No. 11 March 1, 2009

Chappell throws it away

R Mohan
Small target, end of the day, what does the batting captain do? He gets bowled


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Melbourne, 10 February 1981

It was a rank long hop, but it helped change a whole series. In walked Greg Chappell with the target a measly 143, and an expected Test and series victory for Australia never came about. The confusion in Chappell's mind was about which part of the inviting on side to hit the ball, from Karsan Ghavri, to. Sometimes it takes a bad delivery to lull a great batsman into a false sense of security. Keeping low as it passed the bat, the ball almost pitched a second time before thudding into the bottom of the stumps.

Australia were 24 for 3 at the close, and Dennis Lillee's conspiratorial whisper that evening was, "If I were a betting man, I would put my money on India." Prophetic words they proved to be.

An injured Kapil Dev was coaxed into coming out to bowl on the final morning and he bowled Australia out for 83 on a dual-paced pitch that was helping bowlers of pace and spin both.

A visibly annoyed Chappell, saddled with two spinners in his XI for that Test by dominating selectors controlling a united Australian team (the Packer intervention had just got over), may have blundered in putting India in on winning the toss, though only hindsight would have suggested that. The captain who had let India off the hook in the previous Test, in Adelaide, where Australia were expected to go 2-0 up, may have had a lot of explaining to do when the series was drawn 1-1 - the first such verdict for India Down Under.

This article was first published in the print edition of Cricinfo Magazine