Greg Chappell's suggestion that Sourav Ganguly should step down from the captaincy was an honest opinion expressed during mutual discussions, and not an open demand as it has come to being portrayed after Ganguly made it public at a press conference during the first Test between India and Zimbabwe.
In fact, this was a matter strictly between the captain and coach till the day before the Bulawayo Test when Ganguly chose to involve Rahul Dravid, the vice-captain, and Amitabh Chowdhary, the administrative manager. Cricinfo has spoken to a few sources close to the Indian team to piece together the full story.
Chappell's suggestion was neither abrupt nor out of the blue, but a result of several discussions over the composition of the team and planning for the future. Chappell was a strong proponent of picking the best possible XI, and during one of the frank discussions between coach and captain, he suggested that India would be better served if Ganguly focused on getting his batting organised by stepping down from the captaincy.
Perhaps taken by surprise, Ganguly asked Chappell if he was serious. Chappell said that if Ganguly was interested in an honest opinion, then he had it. The ideal Indian Test middle-order, according to Chappell, was Dravid, Laxman, Yuvraj and Kaif. This discussion took place in Mutare, where India were playing a warm-up game.
The matter of team selection came up again before the first Test. Mohammed Kaif, who had looked India's best batsman in the triangular one-day series that preceded the Test, was included in the XII and when it came to choosing between him and Yuvraj Singh, another batsman who had done well in the one-dayers, Ganguly asked Chappell for his preference. Chappell reiterated that he should pick the best XI and when Ganguly pushed him for a frank opinion, Chappell said that left to him, he would have them both in the team ahead of Ganguly.
Ganguly once again asked if Chappell was serious and Chappell replied that he should consider the long-term future of Indian cricket and think about his legacy rather than his immediate future. He added that it was a decision that he should take himself, and if and when he chose to step down, he should do so with good grace.
Ganguly then stormed off to the dressing-room, summoned Dravid and Chowdhary and informed them that he was packing his bags and leaving because Chappell didn't want him in the team. Chowdhary then asked Chappell to join in and it was decided that the captain leaving in the middle of a tour would be disastrous. Ganguly stayed on, but the matter didn't stay inside the dressing-room.
"By choosing to go public, Sourav has drawn the battle lines," said a source close to team. "It's now difficult to see how they can both work together. The Indian board will now have to choose between one of them."
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