The journey continues for him

Despite crushing disappointments in his career, Trevor has learnt to pick up the pieces and move on.

S. DINAKAR

Trevor Chappell makes a point during the interview.-Pic. V. GANESAN

SOMEWHERE between dream and reality are the sepia memories. They keep coming back, inspiring, haunting, daunting.

Drifting around in the mind, despite the passing of years, now seeming real, now appearing a dream. Images that keep flashing by.

A wry smile crosses Trevor Chappell's lips, when he recalls growing up with his brothers, both icons in Australian cricket — Ian and Greg Chappell.

Trevor enjoyed far lesser success at the international stage than his illustrious siblings, however, he was a respected cricketer at the first class level, and carries with him a treasure trove — the Chappell memories.

These days, Trevor, now 50, spends his time as a cricket coach at various levels, his specific area of interest being fielding. He was in Chennai for the MRF Coaches seminar when he shared his thoughts with The Sportstar.

Not surprisingly, Ian and Greg Chappell, were soon at the heart of the conversation. Trevor is able to find a common thread between the two — "Their determination and single-mindedness were very similar. Ian is more outgoing, more outspoken. Greg might think the same, but he won't say it in the same way. Ian doesn't beat around the bush. Comes straight to the point. Greg probably has similar ideas and thoughts but is more considerate on the other person's feelings."

He then travels back to the days, when the three brothers played cricket at the backyard of their Adelaide home, leaving quite a few neighbours unhappy! — "Competing there was great fun. We broke a lot of windows in the backyard. When we were younger, we used to break our own windows. When we got bigger, we used to break the neighbours'!"

Even as the brothers grew older, they continued their association with ` cricket in the backyard.' Over to Trevor — "Ian was selected on the Australian tour of England in '68. He wanted to have some practice. The season finished in Australia in February, and the team didn't go to England until later in April. There was a month or so where he needed to keep practicing. I had to bowl to him in the backyard. There were houses on one side, and Ian wanted to practice lofting the ball into the outfield! The off-side was not so much of a problem, because even if you struck the ball, it wasn't going to land in the houses or in the traffic. He was trying to hit there, but every now and then, he would get an inside edge. If it went straight down the ground, it would crash on the roof of a house, and it was worse on the leg-side. That caused a fair bit of damage to the roofs and the windows!"

Ian, always forthright, provided Trevor with a valuable piece of advice, when the younger brother was going through an early career crisis. "That was when I was first playing for South Australia in '72. I was a bit of a go between, trying to be a copy of Ian and Greg. Ian told me `you got to forget that. You got to be yourself. Not trying to be like someone else.' That helped me."

However, with the pressures of being a Chappell proving enormous, Trevor was forced to move out of Adelaide to distant Perth, in an effort to make a fresh beginning. "Adelaide is not really a big city. Everybody knows everybody. There were a lot of expectations from me there, and that was the main reason why I shifted to Perth, in West Australia, to get away from the expectations of the Chappell name. I played for three years there. Then I went to Sydney for the World Series Cricket, and I have been there ever since."

There were more moments of anguish than celebration during his days with Australia as a utility cricketer — he has just 79 runs in three Tests at 15.80 and 229 runs (ave.17.61) and 19 wickets, bowling medium pace (best three for 31) in 20 ODIs. However, two matches have stayed in his mind - his Test debut, against England at Nottingham in '81, and his 110 as opener at the expense of India in the 1983 World Cup, at the same venue.

"For an Australian, playing in the Ashes series is always a high point. The Nottingham pitch in '81 was not a particularly good one for batting. I got a few runs. It was a low-scoring game, which Australia eventually won. I happened to hit the winning run. That was a special game for me. When I got a hundred against India in Nottingham during the World Cup, it was a different wicket. We finally won, after two earlier defeats. We had a bad World Cup. We got beaten by Zimbabwe in the first game. Then we got beaten by the West Indies. I didn't play those games. Graeme Wood got injured and I came in for the match against India."

Apart from a first class career that stretched from 1972 to 85, Trevor figured in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, where he brushed shoulders with some great names — "That was a tremendous experience."

He is honest enough to confess that he could have done better. "I didn't always make the most of opportunities. I always gave hundred per cent, but did not always perform as well as I should have. Perhaps, I wasn't hungry enough to perform consistently. But I enjoyed playing the game, and do not have any regrets."

Of course there is that dark memory of bowling underarm, after being asked to do so by Greg who was the captain then, in the climactic phase of an ODI against New Zealand and Trevor admits that was `a mistake.'

After retirement from cricket, Trevor has kept in touch with the game through coaching, becoming a specialist in fielding. " Like batting or bowling, fielding is all about balance and footwork. Getting your eyes to where the line of the ball is. If you have good footwork, if you get your body in a good position to field the ball, and also to throw it, it would make things a lot easier. That is what I work on with the fielders. Getting nice and low is important to get an idea of how much the ball will bounce. Then, it allows you to get into the best position to stop the ball. You try to keep it as simple as possible."

He stresses on the importance of throwing, that often holds the key, particularly in limited overs contests. "Fielding in the deep requires a stronger, longer throw. Fielding in the circle requires accuracy, but the pace doesn't have to be the same. Most cricketers have only one throw, the long, powerful one, and they try to do that, whether they are in the deep or close in. I work on that. Like a long arm throw, you have a short arm throw, where you do not need that big back lift and follow through. You can just do it with your wrists and elbow in the circle to get the ball quickly on to the stumps, but not so fast that the fielder does not have any chance of catching it."

Trevor worked with the Sri Lankan team in the late 90s, and did pass on his ideas about catching and throwing to the islanders. " I had to work on their footwork and body position. Otherwise they have tremendous athleticism and ability, have good arms, move well and are great to work with. I just got them to like what they were doing." Trevor also enjoyed his coaching stint with the Bangladesh national side.

Asked to select his greatest all-round fielder, he is quick to pick the `Super Cat', Clive Lloyd. "In his younger days, he was brilliant, both, in the in-field and the out-field. He injured his back in the late 60s and became a fine slip fielder. He had tremendous reach. He was tall, and had extremely long arms, and big hands. As a young guy, he covered the ground so easily".

Then Trevor goes on to some other names. "Greg (Chappell) was outstanding in the slips, but was a good infielder as well. Rhodes is brilliant. He is unorthodox, it is not a style you can teach to somebody else, but it suits him. Slides on his knees a lot, but to throw the ball, he is so quick to get back on his feet. A bigger built guy would struggle with his methods."

He agrees that anticipation is the key to good fielding. "Being able to read, so that you are moving to where you think the ball is going to go, before the batsman actually hits it. A lot of cricketers don't move until they see the ball coming at them, but the Pontings and the Rhodes anticipate so well. I think seminars like this one by the MRF will do much to teach people the right way to go about things."

Trevor feels the quality of Australian fielding has dropped a notch following the departure of that Easy Rider — Mark Waugh. "Mark Waugh was unbelievable. Very natural. Brilliant in the slips, but he was just as good anywhere else. Like batting where he had so much time to strike the ball, he had so much time to catch them. Tremendously relaxed sort of player. The Australian fielding standards have come down a bit. Ponting has to field in the slips now, and they haven't found anyone to replace Mark."

The interview gradually winds to a close. There might have been crushing disappointments in his career, but here is a man who has learnt to pick up the pieces and move on. The journey continues for Trevor Chappell — along with the sepia memories. It is never easy being one of the Chappells.