Gilchrist targets Ganguly and Harbhajan

Adam Gilchrist has taken digs at Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh for their decision to opt out of the 2004 Nagpur Test against Australia, a match that gave the visitors their first series win in the country in 35 years. His comments are part of his autobiography where he also questioned the evidence given by Sachin Tendulkar in the Harbhajan racism case.

Ganguly, India's captain during the 2004 series, pulled out on the morning of the Test complaining of pain in the groin, while Harbhajan missed the game after contracting flu. Gilchrist, who was leading Australia in the series in place of the injured Ricky Ponting, wrote that there was speculation that Ganguly skipped the match because of the grassy pitch.

"There was speculation that Sourav Ganguly was quarrelling with the head of cricket in Nagpur and a rumour that a spicy pitch might be prepared out of spite or revenge against the captain," Gilchrist wrote in his book True Colours. "When I got to the middle, Ganguly was not there. [Rahul] Dravid was in his blazer, ready for the toss. 'Where's Sourav,' I said. "Rahul couldn't answer definitively; between the lines I perceived that Sourav might have pulled out from fear of losing a home series."

At the start of the third Test in Nagpur, Australia were leading the four-match series 1-0.

Of Harbhajan, Gilchrist wrote that he was out of the Test "with a 'flu', which he seemed to have contracted when he saw the grassy wicket". "...I still don't know to this day what was wrong with Ganguly and Harbhajan."

Gilchrist also slammed Harbhajan for his role in the Sydney Test for which he was charged on grounds of racial abuse against Andrew Symonds. Harbhajan was handed a three-match ban which was overturned on appeal.

"... I heard Harbhajan say to Ricky, 'Sorry, I apologise, it won't happen again'. The look on Harbhajan's face was telling. He looked like he was thinking, 'Oh, s**t. What have I done here? They're all over me'. ... Harbhajan had already apologised for doing it in India and promised not to do it again, but here he was, up to his old tricks. His promises meant little, and Ricky was reporting it to the match officials [during the second Test in Sydney]."

Harbhajan had hit back at Gilchrist's statements on Tendulkar, whose evidence in Sydney Gilchrist labelled a "joke", and said the former Australian wicketkeeper was not respected anyway because of his own on-field behaviour. The last two bi-lateral series between the two teams have been fractious and tense, with the off-field contests as bitterly fought as the on-field ones.