Some heads likely to roll as cricket chiefs meet

Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Coach Greg Chappell appears the most likely casualty when India's cricket chiefs meet later this week to pin the blame for the World Cup debacle.

Some former captains, including Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, will join the two-day session in Mumbai on Friday and Saturday to find out why India were ousted in the first round in the Caribbean.

The logical answer would be that Rahul Dravid's men were just not good enough. What else can one say of a team that failed to bat out 50 overs in 13 of its last 17 one-dayers on foreign soil.

Heads will roll. It is usually the preferred option of Indian cricket administrators during a crisis, so long as those heads do not belong to one of their own.

Indian cricket chief Sharad Pawar, a political heavyweight and a federal minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, has promised to give Chappell a fair hearing this week.

Chappell, who will present his own report at the Mumbai meeting, may himself not seek renewel of his 300,000-dollar a year contract that ended with the World Cup exit, a source close to the coach told AFP.

The outspoken former Australian captain and batting great generated more heat, controversy and headlines in two years as coach than his genial predecessor John Wright did in five years on the job.

Chappell became the media's whipping boy early in his tenure when criticism of Sourav Ganguly's laid-back attitude saw the country's most successful captain being thrown out of the team.

Chappell's displeasure at the exclusion of juniors like Suresh Raina for the World Cup, as revealed in a text message to a journalist, raised the heckles of both the selectors and senior players.

"If Greg had his way, even Sachin Tendulkar would have been dropped," the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper quoted an unnamed selector as saying.

In hindsight, Chappell may have been right since neither Tendulkar, one-day cricket's most successful batsman, nor the other experienced players managed to take India past the first round.

Influential cricket officials believe the team has not moved forward in the two years that Chappell has been coach. Many say the 2003 World Cup finalists have fallen behind other teams.

Will Dravid remain captain? Will Tendulkar and other seniors like Ganguly and Virender Sehwag retain their places even as calls from the media and public for their ouster get louder?

Quick decisions are needed since India are due to visit Bangladesh in May for two Tests and three one-dayers, a tour that has assumed greater significance since Bangladesh's stunning win over the Indians at the World Cup.

A recent CNN-IBN television poll of 60 former and current first-class cricketers showed that a majority wanted Chappell and Dravid to continue, but hoped Tendulkar will quit one-day cricket to concentrate on Tests.

Chappell secured 48 percent of the votes, followed by former India star Mohinder Amarnath with 30 percent. Renowned Australian coaches John Buchanan and Dav Whatmore managed just two percent votes each.

Dravid was favoured as captain by 86 percent of the cricketers, but 56 percent of those polled wanted Tendulkar to play only Test cricket, while 33 percent felt he should quit the game altogether.

Meanwhile, officials will continue to milk the cash cow, irrespective of the team's performance.

India are scheduled to play 15 Tests and a minimum of 40 one-dayers at home and abroad over the next 12 months, besides the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in September.

Win or lose, the bean counters will still have the final say in Indian cricket because the World Cup debacle will soon be a forgotten chapter.


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