Dravid not my puppet, he runs the show: Greg

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Rubbishing allegations that he pulls the strings from behind and skipper Rahul Dravid is a mere puppet, an irked Greg Chappell said a captain should always have the final say and the case is no different with Team India.

''We can't expect people who are removed a step or more from the team to understand what we're trying to do. Rahul is an extremely talented and experienced cricketer who has one of the toughest jobs in cricket - captaining India.

''As for the comment that Rahul's a puppet and I'm running the show, only people who don't know either of us will say that. It's an insult to Rahul Dravid to suggest he is anything other than his own man,'' Chappell told a cricket portal before leaving for South Africa.

Elaborating further, the Aussie said a captain should walk into the middle with a team of his choice and same has been the case with Dravid.

''Thankfully our philosophies are quite close and most of the time we agree on things. But when we disagree, when it comes to the point of deciding on a position in the team for example, it will always be his decision that is the final decision because he is the captain.

''If he walks out onto the field with a team he's not happy with it reduces our chances of succeeding. It's much better for me to be unhappy about the team than it is for him to be. I've said it many times before, and I'll continue to say it, the captain is the most important part of the cricket team,'' Chappell explained.

On Yuvraj Singh's injury which ruled the dashing bat out of the South Africa tour, the coach tried to see it through a positive outlook.

''Yuvraj's injury is a disaster for him in that it has come to him at the perfectly wrong time. But who is to say it doesn't become the best thing that has happened to him and make him re-evaluate his love of cricket, his desire to be a good player in both forms of the game and it motivates him like he's never been motivated before? ''It gives people a chance to take on more responsibility,' he added.

And India may have failed to reach the Champions Trophy semifinals but the coach believes it was not disastrous.

''Nothing's a disaster, everything's an opportunity. I keep reading about the Champions Trophy being a disaster. Disappointing, yes, but not a disaster,'' he said.

His experimentation may have come in for criticism but Chappell is hardly perturbed.

''There's not a sport in the world where you don't see a squad adjusting its line-up according to the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and/or the conditions,'' he said.

To buttress his point, Chappell referred to the Champions Trophy and said, ''Glenn McGrath didn't open the bowling in a number of games, Shane Watson opened the bowling, later Watson opened the batting and that was to ensure they had five bowlers without denting the batting. Mike Hussey batted anywhere from No. 4 to 7.

''I didn't see anyone talking about experimenting there - it was just a natural way of developing a team and using the assets in the best possible way. Irfan Pathan batting at No. 3 has been about using our assets best. We also want to have five bowlers,'' he asserted.

And despite Suresh Raina's repeated failures, Chappell believes the UP lad is key to India's World Cup preparations.

''All players suffer from the pressure of having to perform and hold their place in the team. If that's all you think about you're probably not going to allow yourself to play the best cricket you can.

''Much of the criticism of Suresh has been overstated. From my point of view I'm happy with his development as a player. If you only give guys a game or two and then throw them out, you're going to damage their mental development rather than help it,'' he said.

''I have the utmost faith in the group we have. Suresh is one of the key components of getting to the Caribbean in a position to reach the semifinals,'' he added.

Chappell has his eyes on one of the four semifinal berths in the World Cup and the Australian batting great said, ''It will be a lot easier to achieve what we want to in a supporting environment. We need the support of a billion people and we need the support of key people to keep the bulk of this group together. It's been identified as the best group - 20-22 players - that we have and the 15 will come from this.

''The realistic view is for us to get to the World Cup with a team that will qualify for the semifinals. If you qualify for the semifinals, anything can happen. As a coach I have to have a realistic view and cannot fool myself or the players into believing they're better than they are or that they're worse than they are,'' he remarked.

Chappell believes the South Africa tour would help the side ''find the pieces that are still missing in the jigsaw puzzle'' but he refuses to oblige the detractors.

''We can't afford to be diverted, listening to the populist views on these things. We know what we need to get in place by March 2007, and the challenge for us is to do that by then.

''The danger for us is that we get diverted by trying to keep everyone happy. It's not a popularity poll. It's about doing the things you believe in. Once you know where you want to go, you need to hold your nerve, and this is one of those times,'' Chappell added.


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