Greg Chappell was “rigid and inflexible” in his approach as a coach and did not know how to run an international team, former India batsman V V S Laxman has claimed in his book. Laxman, in his recently launched autobiography ‘281 And Beyond’, reveals that under the former Australian coach team India was divided into two or three factions and there was a serious trust deficit.
“The coach had his favourites, who were well looked after, while the others were left to fend for themselves. The team had disintegrated before our eyes,” he writes. “Greg’s entire stint had been cause for bitterness. He was rigid and inflexible in his approach, and didn’t know how to run an international team. He often seemed to forget that it was the players who played the game and were stars, not the coach,” Laxman notes in the book which he has co-authored with cricket writer R Kaushik.
Chappell’s controversial stint with the Indian team ran from May 2005 to April 2007. The book is a candid account of Laxman’s cricketing journey right from his early childhood days to playing international Cricket, to the IPL and to being a commentator.
The 44-year-old veteran cricketer touches upon a plethora of topics such as dressing-room meltdowns and champagne evenings, the exhilaration of playing with and against the best in the world, the nuances of batting in different formats and on various surfaces, the learnings with coach John Wright and the rocky times under his successor Chappell.
“Greg Chappell arrived in India to a groundswell of goodwill and support. He left the team in tatters, having played an influential part in the worst phase of my playing career. Results on the field might suggest that his methods worked to some extent, but those results had nothing to do with our coach,” Laxman asserts.
“He was brusque and abrasive, highly opinionated and rigid in his thinking. His man-management skills were non-existent. He quickly sowed further seeds of discontent in an already diffident team…I will always respect Greg Chappell the batsman. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Greg Chappell the coach,” he recalls.
Laxman opens up about his childhood cricketing days and talks about his difficult choice of being a cricketer over a doctor. He also writes about his friendships and camaraderie with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, besides shedding light on his special connection with Eden Gardens where he played the unforgettable knock of 281 against Australia in 2001.
“To call Eden Gardens my theatre of dreams is an understatement. It provided the canvas for the picture I wanted to paint, for the dreams I wanted to realise. Dreams that had taken shape a long, long ago, when the cricket bug bit me,” he notes.
The stylish batsman also opens up about his sudden retirement in 2012 which had raised quite a few eyebrows. Laxman reaffirms he was convinced that he had made the right call as he listened to his “inner voice” and did not let “extraneous forces” influence the tough decision.
Laxman retired in a huff on August 18, 2012, less than a week ahead of a Test match he was supposed to play against New Zealand in front of his home crowd in Hyderabad.
The surprise announcement set off a wave of speculation that the stylish shot maker had called it quits because of his “differences” with former India skipper M S Dhoni.
Laxman, however, debunks what he calls “the first and only controversy of my cricketing career”. “I didn’t retire because of extraneous forces and I wasn’t pushed into retirement,” he writes.
“I had listened to my inner voice and it had not let me down. All my life, my actions had been dictated by this voice, but in conjunction with suggestions from those closest to me. This time, with greater maturity, I had gone entirely by it, disregarding advice from even my father,” he notes.
Laxman reveals that he spoke with several Indian cricketers, including his team mates Zaheer Khan and Sachin, before he informed the media about his retirement. “Sachin was at the NCA, and tried to convince me to defer the press conference. I had seldom disregarded Sachin’s advice, but I respectfully told him that this time, I could not honour his sentiments. I told him repeatedly during our one-hour conversation that my mind was made up,” says Laxman.
“It was not the fairy-tale ending that cricketers dream of, but to me it was a fairy-tale ending nonetheless, because I had stepped down on my own terms,” he writes. “The decision was more for myself than to please others… I had been strong enough to make the right decision,” he adds.