contract.

In contrast, Gary Kirsten's time with the Indian team was "amazing", Zaheer said. "He has given everyone their space. He's understood the Indian culture and how we do things. He's taken that step of coming closer to us rather than dictating. He was our friend, not a coach."


Zaheer Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid survey the scene at the SuperSport Park, Centurion, December 14, 2010
Zaheer Khan: "When you're fighting within the team, when you have a war to fight in your own camp, it is always difficult to win." © AFP
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Zaheer felt the only positive to come out of Chappell's tenure was the inclusion of youngsters in the team. But sacrificing experienced players was not the only way to give opportunities to youth, Zaheer felt. "A youngster coming in is a good sign but not at the cost of a cricketer who is doing his bit."

The county stint with Worcestershire came at the right moment for him, said Zaheer, when he was not feeling confident about his game. The time he spent playing away from the Indian set-up meant he started to enjoy cricket again. He signed up with Worcestershire for the 2006 county season and finished as the highest wicket-taker in Division Two of the County Championship, taking 78 wickets at 29.07.

"Worcester taught me the reason I'm playing this game. Sometimes when you play at the highest level, especially in India, the whole country is so passionate about the game, so whether you do well or do badly it affects you in many ways. So when I went to Worcester, it was just me playing cricket.

"I was just enjoying cricket and not thinking about other pressures, about the pressure of performance. Everything was falling into place. I was taking wickets. Even though I was not in the Indian side, I was actually happy."

A rejuvenated Zaheer has led the Indian attack since his Worcestershire stint, playing a crucial role in India's ascent to the top of the Test rankings. The icing has been the 2011 World Cup triumph, in which Zaheer was the tournament's joint-highest wicket-taker with Shahid Afridi, with 21 wickets. In the World Cup final, he bowled three consecutive maidens at the start of the innings, a contrast to his nervous display against Australia in the final of the 2003 edition.

 
 
"It was as if you've been framed. It was like 'we don't want you in the team. It's not about performance, we don't like your attitude, you're stopping the growth of cricket in the Indian team.'" Zaheer Khan on Greg Chappell's tenure as India coach
 

Zaheer said he was young at that time, and got carried away with emotion. "I was only a couple of years into international cricket; the World cup journey itself was something special. That time my thing was to bowl quick. I wanted to be aggressive. It was a World Cup final; there were a lot of emotions. As soon as the national anthem finished, there was this rush of young blood. I wanted to do really well, wanted to just blast the Australians apart.

"This World Cup I was aware of the fact that there will be a lot of emotions, I have to deal with it. I have to maintain my calm and focus on the process. I was telling myself just go there and bowl."

Zaheer has sharpened his skills over the years, also becoming a mentor to the younger bowlers in the side. "You cannot run through a side [in the subcontinent]. You need to be patient, you need to understand when to go for the kill."

"Early in my career, I used to get really tired in the second innings of a Test. That's where the fun is. I was not able to deal with that pre-Worcester.

"You can't waste all your energy in the first innings or when a partnership is happening. You need to work on your field placements and know in your mind that the moment you get a wicket, you can go for another one. If you can get two wickets quickly that's going to change the complexion of the game."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by williamgrey on (June 16, 2011, 16:29 GMT)

Too much importance is being given to Zaheer's first three overs in the world cup finals. I think people are forgetting the last over that Zaheer Bowled in the world cup final. He actually bettered his run leaking ability by giving away 18 runs compared to 15 in 2003 finals.

No doubt Zaheer is probably the most improved bowler in World Cricket in the last 4 years or so but he is still quite fragile mentally...how he fell apart in IPL 2011 everytime he was attacked.

Posted by UNIVERSAL_CRICKETER on (June 16, 2011, 11:41 GMT)

GREG CHAPPEL CAME TO INDIA WITH RIGHT INTENTIONS......BUT WITH WRONG ATTITUDE.....HIS VISION WAS RIGHT...HE EMPHASIZED MORE ON FITNESS & YOUTH....HE WANTED RESULTS TO BE THE SOLE CRITERIA FOR SELECTION..... BUT AS COACH, HE CAME WITH NEGATIVE TRAITS OF STUBBORNNESS & CONFRONTATION....HE FORGOT THAT HE WAS NO LONGER THE STAR PLAYER & HAS LONG RETIRED......THE CURRENT PLAYERS WERE THE STAR.....UNLIKE HIM, GARY KIRSTEN ALWAYS CHOOSE TO REMAIN IN BACKGROUND WITH A HELPER & ADVISER ATTITUDE.....KIRSTEN WAS FIRM BUT HUMBLE...HE LET THE PLAYERS HOG THE LIMELIGHT....HE MADE THEM WORK HARD...BUT WORKED HARDER WITHOUT MAKING A FUSS......BUT LET US NOT FORGET GREG CHAPPEL'S CONTRIBUTION...HE BUSTED THE INFLATED EGOS OF THE GANGULYS, TENDULKARS, ZAHEERS, HARBHAJANS, YUVRAJS...& MADE THEM WORK HARDER FOR THEIR PLACE & THEIR FITNESS....AFTER CHAPPEL'S EGO BUSTING ALL THESE PLAYERS RENEWED & REFRESHED THEMSELVES.....HE GAVE CONFIDENCE TO DHONIS & RAINAS.....

