November 16, 2007

Greg Chappell's Punch & Judy Show

Mukul Kesavan
Greg Chappell, India's under-fire coach, oversees a net session at Newlands, Cape Town, November 25, 2006
 © Getty Images
Enlarge

I feel for Greg Chappell. It's bad enough that he was punched by a disgruntled fan so hard that he thought his jaw was broken. What made his trauma worse was that he knew the brute was a bigot. And then the really horrible part: the BCCI covered it all up. He wrote to the board about it but the Board did nothing. In a documentary about his time as coach made by the ABC, Chappell told us how he knew the man was a racist : "There are plenty of Indian cricketers the guy could have attacked but he chose to attack me." Right. Chappell was the only white man there. His assaulter was black. What other conclusion is possible? Not only was Chappell punched, the Herald Sun reported that Judy, his wife, was pushed over.

The Punch and Judy show is a puppet play that's been a traditional entertainment in English seaside towns since the seventeenth century. It features a hunchbacked brute called Punch who amuses his audience of little children by beating his wife Judy with a stick, trying to murder their baby and generally behaving in a grotesquely criminal fashion. The puppet master is called the Professor.

In Chappell's new rendering of the show, Punch represents the BCCI, racist Indian fans and scheming Indian players. Judy represents the nurturing Chappell, and the Baby is Indian cricket. Judy does everything she can to raise the baby right but Punch doesn't let her. He hits everyone with his stick and his audience instead of being horrified is amused, in keeping with the child-like, amoral nature of oriental spectators.

This would be an amusing play but Chappell keeps changing the script. A day after the newspapers filed stories on Chappell's racist ordeal, the BCCI rubbished the reports, saying that it had done everything necessary to upgrade Chappell's security and categorically denying Chappell's claim that he had been the victim of a racist assault. You would expect the Board to say that, only in this case, Chappell seemed to agree.

"It's old news," he told the Indian television channel CNN-IBN. "It was a very emotional time when I made these remarks. It's a long way back and I'd like to talk about other things now."

This is more than a little odd. Chappell seemed happy enough to let the documentary be completed without comment or correction and a charge of assault aggravated by racism is a serious one. The documentary is called 'Guru Greg' and gives us Chappell's take on his time in India. The 'racist' assault happened in January so Chappell's had plenty of time to ask its producers to work in any second thoughts he had into the narrative of the film. So why would he let the allegation of racism stand in the film only to pass it off as an emotional outburst later?

The answer as supplied by Chappell himself, seems to have to do with business. Chappell has just accepted a three year contract with the Rajasthan cricket board to take charge of the state's cricket academy. So he wants to move on. It's hard to know what to make of this. Is Chappell asking us to accept that he had a hissy fit then and cried 'racism' when it wasn't? Or is he saying that it was racism and what he said in the film stands, but his current contractual commitments make it inconvenient for him to repeat the charge, given that Lalit Modi of the Rajasthan cricket board is also a grandee in the BCCI? Neither explanation flatters Chappell. The first makes him seem neurotic, the second suggests a cynic playing two different markets with alternative versions of the 'truth'.

Or maybe Chappell doesn't know what he means. Perhaps his Punch and Judy show, like the traditional seaside entertainment, is meant to play as farce. And perhaps Greg isn't Judy. Perhaps he's Punch, flailing about with his stick not because there's a reason but because that's what he does.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in New Delhi

RSS Feeds: Mukul Kesavan

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by satish on (January 6, 2008, 3:54 GMT)

Bad article. Badly written, incohesive, unorganised. It does not appeal to simple readers. I did not enjoy reading this. Most of the paragraphs went over my head

Posted by jon on (November 29, 2007, 10:19 GMT)

Mat, what I mean is that the Indian team is not in that bad a shape as you think it is. They are doing very well without a coach, you know. I mean, they did beat South Africa, England and won the T20. I agree with you on some of the comments by the Indian bloggers, which are also in bad taste. But do check your facts on the team's recent performances.

Posted by Mat on (November 28, 2007, 10:39 GMT)

Dear Jon,

I'm only biased because I'm right.

Posted by jon on (November 25, 2007, 15:26 GMT)

I've been to India and Australia and the people there are not racist at all. Whatever India's caste problems may be, they are very good to foriegners;and the Aussies are really warm and friendly people. I think both these countries are being generalised as being racist just because of some individuals' acts.

Posted by jon on (November 25, 2007, 15:16 GMT)

The likes of raj, dave, Mat, Rohit etc. are giving highly biased and unfair comments. I can not understand why these guys have to post their comments without taking into consideration each others PoV.

