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Saturday, February 5, 2011

I can see Sachin playing till forty if he can refresh the mind again and again.-Greg Chappel.

Greg Chappell, India's cricket coach for three seasons, talks about his relationship with Sachin Tendulkar in Kolkata-based journalist Gautam Bhattacharya's book sach to be released soon

Greg Chappell says:

At the outset let me clarify I never ever doubted Sachin Tendulkar's commitment to the side. The only time I talked about him was in relation to the team's World Cup venture. If you talk about a breakdown in relations, that possibly happened only around this time.

Basically we differed on his batting order in the West Indies. We had toured West Indies the previous year and noticed that on the slow tracks there, you desperately needed a power hitter in the middle overs. Someone who would control the most vital part of the game from 20 to 40 overs and also hit the ball through the field. It wasn't just me alone. Rahul Dravid was also involved in the thinking which felt the matches were going to get decided in those middle overs and you needed the brilliance of either a Sachin or Sehwag to play in that position.

Sehwag didn't seem very keen. So we sat down with Sachin who in any case was the first priority. We put it down to him and he seemed reluctant. He thought top-of-the-order was the best place for him as it has always been.

But we were still in the discussion as Rahul and myself were convinced no other batsman in the team would be able to do it. Sachin finally agreed. Next day he got back to Rahul. Though he made it known that he was not happy doing it. He felt that his reputation demanded two places higher in the order. You must understand the scenario in that prevailing context.

Before I took over as the Coach, India had lost about 22 One Day games including few important finals. Especially the team was getting panicky while chasing. Through careful consideration of the failure pattern we suggested certain changes. We did reverse the trend as records would show and subsequently won 17 consecutive ODI matches while chasing. It was some kind of a record.

Strategy with Sachin was only an extension of the radical strategic moves we were making. Had the World Cup been held anywhere else ” Australia , England , India , Pakistan there would have been no discussion. Sachin would open. Always. But here in West Indies we badly needed a power-hitter and looked up to him for filling that vacancy. I even assured him, once the World Cup gets over you would revert back to your original position.

But to be honest, that experience has taught me a lesson. Today confronted with a similar situation I would still put the idea across to him and explain. But if he shows any kind of discomfort I won't push. I would let him decide.

With Sachin, I later on had a face-to-face chat. There was an issue about a write-up which had come out in the Times of India. We spoke the next day and I would like to believe parted on good terms. As I said earlier the only disagreement we had was over his place in the batting order which now is a thing of the past.

If you talk about a historical perspective, I won't jump out of the window and say, hey Sachin is the best after Sir Don. Graeme Pollock averaging sixty in Test cricket played lot less. But played under much more trying conditions as a batsman in England and South Africa.

But skill-wise of course Sachin is brilliant. In my all-time-best World Eleven, he will surely be there but I may not put him at No 4. And I must admit here that he has handled greater expectations than Bradman over a longer period of time. During my years as the Indian Coach how people vied for a minute's attention from him irrespective of wherever he went!

Emotionally and physically it must be very draining to cope up with that sort of attention day in and day out. But he has handled it remarkably well. He must be the most single-handed devotee cricket has ever seen. Cricket has taken up so much of his life that at times you would wonder what is he going to do once he gives up the game!

I believe, as long as he can keep himself mentally fresh, he can play international cricket. I can see him playing till forty if he can refresh the mind again and again. Because his technical skills are fine and the relevant demands he will be able to meet. He has to only cope with the mental part. I remember having a discussion with him in Chennai.

This was a phase when he had just come back from an injury and begun doubting himself. Around that time we had a long chat on batting. He rang up later to say this was the best cricketing conversation on batting he ever had.

I had told him, as you grow older you experience more. But because of the experience you also get more cautious. More apprehensive. I told him that he has to recreate in his mind the imagery of a young batsman all over again. The same freshness.

I am sure even to this date he remembers the discussion. As last year or may be the year before, I read an interview of his on the net where he talked about the mental part associated in batting. And he repeated exactly the same things that were discussed that night.

I have also read interviews of his where Sachin has talked about a happy environment in the dressing room. I am willing to believe that just up to the lead-up to the World Cup, we had a fairly happy environment. I thought it was quite happy. Now Dhoni as a captain has contributed towards that enormously.

He has the special ability and is quite an unflappable guy. Dhoni during my time was acceptable in all quarters. He could mix with both juniors and the seniors. Dhoni keeps a very calm demeanor around the group and that has an effect on the dressing room.

No connection
Contrary to what people may think my decision to relinquish the post of the Indian Coach was made up much before the World Cup. I had presented the BCCI my roadmap for the project Commitment to Excellence and they approved it.

Yet, there was a clear philosophical clash as to which direction the Group needed to go. I for one wasn't prepared to compromise. If I had conceded then there would be no fight. But I wanted to remain true to my beliefs and cricketing thoughts bottomline - it wasn't going anywhere and whatever I had set out to do remained unattainable. That is why I decided to quit which was much before the World Cup.

So to set the record straight once again ” Sachin's statement in the press against me had nothing to do with my discontinuing as the coach. As I said earlier we had parted on good terms.

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