Worthwhile companion

Ian Chappell... always worth listening to.-VIVEK BENDRE

Ian Chappell is one of the most interesting men to play or commentate on cricket in Australia, writes Ted Corbett.

January 22: To walk or not to walk; that, as Hamlet will say in different circumstances, is the question. It is a concept basic to the game, although whether it is more difficult to answer than whether leg byes can be "sundries" or "extras" is much more obtuse. By and large, English cricketers walk "to help the umpire" according to an ancient tradition set in the golden days of cricket; in the main, Australian batsmen do not. My own point of view is that I will admire men who walk more than those who don't but I can bring myself to accept that if a man leaves it to the umpire he must not quarrel with any of the umpiring decisions. Dean Jones is absolutely straightforward about his stance. If the umpire says "go" he goes. I saw him do it in Antigua when he knew he was not out. The present Australian team do not obey my set of principals. They go if the umpire says so but they still complain if an England batsman stands his ground. I admit to some surprise that Michael Hussey who plays so long in county cricket does not walk. I bet he gets a lot of abuse from his opponents on that circuit although walking is not as common now. There is one very famous England captain who always walks. Provided he has a lot of runs to his name first.

January 23: I am walking down Rundle Mall, the best-known shopping spot in Adelaide, looking for breakfast and thinking how pleasant it is that the locals will at least attempt to avoid a collision if they can; in contrast to Sydney where the streets are more crowded. I am shocked out of my reverie by a lady who wheels her baby buggy into my ankle so hard that the blow forces off my shoe and when I yell out in pain she becomes very aggressive indeed. As her partner is too high to reach and is likely to be able to stick me in his shirt pocket if he wishes I go back to my search for the perfect coffee. The local paper tells me that Mal — short for the Biblical Malachy — Loye is just as shocked when the crowd near him on the boundary at Brisbane launch an attack so strong he dare not repeat the words. I blame the overheated press for this ferocity and although I come from a Fleet Street culture which never refrains from calling a spade a shovel I confess to shock at the way things are twisted here. Poms are always "hapless", Australian faults are too easily forgotten — it is an Australian umpire Darrell Harper who makes the mistake which leads to Hussey not walking — and there is a culture of patriotism that verges on the paranoid. It makes for the most unpleasant tour of Australia of my 25 years Down Under and I shall not be returning in a hurry.

January 24: Ian Chappell is to spend a while talking to the South Australian players who are destined to finish bottom of the league table this season, who cannot make enough runs to give a couple of promising leg-spinners a long bowl and who recently lose to Western Australia in two days. Chappelli — a nickname derived from the scoreboards which install him as "Chappell I" — is one of the most interesting men to play or commentate on cricket in Australia, gruff, sage, with uncompromising views on the state of the planet, cricket, human nature, his pals, his enemies, which include John Howard, the Prime Minister and any other subject on anyone's agenda. He is loyal, warm, affectionate; obstinate and difficult, always worth listening to, polite, and prone to commit gaffes that make him all the more worthwhile a companion. Yet, South Australia players need not fear this extraordinary man. The only fault he will not forgive is lack of effort and if he finds this team are offering 100 per cent he will put all his considerable skill and knowledge at their disposal. It will be their loss if they fail to take advantage of what Chappelli has to give.

January 25: When England lose by 90 runs in their one-day game against New Zealand at Adelaide I look back at the second Test scores and find a note I make at the time. "Ian Bell run out (ball watching) 26 — 3-70 — 13 balls after the dismissal of Andrew Strauss." The last nine wickets fall for 60 runs but it all revolves around that run out and on January 19 — 45 days later in Brisbane — Bell is run out, again because he is ball watching. Now tell me that Duncan Fletcher must continue to be the coach. Surely it is his responsibility if he continues to pick batsmen who cannot cure elementary errors. If Fletcher goes, who can take his place? The job may fall to Michael Vaughan one day, but first let us watch his attempts to stay fit. Australia and Pakistan are also looking for a new coach. Bob Woolmer wants to develop his interest in his coaching website but he sounds as if he can be tempted to stay at the top level. Tom Moody says he will try for the England job because his children are at school in Worcester. That may not be a proper qualification but at least it gives him a tie to the country. It is, by the way, Steve Waugh who first points out the devastating effect that a run out has on a batting side. Apparently he does not want a coaching job but prefers the idea of a place on the Australian board some time later in his busy life. More's the pity since, to judge from his column during the Tests, he is a very wise cricket person indeed.

January 26: Unprecedented anger greets the latest England defeat. Fifty letters demanding that the team go home on one website, 40 more full of insults on another; scorn for Duncan Fletcher's apology, contempt for the feeble players, sympathy for Andrew Flintoff. Can David Morgan, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who is watching the match, ignore these pleas much longer? I am sure he will act more decisively in the steel industry which brings him his living.

January 27: Meanwhile, those fans who are not writing vitriolic letters about the way forward for England, find a new pastime. BBC's Test Match Special post a picture of their scorer Ms. Jo King on the website and within a few hours there are 2,000 hits, a record.

January 28: Australian humour is not always tasteful but it sometimes hits the spot. Take for instance the scrawl at a bus stop, for those on their way to work, but not sure they would not rather stay in bed: "Go on, phone in sick," it says. And today, on the back of a huge 4x4 driven by another pretty girl: "My other car is a broom."