Posted by Dave on (November 24, 2007, 14:28 GMT)

Mr Raj, i would like to point out that Murali did shout racism because an odd aussies called him a chucker on the street of Adelaide. And if you had read my post carefully, i had mentioned that murali said so at the start of the current series v. australia. And with regards to Howard calling Murali a chucker, i agree it was offensive being the head of state. And why dont you also get it right that chappel was abused wherever he went? Was he not abused by the calcutta crowd because the crowd was angry with him for dropping ganguly? And was it not the same crowd which cheered the saffers and jeered their own country just because Mr. Ganguly was not playing? Its really surprising how one turns a blind eye towards crowd behaviour. In fact any self respecting indian should have shown the middle finger to a crowd which supports a different country just because a player from their city or province was dropped form the cricket team. And may i ask you a question Mr. Raj,why do people of indian origin staying in the west, cry racism when they are beaten up by deranged individuals? I am sure you would also be among those who would shout "racism" on such acts. Why are they not taken as an attack on an individual rather than painting them as racist aka the attack on chappel. With regards to your view that India is beating everyone except for Australia after chappell's days, i would suggest that you have a re-look at your facts. You were beaten in the ODIs both by england and australia, and just about managed to beat pakistan. You have played only one test series of note post the world cup which you won helped by a huge slice of luck at Lords.Also, last not least at least the australian authorities have taken steps of monitoring the crowds at the stadiums using high surveillance cameras and have an eviction policy in place for anyone who makes racist taunts. Please contrast it with the attitude of the BCCI, who brushed it by saying that India has great cultural diversity,and brushed the issue under the cultural diveristy carpet. Cultural diversity could be an excuse used even by the australlian authorities - australia is home to people from italian, greece, chinese, indian, japanese, slavic countries, latin america,english a more profound diversity considering that each society has different customs,religion, etc - but they prefered to face the music and ensure that racist taunts are not tolerated.

Posted by dave on (November 24, 2007, 13:54 GMT)

Mr. Rahul, its a pleasure to see that you are completely out of touch with reality. Double digit growth in Mnaufacturing in India? Please check your facts on the national economic website and you will get to know that its still single digit Whats the growth rate in agriculture which employs 70% of the indian population? Do a double check and you will see that its single digit with poor investments which should be a cause of concern, but people like you keep harping on IT growth. With regards to IT, can you name one single companny which is a leader in product innovation and development? None. All of them are in IT services and system maintenance- basically outsourced work. With regards to investment in India in terms of outsourcing, the single biggest reason for that phenomenon is cheap labour --and nothing else. Its cheaper to hire 3 resources in India compared to a single resource in the west. And thats exactly whats happenning, the no. of people required to do the same job in India is almost 2.5 times the resources required in the west, but then these resources are way cheaper than the resources in the west and hence the investments. Also, if you understand economics which i am sure you do not, highly productive labour force is also the most costly. So if labour is cheap then that means the labour force is not as productive as it should be. And india is among the most cheap labour force available. Also do a favour to yurself, compare the productivity of the indian labour force with the labour force in the west and if you have any sembelance of a brain you will be able to conslude the obvious. Are you saying that if foreigners are coming to India and getting trained then indians are not racist? Now, should the same logic not hold for the West, where i assume that indians go and settle in hordes it is so because there is no racism? Surprisingly, no one on the post actually seconds your logic. And by the way Indians settled in the US are among the highest earning bracket because they are in the US - a country with an administration and system - far more productive than India. And again, i would like to point out that the effecient system was made by the west and not the indians. They are able to work in that effecient system and become reach. And i hope you have heard of "brain drain", the phenomena which stills effects india. Surprisingly,we in west do not face this issue. Why is it that Indians need to migrate to other countries to earn money? And is India not the country where there was widespread protest against increasing the representation of the underprivileged in the educational institution? Why is that so? And why should people be fighting with each other to be included in a particular cast? I think that can happen only if a certain caste is given privilige or is discriminated against. And is it not in your states that politicians use caste discrimination as a major election issue? So how come you say that anyone who says caste system is prevalent in India is defaming India? I think its the old indian habit of not looking at the issues but running away from it. Mr Rahul, i think you do not have any understanding about your country and it will do you good if you can form you own views by doing some research rather than writing down views that you may have heard from others.

Posted by SP on (November 24, 2007, 12:00 GMT)

Do you know what this guy is trying to affect? He is the saint who is willing to live and work with philistines to bring civilisation to them.

Wake up India! We dont need any additional external toxins, we have enough home-grown variety of that already.

The west would love to slot us back to that old image of India. Please please tell me you hate that as much as I do.

Posted by SP on (November 24, 2007, 11:43 GMT)

Comments of Greg Chappell: "Now you get an idea of what it's like to work in f...ing India" at http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,23663,22795912-5007183,00.html

Someone please show this man out of the country and lets resolve never to bring his name into conversation again.

Posted by kiran on (November 23, 2007, 20:40 GMT)

Raj i can see you are very passionate, but cool down please. You can't say that we don't lose to Bangladesh anymore, just because we haven't played them since the World Cup. If the selectors had half the brains that Chappel does theuy would have thrown out Ganguly, he wouldn't have wasted 130 balls, India would have won the match against Bangladesh and who knows, maybe the WC too. Anoop is right, ppl like you are just too thick to appreciate quality when they see it.

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mukul Kesavan
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.

All articles by this writer