April 4, 2007

The Curious Case of Greg Chappell

ESPNcricinfo staff
Greg Chappell, India's under-fire coach, oversees a net session at Newlands, Cape Town, November 25, 2006
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As I write this, the news of Greg Chappell quitting is all over TV. It will dominate the front pages of India’s newspapers tomorrow (I can safely guess because I happen to work for one) and the frenzy – and the frenzied speculation – that has overwhelmed India over the last few weeks will continue relentless till... oh, the next coach, the next captain, the next World Cup.

Things change, things remain the same, don’t they?

I don’t report on cricket for a living. So I have never been witness to how Chappell deals with the players; I have no idea (I gather all this from newspaper reports) whether he is brusque, inflexible or high-handed; and how often and to what extent he really got the sort of team he wanted.

I do know two things: that the ‘process’ Chappell kept talking about has become a much-derided word in India’s current lexicon; and that with Chappell gone, we shan’t be talking about the ‘process’ for a while.

Coaching India, like captaining India, is one of the toughest jobs in the modern game. Chappell, I think (and this is all surmise as I have said earlier), knew that it was. He perhaps hadn’t bargained for the sheer scale of it.

For him, it was a culture change – in more ways than one. Cricket has a tremendous allure in Australia, though there is hardly any hysteria surrounding it as there is in India. Chappell would have been aware of that.

The real culture change was different. From where he came, there was one policy: if you didn’t play well, you were out of the side. Australia has been ruthless about this. The selectors have time and again proved that they are unafraid to drop anyone who isn’t performing. Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden: they have all been shown that a place in the side needs to be deserved. They have all realized that. There are no holy cows in Australian cricket. There is also phenomenal bench strength. (One is connected to the other.) Perhaps that could be one of the reasons why it is the best cricket side of modern times.

India’s culture of hero worship, of some players being bigger than the team, of not being able to contemplate dropping certain players ought to have seemed alien to Chappell. (did it?) He was probably trying to extrapolate the culture he came from into the culture he came into. (Was he?) It simply didn’t work. (This we know for sure.)

A coach must take responsibility for failure. In a way, Chappell has done that by saying that he won’t seek to renew his contract. I only hope that others complicit in the nightmare that was World Cup 2007 will also own up.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

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Posted by Rajesh on (May 30, 2007, 6:54 GMT)

The main culprit is the Board and the way it's run and it's corrupt officianados ..... Niranjan Shah, Rajeev Shukla .... We have been reading and hearing these names since we could remember. New people who could be made accountable is the need of the hour, not just fighting in these "Blogs" about who is right or who is wrong....

Cleanse the Board of all these people and bring in people who "work" for Indian Cricket and not just hold honorary posts and there certainly would be improvement one way or the other !

Posted by Rajesh on (May 30, 2007, 5:39 GMT)

Looking at in anyway ...... totally unbiased.... One could only come to a conclusion that Greg Chappell was a egoistic person who would never make a good coach. He wasn't successful.. and not even popular in his own South Australia ... He was brought in to take Indian Cricket a few years ahead ... and all he did was take it a few years back. What we need is a person like John Wright ! He was a real charm...... !

Posted by outsider (non Indian) on (April 21, 2007, 14:43 GMT)

Greg Chappel always irritated me. Process is good but it has to be understood in the Indian context of success and genius of individuals. Chappel could never get it-good riddance to this rubbish. In the Indian context, personal freedom is everything as it should be. Chappel and his protege Dravid have no clue how to harness this unique greatness. Dravid is too obstinate and unidirectional to be wise (but he does bring personal discipline to the table). The Vengasarkars like many older South Indians have a simplistic belief (often well placed and safe) in the western success models and have little or no clue on undestanding that processes which lead to success are different for Indians compared to any other people except perhaps the West Indians. I also find it replusive that Gangauly is the focus of Mr. Vengsarkars focus when it should be the failed young leaders like Dravid instead who should be trained in Indian Management systems not in techniques which won colonial wars for western Generals.

Posted by sridhar on (April 15, 2007, 3:01 GMT)

The coverup of the world cup fiasco has been perfect. Greg gives the report the board wants, Greg is offered advisory role and things can continue as they were before. Holy cows will continue on the strength of their performance a few years back and once in a while perform against the weak teams on home soil justifying their place in the team for many more matches.

Greg's failure is not to understand that there are holy cows team and Indians cannot accept the meritocracy.

Posted by Marky on (April 12, 2007, 9:36 GMT)

Any bets Shastri will not stay for longer than the B/Desh tour and will never ever come anywhere near the team after that tour. Write this down in Gold and keep it in a Bank. Indians will be Indians even if a God comes down to coach them. Sorry Ravi this does not mean that you are any less accomplished.

