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The quietest of the Chappells talks about growing up with Ian and Greg, his new coaching assignment, and of course, that underarm delivery
Interview by Jason Dasey
August 24, 2009
Trevor, what's it like to be approaching your late fifties and still making a living out of cricket, as coach of Singapore?
I'm very happy with that. What else would I rather be doing than be in Singapore for seven weeks, enjoying the warmth and getting away from the cooler temperatures in Australia this time of year? It's just fantastic to still be involved in a game that I've played since I was five or six years of age.
What are your impressions of the quality of the Singapore team and how are you trying to help them?
Some of the Singapore squad have played first-class cricket in countries like Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, so there are some good players here, particularly batting-wise. The bowling is a bit on the softer side. Trying to lift their intensity for a big tournament is the task at hand, plus helping on the fielding and running between wickets.
It's been more than 25 years since you and your brothers left international cricket as players, but how much does the Chappell name still open doors in cricket circles around the world?
Most people who know anything about cricket know my name for one delivery back in 1981. I'm not sure if the family name opens doors, but it's certainly recognised. It makes things a lot easier because people accept you more quickly than someone they've never heard of before.
You scored a century in the World Cup, you've played in the Ashes and won the Sheffield Shield, yet why do most people associate you only with the underarm delivery from 1981?
I'm a bit sick of hearing about it. It's just become something that's always there and it's showing no signs of going away. Some years ago I came to the conclusion that I'm better off just to go along with it rather than get upset by it. So I might as well jump on the bandwagon and have a bit of a laugh about it.
How did it affect you - inwardly and emotionally - immediately after it happened?
I don't remember it affecting me overly. Early on, most of the focus was on Greg, certainly at the time and a little while after that. It wasn't until some time later that the focus was more on me.
How long did it take you to forgive Greg for instructing you to bowl the underarm as your Australia captain?
Actually I thought it was a pretty good idea at the time. Obviously it wasn't in the spirit of the game. It seemed like it was going to be fairly hard for [Brian McKechnie] to hit six off an underarm delivery. So I never really held a grudge against Greg.
Let's say you could go back in time and have that moment over again. What would you do?
I've often said that if it was in the laws, I'd do it again. But that probably doesn't make a lot of sense as I've also said it wasn't in the spirit of the game. I'd perhaps try to talk Greg out of it. I wasn't looking at him as my brother. It was more that he was the captain of the team, and that's what the captain wanted me to do.
|"Greg always said that when he got to Test cricket they couldn't say or do anything to him there that he hadn't already copped in the backyard from Ian"|
How often do people ask you about the underarm delivery?
Not too many days go by without someone or other coming up to me. When I was first with the Sri Lankan team in England for the 1999 World Cup, I'd been with them about a month without anyone saying anything. Our first game was down in Taunton and when we were in the dressing room, Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] came up to me asked me about the underarm. As I started to tell him, all the other players gathered around. They were obviously itching for someone to bring it up to find out what happened.
How do New Zealanders treat you?
I've never had any problem in New Zealand or with New Zealanders. It's in Australia where people seem to make a bigger deal of the underarm. We've had some reunions for the various anniversaries with Greg and Brian McKechnie. For one of the reunions, my namesake Trevor Chappell, [who's an ABC radio reporter and host] had me, himself and the actor who played my part in the New Zealand stage play on the same radio show.
What was it like growing up in Adelaide with Ian and Greg as your elder brothers?
All we did was play cricket in the summer, baseball in the winter and a bit of Aussie Rules. Our backyard was mainly a cricket pitch, but with all the nets we had around the place it was also good for throwing baseballs around and all that sort of thing. Greg always said that when he got to Test cricket they couldn't say or do anything to him there that he hadn't already copped in the backyard from Ian.
How much did you fight with your brothers?
I remember one day with Greg when something went desperately wrong as we were playing cricket in our backyard. He said: "You can bat," but when I was putting the pads on, he was watering the wicket. I noticed a wet patch when I came in to bat and I asked him, "Did you water the wicket?" He said: "Oh, it's only a small patch… it won't do anything." But then he's zipping the ball around the place off the wet patch. So I spat the dummy and as I walked off to go back inside I noticed on the water tank stand that there was a tomahawk. I thought, "This is a better way to sort this out." So I picked it up and chased Greg around the backyard a few times. Greg darted in and out of the fruit and almond trees, and then he high-jumped the side gate as I dug the tomahawk into the gate behind him. If only I'd taken the pads off first I could have caught him. And then he never could have got me to bowl that underarm.
How would you sum up the various personality traits of the Chappell brothers, including yourself?
I think we're all fairly similar in a lot of ways. Maybe not outwardly but we think alike. Of course, Ian is probably the most outspoken. You're never in doubt about how Ian thinks about something. He doesn't beat around the bush - straight, upfront. Greg probably thinks similarly, but doesn't necessarily say it in the same way. He's more diplomatic, perhaps. I've probably always been the quieter of the three, perhaps because I couldn't get a word in! But we certainly think similarly, certainly about cricket. That's probably because of the influence of our father and our other main coach growing up, Lynn Fuller. We still all get on pretty well together.
Would it be accurate to say that you're the most modest of the Chappell brothers?
Modest? Oh, I don't know. I think Greg and Ian are pretty modest too. They're very confident, but they don't blow their own trumpets.
You played three Tests and 20 one-day internationals, but how much do you think living in the shadow of your older brothers stopped you from fulfilling your potential as an international cricketer?
By the time I was 16 or 17, Ian was in his late twenties and well established in the Australian team and Greg had just played his first Test. So a lot of the other kids said to me, "I guess when you leave school, you're going to play for South Australia and Australia." But I was thinking, "Well, it's not quite as simple as all that." I developed a negative attitude towards playing high-level cricket, which took quite a while to overcome, and maybe I never did. I wasn't as confident in my own ability as a cricketer as Ian and Greg were.
What's your take on Greg's falling out with Sourav Ganguly when Greg was coach of India?
I think it was more about Greg having a coaching role and looking at what was best for the Indian team and not seeing that Sourav had a great role to play going into the future. It's different to what you see in Australia. Senior players in Australia see that they have to keep working harder and harder to maintain their position, whereas in India it seems to me that once you get to a senior level that's the time to ease back a bit. That's not the sort of attitude that Greg would have tolerated. Sourav was apparently happy just to cruise along and Greg wasn't happy to have him cruise along. The reason he's employed as the coach is to get the best out of the team, and if as coach you think some of the players are not giving their best then you try to do something about it.
When do you think you'll eventually live down that underarm delivery?
I don't think that's going to happen at all. I'm going to be well and truly dead before I stop hearing about that. No, I don't think that's going to happen.
Jason Dasey is a former host of Cricinfo SportsCenter and four international editions of SportsCenter on ESPNFeeds: Jason Dasey
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