Team manager, Harbhajan back Sourav others mum

Published: Monday, September 26, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:As the controversy over coach Greg Chappell's e-mail attacking Sourav Ganguly snowballed, manager of Indian cricket team to Zimbabwe Amitabh Chowdhury and offspinner Harbhajan Singh today backed the embattled skipper after which the Board asked the players and the team's support staff who were on that tour to keep mum on the issue.

Amitabh Chowdhary said Ganguly did not skip practice sessions as alleged by coach Chappell."No (he did not miss training sessions). Whenever I saw, the team was always together and all players participated in training and practice (sessions)," he told 'Aaj Tak'. Chappell had accused Ganguly of skipping training sessions in a report he e-mailed to the Cricket Board, the contents of which were leaked to the media.

Asked about the charge by Chappell that Ganguly faked injuries and tried to avoid going in for fitness tests, he said there was no MRI scan facility in either Mutare or Bulawayo, the venue for the two Tests.

The manager's remarks assume significance as the BCCI's review committee would meet in Mumbai on Tuesday to analyse India's performance in recent tours of Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Harbhajan Singh credited Sourav for the success of the team and accused Chappell of creating "fear and insecurity" among the players. Harbhajan also charged Chappell withadopting "double standards".

Asked about Chappell's charge that Ganguly was not physically or mentally fit to be in the team, Harbhajan told PTI in Jalandhar that "it may be the coach's own observationbut as far as I am concerned, Ganguly has been proved as an excellent captain, which is evident from his match winning record."

Harbhajan also rubbished the allegation that Ganguly was interested only in captaincy and dividing team members."I have played for almost five years under the captaincyof Ganguly and never felt like that. In fact, he takes personal interest to boost each and every player during practice as well as during a match.

"Ganguly has rebuilt this team and whatever the team has achieved so far, credit goes to the captain."

Harbhajan said there was "fear and insecurity" among the players as they were apprehensive about airing their personal views or suggestions even in the dressing room. "(The coach's conduct) can create fear among players over asking any suggestion on his weakness from the coach, who may take it as a complaint against him to the Board."

He also pointed to Chappell's apparent patch-up with Ganguly on one hand and shooting off a letter to the Board complaining about the skipper on the other and said this smacked of "double standards".

"Not only me but no other player was aware of Chappell complaining against Sourav. We were all shocked to know about the issue after landing in India," Harbhajan said.

"I do not know what prompted Chappell to send an e-mail to the Board against the captain", he added.

"As far as I am concerned, as a senior member of the team, I will reveal the truth if the Board asks for the same.I have lot to reveal about the Zimbabwe tour but I will do soonly at the appropriate time and at an appropriate level", the offspinner said.

Harbhajan said he had come to know from his friends that Chappell had accused him of underperforming deliberately under Rahul Dravid's captaincy during the Sri Lanka tour.

Returning from the tour of Zimbabwe, Chappell expressed disappointment that a confidential e-mail he had sent from Zimbabwe to BCCI president Ranbir Singh Mahindra did not remain confidental.

"I sent a private and confidential e-mail to the president of BCCI. It did not remain confidential though I would have preferred it to have remained so. At this stage, Icannot say much on the matter. I think you (media) get a lot excited at such happenings. It is a fairly normal thing happening in cricket.

So things change and sometime in future we can talk about it," he said after arriving from Zimbabwe early today.

He said he would be attending the meeting of the review committee of the BCCI.

Chappell was effusive in his praise of the youngsters in the Indian team, particularly opener Gautam Gambhir, pace bowler Irfan Pathan and wicketkeepers M S Dhoni and Dinesh Karthick. He also praised the performance of two other youngsters Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh in the one-day format of the game.

A Mumbai report said BCCI S K Nair issued a media release asking all the players contracted to it as well as those who were on the recent tour to Zimbabwe, besides the Indian team's support staff, to keep mum on the issue and cautioned them any behaviour to the contrary would amount to breach of contract.

Nair said the Board has "appealed to all cricketers under its contract as well as those who were selected for the tour of Zimbabwe and the support staff of the team to exerciserestraint."

Nair said he has spoken to Harbhajan on the issue and he "has appreciated our point of view. Perhaps he's not read the provisions of the contract", Nair told PTI.

In a letter to all the players who toured Zimbabwe and those who are contracted as well as the coach and other support staf, Nair said "Your kind attention is invited to the relevant provision of the letter of selection that was issued to you prior to the tour to Zimbabwe in August 2005, or the contract entered between you and the board.

"You are aware that the board has constituted a committee to review the performance of the Indian team and the roll of all concerned. The committee is scheduled to meet on September 27, 2005 at Mumbai.

"In view of this, you are adviced to apply restraint and not make any comments to the media that affects the interest of Indian cricket."

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