Posted by L4zybugg3r on (June 16, 2011, 7:31 GMT)

At least some of the people that comment here are saying that Greg Chappell's influence might not have been so bad. I mean yes he probably needed to change his style to appeal to Indian players but I'm sure the players didn't try to bridge that gap either. I mean he was trying to improve things like fielding and general performance - seems to me what you want in a coach. The clincher for me was Zaheer was talking about Kirsten and said he was a friend not a coach when comparing him to Greg Chappell - I laughed so hard as I was under the impression that they were both supposed to be coaches not friends. I'm sure Zaheer has plenty of friends to support but he needs to be able to take constructive criticism from a coach in order to improve. I know one thing I'd much prefer to have Greg Chappell as the coach to the Aus current one - Nielsen. Oh and about Aus selections, they've been making terrible decisions for 4 and half years - a long time before Greg Chappell came back to Aus.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (June 16, 2011, 7:19 GMT)

The one who criticizing ZAK must learn that he gone thru thier batting line ups at least once. Not only in ODIs but also in Tests. He is unstoppable after his comeback. Especially with the fact that he played most of the matches in batting friendly conditions! Check the status and argue.

Posted by   on (June 16, 2011, 1:07 GMT)

@Karn Mamgain I am glad I amused you with my Jokes. Here is more, enjoy. You already posted something I wanted to post after your response to my post. You mentioned the transition of indian ODI. I think Chappel played a significant role in that initiating the thinking process. You've also come up with Sachin's statistics in the recent world cup. I don't know what is your point. But, Tendulkar is not a factor in the team anymore. Even Tendulkar would agree with that. That is why he has been taking days off of cricket at his will for the past few years. This is purely supported by public opinion. So the notion of Tendulkar is proud of playing for the country is out of the question. He enjoys the game, that is why he still plays. Chappel didn't like anyone in the dressing room who thinks he is above the Team. That is why he was so critical about the attitude, let alone performance. That is how professional players should be. It doesn't really fit into traditional Indian mindset.

Posted by   on (June 15, 2011, 21:24 GMT)

@karn mamgain Its not comparing Dravid's ODI record with Sachin's, it is the way dravid got axed. It was in 2007 if you see even sachin was not quite at best, so the best way to divert the attention is by axing the Great Dravid.

Posted by maddy20 on (June 15, 2011, 19:03 GMT)

@TheOnlyEmperor When you time the ball as sweetly as Laxman and most importantly have a cool head that can dig you outta impossible situations, who cares about running between the wickets? For starters count the number of matches we would have lost if not for him in the last 5 years and you will know what I mean. Sachin, Dravid and Laxman are one of their kind.

Posted by VettiPayyan on (June 15, 2011, 18:46 GMT)

Altho I have never seen logic in what this user called 'popcorn' ever wrote here, adn neither have I ever felt the necessity to even consider replying to him,

I do so.. kudos 'mate'.. u made me reply u finally.. some Aussie power!

We all know the 'young' 'talented' performers u guys have and who 'earned' their baggy green

Clarke - young forever player retained adamently in team just becuase he was identified as captian ages back . chuckle not even half as talented as Ricky

Hauritz - average bowler

Steven smith - over-hyped leggie

cameron white - again another hyped slogger

Hope Greggy will add a few more picks to that... Waiting for u to travel abroad :-)

Posted by vpk23 on (June 15, 2011, 17:01 GMT)

INDIAN PLAYERS ARE NOT CHAPPALS...GREAT COMMENT

Posted by Bilingualbigfoot on (June 15, 2011, 16:03 GMT)

This article "Chappell's tenure worst phase of my career" could have easily been this title " Inclusion of Youngsters had shaken the Senior Players" had that point been highlighted in the beginning. This article would have been on a different note. Zaheer has clearly admitted that inclusion of youngsters had terribly shaken the senior players which threw them out of their comfort zone. Appreciate Zak for coming out openly. Is Zak's dissapointing phase is confined to Greg or does it include Selectors as well , we may never know. The same way , was Yuvi 's selction's confined to Kirsten or the Present selectectors, we may never know.

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