Multan a closed chapter, say Dravid and Tendulkar
Rahul Dravid has said that his disagreement with Sachin Tendulkar over the famous Multan declaration against Pakistan in 2004* when Tendulkar was unbeaten on 194 was over by the end of the day's play.
"The abiding memory for me in that particular Test match was me giving the ball to Sachin Tendulkar to bowl the last over of the day and he got Moin Khan out. We walked off as a team celebrating that wicket," Dravid said. "For me, that was what it was all about. India was on the verge of a historic Test win, winning a Test match in Pakistan for the first time. And Sachin began to forget all of that and focus like he has done so many times on what was the most important thing to do, to win Test matches for India. With the ball, and just to see that joyful glee… for us as a team, that for me as the captain was brilliant."
Dravid was speaking in Mumbai during the release of Tendulkar's autobiography, Playing it my way. The book release function also saw the Fab Four of Indian batting - Tendulkar, Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman - on the same stage for the first time after their retirement. Tendulkar, who had expressed surprise over the declaration after the end of the day's play, added that Multan was a closed chapter between him and Dravid, then stand-in captain.
"There are so many disagreements we have in the dressing room, it just happens behind the closed doors and the whole world doesn't get to see that. This one happened on the field but that doesn't mean we are fighting and we are not talking to each other," Tendulkar said. "We closed that chapter immediately and we have had many match-winning partnerships after that and above all, Jam and I continue to be good friends so that is what really matters."
Ganguly, who formed a formidable opening pair with Tendulkar in ODIs, revealed how he had to make way for Tendulkar at the top of the order after Virender Sehwag's emergence. "Well, it was him. It was he who had to open and I had to bat somewhere else. And I have done that. I had to bat at No 3, 4, 5. He would open and I would bat somewhere else," Ganguly said.
Ganguly laughed as he recalled an incident against Pakistan when he was struggling to score and had requested Tendulkar to take strike, something that he detested. "I remember I wasn't scoring runs taking strike, so I walked up to him, 'Sach, can you take strike?' I was struggling to score runs so just to change the luck, two or three games. He said, 'No, no, no. I have never done that. You do it.' So I said, fine, I will do it.
"I was the only captain who had to ask from my player, 'can I do this?' No, I am serious. And so one day when we walked out, I was pretty annoyed. Come on, for one day you can do it! But I didn't say anything. We walked up, we just walked past each other and I went up and stood at the non-striker's end. And then, just find your place wherever you want to play. And then, he took guard and went to play. I think he got some runs."
The book has detailed how Tendulkar felt the Indian dressing room was at its lowest during Greg Chappell's stint as the coach from June 2005 till the 2007 World Cup. According to Laxman, when he came into the Test side in 2006 "it was the toughest period for me as far as dressing room atmosphere was concerned".
Tendulkar has also mentioned in the book that the Indian team, which made a preliminary round exit from the World Cup, would have been better off without Chappell in the West Indies. "I have written that in my book," he said. "The only reason I felt - I agree with Laxman that the atmosphere could have been better. It wasn't a healthy atmosphere, the atmosphere has to be such in the dressing room that it brings out the best in you in the middle. And I felt that wasn't happening.
"The environment was very negative and it was a downfall from there on. I thought if we travelled without that, it would definitely change the atmosphere in the dressing room. And I also said that we senior players are willing to take the responsibility and we will manage the team."
It was a memorable evening with commentator Harsha Bhogle moderating four discussions. The function opened with four of Mumbai cricket stalwarts - Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and Vasu Paranjape - recalling Tendulkar's early days.
It was followed by the discussion between Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman. Then, Tendulkar, his wife Anjali and elder brother Ajit, who has been his mentor spoke about his life off the field before Tendulkar released the book and presented a copy to his coach Ramakant Achrekar. The evening ended with a one-on-one chat between Bhogle and Tendulkar.
* November 6, 2014: 4.40am GMT The year of the Multan Test has been corrected
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo