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VVS Laxman: I believe Sachin Tendulkar, Chappell era was the worst period

  • Tendulkar writes about the incident in his autobiography, saying that Laxman had indeed politely declined the offer of opening the batting as he was happy batting in the middle order, but the former Australian captain instead told the right-hander to be careful and think about the offer, keeping in mind his future.
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Modified 07 Nov 2014, 20:09 IST
Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman

Sachin Tendulkar’s statements about Greg Chappell have received several voices of approval from many of his former teammates. VVS Laxman was the latest to join in on Tuesday, stating that the former India coach tried to take the team backwards and also threatened him that he would end his career during the Wankhede Test of 2006.

“We were to tour the West Indies not long after the England series, and Chappell came and asked me during that Mumbai Test, for which I was dropped, if I was willing to open the batting in the Caribbean. Of course, as the coach, he had the right to ask me that question, I have no issues with that. I politely told him that I didn’t want to open the batting in Test cricket, and that I had made it clear to the Board of Control for Cricket in India as early as in 2000 that I didn’t want to be considered as an opener any more,” Laxman said.

The 40-year-old adds that what happened next completely shook him and left him stunned for a few minutes.

“Chappell told me, ‘You are only 31, how would you like to spend the rest of your life sitting at home’? I was stunned and speechless. It left me feeling numb.

“I was among those who had been thrilled when Chappell was appointed the Indian coach in 2005. I had been a huge fan of Chappell growing up, and I was looking forward to interacting with him and furthering my education as a batsman and as a cricketer. Instead, after this incident, I was forced to take a really different view of Chappell. His statement was insensitive. I had already played for India for a decade by then; forget about me, he shouldn’t have spoken like that to any player,” the Hyderabadi said.

Tendulkar writes about the incident in his autobiography, saying that Laxman had indeed politely declined the offer of opening the batting as he was happy batting in the middle-order, but the former Australian captain instead told the right-hander to be careful and think about the offer, keeping in mind his future.

2006 was the worst period in the dressing room

A soft-spoken man at most times, Laxman didn't spare any words when he spoke about how 2006 was the worst time to be a member in the Indian Cricket team dressing room.

“2006 was the worst dressing room I’ve been part of. There was needless division of seniors and juniors. I always felt the Indian team is a family; when you step out to play, it’s not as individuals but as a collective unit. It always felt like a family when John (Wright) and Gary (Kirsten) were around. But when Chappell was the coach, it was a turbulent phase when there was a lot of tension in the dressing room,” he said.

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Recalling an incident in a side game at Potchefstroom, he said that the entire team minus the coaching staff had held an open team meeting where they spoke about how the fans back home deserved a team that was playing well and winning.

“The worst was in South Africa, when I was the vice-captain for the Test series. We had a practice game against South Africa ‘A’ in Potchefstroom before the first Test, and we had a team meeting, only players, no support staff.

“It was an open meeting where the entire team discussed only this one issue – we represent India and our country expects a lot from us. Greg Chappell is only the coach and it is our responsibility to perform as a team. Not surprisingly, we had some good results. We beat South Africa ‘A’ and then South Africa in the first Test in Johannesburg,” Laxman added.

Chappell tried to create differences between seniors and juniors

Further commenting on how the Indian team had settled into a happy family by the time Chappell’s predecessor John Wright had left the job in 2005, the former right-hander added that the Australian tried to create differences between the senior and junior players and unfortunately, had succeeded in his attempts to do so.

“The dressing room had a settled and extremely comfortable atmosphere by the time Chappell took over from John. We were one happy family, but gradually during Chappell’s tenure as coach, the dressing room became filled with mistrust and apprehension.

“There was a clear attempt at driving a wedge between the seniors and juniors, and unfortunately, that attempt was largely successful. I say this because as seniors, we felt that we were under intense scrutiny and pressure. I was 31 at that time, and I felt as if every innings could be my last innings for India. That was largely because of the clear impression Chappell had conveyed that he had no time for the seniors in the squad,” he added.

Laxman trusts Sachin completely

Laxman also felt that Tendulkar was a man of great integrity and he trusts him completely, when asked about the captaincy issue that happened before the 2007 World Cup.

“I am very close to Sachin and we have been friends for a long time. I know him as a person with the greatest integrity and honesty, and if he says something like this happened, then of course something like this happened,” he said.

He also complemented the Little Master for not revealing the issue openly to his teammates in the dressing room.

“During our discussions over several years, Sachin had expressed the desire to speak about things after retirement, in his book, that he could not talk about when he was an active player because that would have detracted from his cricket. But until the excerpts were published yesterday, I had no idea about Chappell’s offer to Sachin. It just goes to show Sachin’s character. I am sure Sachin would have felt it would have served no purpose talking about it to any of his teammates; instead, it could have soured relationships and take away team spirit. That is typical Sachin; my admiration and respect for him have gone up several notches,” he said.

Buy Sachin’s autobiography here – 33% off!

Published 05 Nov 2014, 11:42 IST
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