Indian cricket is in crisis. First, the humiliating exit from the World Cup; then, after the team returned to India, not only did the blame-game start, but it also poured out into the open.
Coach Greg Chappell has reportedly criticised the attitude of senior players in the team, including Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh. The players in turn believe that it is the Australian who is responsible for creating a sense of insecurity within the team by his preference for youngsters.
There are also reports that the group of seniors is rallying together against Chappell and Rahul Dravid and want Tendulkar to take up their case with Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sharad Pawar.
The BCCI working committee meeting in Mumbai on April 7 will decide the fate of both Chappell and Dravid. While it is largely believed that Chappell will not be retained as coach, Dravid could get another chance to continue at the helm.
Former wicketkeeper and chief selector Kiran More, in an exclusive chat with Special Correspondent Harish Kotian, discusses the issue.
Sir, what is your reaction on this sad state of affairs?
It's a very sad thing. Everybody is blaming each other. At the end of the day, I would like to ask a question to those players 'Where is the performance?'
You are taking about the allegations I think that's fine, but winning matches is very important. At the end of the day if Greg Chappell is not happy or the players are not happy, it's only a question of bat and ball so you have to perform and win matches. If you are losing to Bangladesh then I think the question mark comes regarding the performance.
I would like to ask a question and I will not take anybody's side here as the Indian team has to win and everybody has to perform. It's not a question of Greg Chappell doing something or Rahul Dravid doing something.
So in other words you are saying that coach Chappell's criticism of the senior players is fair?
It's not a question of criticism. I would look at the overall performance of the team, which is very important.
The coach always gives his report and it does not mean it is criticism. If he does not give his report, it is a problem too as then you don't know what is happening in the team.
He will be giving his report, even [manager] Sanjay Jagdale will be giving his report and it all depends on BCCI as to how they tackle it.
It's not a question of having sympathy for somebody. What we need for Indian cricket that is more important than taking somebody's side.
There have also been reports that seniors ganged up against the young players. Do you believe that such a thing could have happened?
Right now sitting here, it is very difficult to speculate. But it doesn't look like a good unit what we have seen on the ground or on television whenever we saw the dressing room shots. It doesn't look good overall so there is something going on. It doesn't happen overnight.
It has been there for a long time that is what I feel. We need to find the causes and take decision on that issue.
When you were the chief selector did you ever heard or witnessed things like groupism or seniors ganging up against junior players?
We had a vision for the 2007 World Cup and beyond it. That is how we decided to call it a shot regarding some of the top [senior] players and bring in some youngsters into the team looking at the future of the team.
And the performance [of this team] tells you everything today. When I left the job five months before the World Cup, things changed and vision changed.
I felt that if somebody is trying to create a team within five minutes then it is not possible and I am not blaming this person for it. That is why I feel it is important the process must go on and you must not think of the short term, but look at the long term.
It doesn't matter how someone has performed but the future of Indian cricket is very vital. So everybody has to make a decision in this regard.
What I felt was that this World Cup team should have had more youngsters so we could have gone beyond the World Cup also. We are looking at the short term and this is not going to achieve anything. We have to start the process somewhere and BCCI will have to play an important in it.
It is believed that groupism in the Indian team started under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy. Why didn't the selector committee under your chairmanship and the Board take a step to counter it?
I think we didn't say anything, but we started our process. We knew what was happening and what we needed to do and that's what we did. We got a backlash for it. Lot of people said lot of things about the selection committee when we dropped some of the players. That is the biggest problem in our country is that whenever you drop some superstar from the team everybody gives him sympathy, even the former cricketers.
Now today you can see the result. But nobody will come and openly criticise those players and that is the sad part. I want to tell these people to think about Indian cricket and not take anybody's side.
So whenever a player is dropped it is the selection committee's decision, so you must leave it to them since they may have some thought process in doing so.
Lot of people go to the media and create so much hype over their comeback into the team. That is how pressure comes on the selectors too. That is what has happened in the 2007 World Cup. Lot of hype was created about some of the players and that is how they got back into the team.
What can be the solution for this problem now? Should we continue with the seniors who have misbehaved or should they be punished?
It's not the question of punishment or anything else. It's the question of what the BCCI wants to do and what their future plans are. It is not about dropping someone or taking action against someone because it will not add strength to the side.
We are looking at the future of Indian cricket; it's not about taking action against some cricketers or blaming Rahul Dravid or Chappell.
I feel the state level cricket is not handled properly, so that's where the question mark is on Indian cricket. So the process has to start from the state level that is what I think.
What about Chappell. Do you think his contract should be renewed?
People are talking that Chappell has not delivered and I think its fine because the team success is not there.
But is it Greg Chappell or is it the team performance [to be blamed for this]? And I think it is the team's performance. A lot of people are blaming Rahul Dravid and calling for his head. I think this is a very sad thing. People who have not performed those guys should be questioned it's simple.
You have lost against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the World Cup. These two are sub-continental teams and that is where we have dominated cricket. I think there is a big issue about the performance and you can't blame anybody for it.
So your opinion is that Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell's contract must be renewed? The process that they started must be allowed to continue. Is that what you are suggesting?
There is nothing wrong if you have Dravid or Chappell or anyone new comes in. The BCCI should take a call that whoever next coach is must be allowed to his work the way he wants. He just can't build a team overnight that is where I feel that the BCCI should make a call. There should not be any sympathy regarding any individual, whoever that person is because Indian cricket is all that matters.
Former BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur has said that no Indian is fit to coach the national team. He said either Chappell should continue or John Wright should be brought back. What are your views on the same?
I think he is absolutely right. If you look at the process of coaching in India, there are only a few coaches in India who are doing a fantastic job like Paras Mhambrey, Chandrakant Pandit, Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh.
They are doing a good job at the state level. The names which are cropping up to take over as the next coach of India, it is very shocking.
They should prove their credentials. They should handle one of the state teams and prove they are the right person for the Indian team. John Wright and Greg Chappell have done it in the past. Most of the other national coaches like Tom Moody (Sri Lanka) and Dav Whatmore (Bangladesh) have proved their credentials before they were called for this job.
Tell me how many former cricketers in India are coaching a state team. Everybody is shouting on television, but how many have coached a team at state level.