Posted by Glenn on (April 11, 2007, 12:26 GMT)

To all of you who have climed that Australia didn't sack players when they were in poor form and quoted examples of Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, & Mat Hayden etc. You have miised the biggest point! There is a dictum in Australia, which people in India, may or may not know which goes "Never change a winning team." This is the main reason that people like Taylor, Waugh & Hayden were given the chances that they were given at the respective times. Australia at those times that people are using as examples were still winning games and as such, could afford to show some leniency to out of form players. Compare this to India. The only place that India conistently wins is in India! That is because they continue to prepare pitches that take prodigious spin on day one and get progressively worse (that is they take more and more spin and become an absolute disgrace to bat on) in the following days.

I remember reading articles in the last two to three years where respected journalists in India argued the case for preparing pitches that were more in line with pitches in other parts of the world, like SA, England and Aus. Pitches that had bounce and pace for a few days and then took spin towards the end of the match. I was very surprised to see none other that Suni Gavaskar (who, as an oening batsman, like me, was a hero of mine, even though I am an Aussie) arguing against producing anything other than a "traditional Indian pitch". Attitudes like this espoused by Sunny which hold India's progress back, will cause India to continue to be viewed as a tiger at home and a kitten elsewhere. The point I want to make here is that a winning team can afford a little extra indulgence of out of form players but a tream like India who claim to be world beaters at home but perform poorly elsewhere in the world are firstly deluding themseles of the extent of their ability to begin with and secondly, they, as losers away from home, do not have the same luxury afforded to a team like Australia, who have made a habbit of winning in most, if not all, of the countries in the cricket playing world. If yo want to compare apples with apples, have a look at what Australia did n England in 2005 when it lost the Ashes. Out of the team went Martin, Gillespie, Kasprowicz and Hayden was on his last chance in the last test and survivred only by going back to basics and scoring a century. Clarke wasalso dropped in te following year. Why? you might ask. The answer is that the Austrlian team lost the ashes and was no longer a winner! Changes were made and players who lost their position had to work very hard to get them back, and some of the bowlers haven't got bck in yet.

All of you Indian fans who argue the Taylor Waugh type arguments, please stop to smell the roses. Don't compare your team to Australia's winning teams, instead, compare your team to Australia's Ashes LOSING team then comment on what changes should be made to your team.

Other wise, you, like Sunny, will continue to delude yourselves unfortunately to yopur own detriment. You need fundamental change. For the sake of your cricket, please make sure you get it?

Posted by Rama on (April 11, 2007, 1:07 GMT)

First clense the BCCI of the handicapped officials, then pray that Shastri does not resign immediately after the Bangladesh tour and maybe you will find a winning team in time for the next world cup - Meanwhile I suggest that you send all the present Team India shirts to the Red Cross for distribution to an african nation that does not know about Cricket !!! (there must be over a Billion)

Posted by Arindam on (April 9, 2007, 17:50 GMT)

Well, sanjay you should learn to stand by your team and don't go with the wind of aussie fan... Read Stuart's comment first..certianly India needs lot of improvement in all areas of the game and play as a team. But you got it all wrong, when you are not acknowledging the talent and strength India possess and what internal conflict does to a team. The question is not who is overrated or not or how much you choose to believe in the media. But we should look at the potential of the team as a whole. If you think Tendulkar plays for the record, I would say think again. Tendulkar gave his life to Indian cricket, but I think he should not have commented about the coach issue atleast not to the media. You don't have to look far, look at Sri Lanka'n team. Look at how well organized they are and how they fight as a Unit. Their senior players are contributing not in terms of quality of the game, but also they inspire the entire team by their performance. The young guns are contributing too!! .We should no doubt have a hard look at ourselves, but you can't forget any player's contribution overnight by the outcome of this world cup...Have your opinion but don't get biased by the report from media. Learn to face the truth but at the same time acknowledge that the team can do wonders if we have taken certain measures earlier on. I still don't think we have to be like Aussies. They have their own style, we have ours. It's not question about who is right or wrong, but cricket can gain a lot if we have our ways.

However I think BCCI did a good job of helping the guys to focus in cricket and remove all other distractions that crippled Indian cricket in a way. India will fight back trust me on that sanjay..They have more potential what you or other Aussie fan might believe...

Posted by Aditya Anchuri on (April 9, 2007, 16:05 GMT)

The so-called "comfort zone" that Greg Chappell talked about...I'm not sure how comfortable you're going to be if millions of people watch you play and disappoint whenever you get out.

Posted by Sanjay Prakash on (April 9, 2007, 12:11 GMT)

Arindam what a load of rubbish. Get a life mate. Supporters of India like you are part of the problem. Chappell pointed out the truth. India never wants to hear the truth. And for Sachin Tendulkar, well the day he plays an innings to help India win a big tournament or series especially away from home might be the day he can get truly recognised. See Ponting, the difference is night and day. Yes India won the World Cup before Australia did, but the aussies have shown how strong they are by dominating world cricket for so many years. Part of growing up is acknowledging the issues. I don't think you or Indian cricket can do so from reading what has been put forward. Indian cricket is overrated and the players are especially overratted. Sachin like to play cricket looking at his record on paper but not on the field in the big matches against the big names.

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