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From the huddle to the muddle.
by Venu Palaparthi
Sep 27, 2005
When they see a fork on the road, the wise men at BCCI just take the fork. Trust BCCI to hide behind procedures and digress from the main issues instead of taking crucial decisions. So why are we not surprised that they have asked Ganguly and Chappell to pretend nothing happened and learn to work with each other.

Knowing Ganguly’s record of seeking an eye for an eye (refer to his shirt-removing episode which many view as a just response to a similar act by an English player), one would be stupid to believe that Ganguly will bury the hatchet and schmooze with the coach now that BCCI has pronounced them a cohesive unit with the same goal.

But we were not expecting anything radical here.

What we were expecting however, was concrete action on some really important lapses.

Let us get the disclosures out of the way - I am a die-hard cricket fan and an India supporter. I am not a cricket-crazed-effigy-burning supporter of Ganguly nor am I an anti-Dalmiya-therefore-Chappell-supporter-for-the-moment opportunist. I am the average cricket fan of India and in that sense I am an independent and neutral observer with no real bias.

At the minimum, that qualifies me to separate the wheat from the chaff. So what are the important issues or lapses, you ask? OK. First the non-issues.

Non-issue 1: It is about personality conflicts. NOT!

Chappell and Ganguly were both hired to do their very important jobs. And each job comes with its own terms of engagement. Their personalities are well known – both have big egos and both have a tremendous track record. The personality issues and resulting conflicts, naturally, must be dealt with in order to work effectively. And that is something you would expect from two grown up pros with or without the help of BCCI (and definitely without the need for interference by trespassers like Harbhajan.)

Non-issue 2: Chappell has a hidden agenda. NOPE!

Chappell is an unemotional task master. If you know his style, he is metrics and milestone driven. He is paid (very handsomely) to do his job of getting Team India back to the top of the cricketing world. He neither has a vested interest nor does he have any political patronage (Ganguly's own patronage is the subject for another discussion).

Not knowing what the terms of engagement were, I fully expect that Chappell will be fired if he does not deliver according to the terms set out in his contract. And I also fully expect that he is fully empowered to do his job without too many strings attached like “don’t ever be critical of Ganguly.” He obviously cannot deliver if his hands are tied. Quite simply, Chappell is a professional coach. No agendas, no ulterior motives.

Non-issue 3: Chappell's style is abrasive. NO SURPRISES!

As for Chappell's methods of motivating – clearly, that is a stylistic issue. If the board did not like his style, they would not have hired him. If you hire Chappell or Viv Richards as your coach, you know what you are getting! If the board wanted a soft-spoken, non-controversial, and spineless coach, they would not have hired him. There are enough home-grown coaches to do that. It would also be best to dispel the notion that Chappell will miraculously transform into an easy-going cricket nawab who will bide his time without ruffling any feathers now that he has the coveted job. That is not his style.

Non-issue 4: Ganguly's past record is awesome. IRRELEVANT!

Now to Ganguly. The fact is that he has a great winning record. I am not disputing that. But the present duel is not about past performance.

This is not even about his very assertive captaincy. We all like that! And I am sure Chappell appreciates that too. If Chappell took his job as coach without fully considering Ganguly’s personality (or any key Indian player’s personality for that matter), then he took the wrong job.

Non-issue 5: Ganguly has overstayed his welcome. LET US LEAVE THAT TO THE SELECTORS AND THE COACH!

The issue that Chappell has correctly focused on (as did most of the nation) is Ganguly’s ability to lead the team going forward. If there is a better captain than Ganguly, then the selectors must hear out the coach and they should give that person a fair chance. Nothing wrong with that! Captaincy is no monopoly!

Few would dispute the fact that Ganguly has earned India’s confidence. Regardless of his current form, Ganguly’s good deeds of the past entitle him some extra goodwill. Of course, unless he replenishes his good karma quickly, both his claims to captaincy and his winning record are going to be at risk.

But there is a separate process to determine when his time is up and the coach and the captain are entitled to discuss that in private. By itself, this is not the main problem that BCCI has to worry about.

Now to the issues:

In my view, the main issues that need to be addressed are both related to the leaks. It is the public nature of the spat that is bad for cricket.

As I have said before, both Chappell and Ganguly are entitled to share their feedback among themselves. That is the way of professionals.

Issue #1

The BCCI should correctly ask the captain why he broke the most simple rule of engagement and chose to go beyond the confines of decency. By going to press with what essentially is a sensitive HR issue, he has set a dangerous precedent.

The issue is not what Ganguly thought of Chappell or Chappell thought of Ganguly. Whatever else he did or did not do, Ganguly broke some rules here. Ganguly disregarded the unwritten law. He washed his dirty laundry in public. It was not an innocent mistake – he timed it.

To his credit, instead of making a stink about this in public, Chappell joined Ganguly and issued a joint-statement that this was an internal issue. He even made up a nonsensical reason to make it palatable. He privately attempted to explain his position to three high-level BCCI officers via a privileged and confidential e-mail instead of making this any murkier.

Within that e-mail was his honest assessment of Mr. Ganguly. That is not ‘double-standards’ as Ganguly and his friend Harbhajan seem to think. Chappell had to explain his assessment to the board – preferably ahead of the review meeting. He was not doing it behind Ganguly’s back. He had already told Ganguly what he thought of him.

The logical next step for BCCI would have been to investigate his claims and discuss the contents with him at the review meeting. The last straw however is that Chappell’s letter too got leaked.

Issue #2.

Chappell is a straight-shooter. He is not a conniving political animal. He sent the e-mail to President Ranbir Singh Mahendra, Secretary SK Nair and Joint Secretary Gautam Dasgupta. But one of these gents forwarded the e-mail straight to the press. This is a most serious problem. If you work in an organization, you will know that your performance assessment is between you and your boss or his boss. It is not for public consumption. You will also know that if you are found to be the source of a leak of confidential information, you could get fired.

Ganguly broke a simple rule of decency. But someone among this close circle of four (Mahendra, Nair, Dasgupta and perhaps Chappell) took it even further. They broke the most fundamental of confidentiality rules.

If BCCI does not find out who did this and penalize the person, there is a real danger to the health of the Indian Cricket team.

These are the actions we expected BCCI to take on Monday. And they failed us yet again.

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