From extraordinary player to special coach

What is noteworthy in Greg Chappell's pursuits is his commitment. Nothing is dearer to his heart than the well being of cricket. For a person of such tremendous achievements, he comes across as someone totally unassuming.

K. SRIKKANTH

I WAS simply delighted that Greg Chappell was in Chennai recently passing on his vast cricketing knowledge at the MRF Coaches seminar. I have always admired the Australians for their combination of skill and temperament, even though I was a great fan of West Indian cricket as I grew up.

Greg Chappell, one of the masters of the game, is devoting himself to coaching. -- Pic. V. GANESAN-

The Australians are hard to crack, and, over the years, if there is one team that has wriggled out of tight corners more than the others, it has to be Australia. The Aussies have been the most fierce competitors.

Externally Greg Chappell was cool, but he fought as hard as anyone else on the cricket field. Those were the days, when we did not get to see much of international cricket on television, but even in the few rare clippings and highlights that we came across, it was easy to make out that here was the most graceful batsman in World cricket.

I remember that he invariably let the bat do the talking. Once he was terribly out of form and when the media questioned him, he did not speak much. He only said — "I will let my bat do the talking." Sure enough, Greg Chappell came up with a double hundred in the next Test. This is the hallmark of great players. They can lift their performance so effortlessly. Greg Chappell's on-drive will remain the stroke he will be remembered for most. This shot may appear easy, but is the most difficult one to pull out.

A batsman has to be perfectly balanced and the bat swing has to be just right, otherwise, he could so easily get bowled or spoon or top-edge a catch. This shot is more about sheer timing than power. Another batsman who could produce the shot with aplomb was Sunil Gavaskar. In fact, I had the privilege of watching from the other end as Gavaskar sent the ball anywhere between mid-on and mid-wicket.

The great players always do the most difficult things well. Greg Chappell and Gavaskar could also bat for long periods, presenting a confident blade even while countering some of the fiercest bursts by the pacemen or the most teasing spells from the spinners.

Greg Chappell is easily one of the masters of the game, and it is heartening to note that he has devoted himself to coaching. I have read reports about the kind of difference he has made to the South Australia team as coach.

I have also heard that he is such a great motivator. Greg Chappell believes in clean, straight and positive cricket, and though some of his views may not be found in the MCC coaching manual, there is a lot of value in the Australian's ideas. What is noteworthy in Greg Chappell's pursuits is his commitment to cricket. Nothing, it appears, is dearer to his heart than the well being of the game. For a person of such tremendous achievements, he comes across as someone totally unassuming. Greg's elder brother Ian is a totally different personality. If Greg conveyed his point in a quiet but firm manner, Ian was outspoken. If Greg was a touch aristocratic, Ian might have been considered by many as brash.

As captain Ian is rated higher, for the sheer confidence he used to instil in his mates, and his aggressive ways. Greg, arguably, was the more conservative leader, not quite catching the bull by its horns as Ian would.

As batsmen too they were different. Greg was an exquisite driver of the ball, while Ian played more of the horizontal bat strokes, a cutter and a puller. There is an interesting story about how they once shared a 300-run partnership and did not quite have a conversation in the middle. Sheer professionalism ruled the roost.

Later on in Australian, in fact world, cricket, the Waugh brothers, Steve and Mark, entered the scene. By this time, the cricketing world had changed and we witnessed more number of matches, Tests and ODIs, reflected in the twins' Test and ODI records. For their sheer contribution to Australian cricket, Ian and Greg have their place in cricket history, and are second to none. I am sure the Waugh brothers would be the first to acknowledge this.

Greg Chappell's record in one-day cricket may not be as awesome as some of the modern greats, but had he played in this era, his aggregate would have been among the highest. He was a fluent batsman with strokes all around the wicket, and he could find the gaps so easily.

I do not like the idea of comparing great cricketers, but when we look at the career statistics of a cricketer, who played before the 80s, we have to consider the fact that in those times, the volume of cricket played during the year was much less, and if a cricketer finished with 5000 odd Test runs in that era, it would be worth more than 7000 now.

Greg Chappell finished his career in the 1983-84 season, and by the time he hung up his boots, he had more than 7000 Test runs to his credit at an average well over fifty.

The Australian had a lot more cricket left in him when he bid adieu to the game, but he chose to retire when people still asked `Why?'. In his last Test, he produced a match-winning century against Pakistan.

Here again, there are similarities with Gavaskar. Gavaskar's final innings for India was a masterpiece — a 97 on a square turner in Bangalore. The great Indian could have carried on for much longer, but chose to leave the international stage on a high note.

We should remember here that apart from his exploits in Tests, Greg Chappell excelled in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, and I have heard that some of his finest innings had surfaced there. That was also a period when Chappell was at the peak of his powers, and it is sad that due to the divisions in world cricket, we could not see him in official international matches. Greg Chappell will always be remembered as an extraordinary cricketer. Now he is a rather special coach as well.