Batsman Gautam Gambhir has criticised Delhi coach KP Bhaskar for "creating an atmosphere of uncertainty" among the youngsters in the side. Gambhir said he had an argument with Bhaskar after Delhi's Vijay Hazare Trophy match against Uttar Pradesh on Monday, but insisted that he was standing up for the younger players in the side, who felt insecure, and had not abused Bhaskar as had been stated in a few news reports.
"If protecting a youngster is a crime, I am guilty. If making 20-22-year-olds feel secure in an insecure environment is a crime, then I am guilty. But I could not have let this man (Bhaskar) play with careers of young players like Unmukt Chand and Nitish Rana," Gambhir told PTI on Tuesday.
"Dressing room is a private environment. It's like a bedroom. There may be many discussions but that's not supposed to be discussed with media. I never spoke what all he (Bhaskar) said after we lost a T20 match in Himachal as to what laurels he had brought to Delhi cricket and where these youngsters are taking it to? Is it how you deal with youngsters?
"I know how to deal with people. Lot of things have been said about him, about how I abused this man or that man. Lot of things are blown out of proportion. I backed certain boys for 2-3 years as these were the best boys to back. It is irrelevant from which club they come and we need to get this culture out of the way.
"For last three years, I have been trying to give security to these young players who are all 23 or 24. There has been a culture in Delhi cricket about making players insecure. I have myself faced that when I was a youngster. When I got into the Ranji Trophy team, I was made to feel insecure. Then only I had decided, if I ever take charge I will never make young boys feel insecure."
Rana played only the first three matches of the Vijay Hazare Trophy and was dropped after scores of 5, 5 and 0 while Chand was brought in for the last two matches, against Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, where he struck half-centuries.
Chand had captained Delhi in three Ranji Trophy matches this season, while Gambhir was on national duty. For the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Delhi's selectors chose to appoint 19-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant as captain in place of Gambhir. The decision, Bhaskar had said at the time, had been taken by consensus and with a view to manage Gambhir's workload.
"Look at somebody like Unmukt Chand. He was an India A captain recently, captained Delhi when I wasn't a part of the team," Gambhir said. "Suddenly you don't even pick him for Delhi's one-day side. Look where you have got his career to. Look at Nitish Rana, he played Duleep Trophy, he has played IPL for Mumbai Indians and suddenly three bad one-day games, you send him back.
"I don't have problems with people being dropped from the playing XI but don't send them back. Look how insecure they will feel when they come back next into the side. How much insecurity have you put in Unmukt and Nitish's mind? They are 23-year-olds for god's sake.
"Delhi doesn't have a good cricketing structure and already players feel they are one match away from getting dropped. I told Bhaskar throughout the season, just don't make players this insecure."
Delhi had middling results in the first-class and List A tournaments this season. In the Vijay Hazare Trophy, they finished fourth among seven teams in Group B, winning three of the six matches. They had a mid-table finish in the Ranji Trophy, too, winning two of their eight matches with two losses and four draws. They did well in the Inter-state T20 tournament, however, topping the North Zone table with three wins in five matches.
"When Unmukt got dropped, he (Bhaskar) kept on lying in front of the whole team," Gambhir alleged. "Unmukt called him to ask why he has been dropped from the team and he said 'I was not happy that you are keeping wickets'. If he was not happy he should have said that in a selection meeting. Had Nitish scored one 50, would he have called Unmukt on SOS basis then?
"It was decided at a selection meeting that Unmukt would be picked as a wicketkeeper because he kept wickets previous year as well. When Unmukt confronted him, Bhaskar said he was referring to zonal team and then Unmukt told him on his face he was lying. Unmukt had just played for a North Zone team 15 days back. That team had Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Shikhar Dhawan. If you want to tell me that zonal team was inferior to a Delhi team, good luck to these people."
Bhaskar told Hindustan Times that he had "discharged his obligations with honesty" and would file a report shortly.
"I have been told to restrain. Wait till I submit my report. All I did was discharge my obligations with honesty. Beyond that I can't comment on anything now," Bhaskar said.