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Harsha Bhogle talks to cricketers and administrators

Ian Chappell

'Taking wickets should be a captain's top priority'

Ian Chappell, among the most respected of Australian captains, talks about where modern captains have their priorities skewed, leadership in general, and why he won't be writing a book on the subject

Interview by Harsha Bhogle

May 13, 2010

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Harsha Bhogle: Welcome to Opening Up, and with me is someone who has built up a huge reputation over the years as one of the finest leaders of a cricket team, and also one of its great characters, and certainly one of its finest storytellers.

Ian Chappell is with me today, and it's always a great pleasure. I have had this enormous of honour of sitting in the commentary box with Ian Chappell over the years, and it's always been deeply fulfilling. Thank you for joining us today.

Ian, there is lots that you have done, on a cricket ground and outside it. You've been an outstanding batsman, you've been a top leader, and there have been great moments in your life - you and your brother scoring a century in each innings in Wellington. If you had to pick one moment that you remember most... let me try and guess, would it be never losing a Test series as captain?

Ian Chappell: No, it's things as a team that you remember mostly. The standout for me will always be winning the Ashes back at the SCG in 1974-75. I had played in the Australian team that had lost the Ashes in 1970-71 in Australia, so to win it back as captain - I still remember to this day Ashley Mallett bowling to Geoff Arnold, inside edge onto the pad, Greg Chappell at bat-pad taking the catch. Rodney Marsh whirled around, put his hand out and said, "We have got the bastards back." Bastards being the Ashes and not England. That memory is still very clear in my mind, but what isn't so clear in my mind is the party that we had afterwards.

I have always said that these are things that I remember most - victories and the parties that we had afterwards. And when we get together, as we quite often do, a lot of the guys from the Australian side of the 70s, that's the things we talk about mostly, the characters that we played with and the parties we had when we won.

HB: You always refer to your brother as Greg Chappell, or was it just "Little Greg"? I heard you talk about him as Greg Chappell, and I thought, hang on, as his brother you must call him Greg...

IC: I always did that as a commentator, because I felt that I needed to as a commentator. But when I am talking to him, Greg is the nicest thing that I call him. But I just felt that as a commentator and as a writer, I had to establish something. I did not feel like saying "my brother Greg" all the time, and I really felt that it would be unfair for him. So I just referred to him as Greg Chappell when he was playing. I might say "my brother Greg" now, in commentary, if I am talking about something he did as a player. But I felt that when he was playing and I was a commentator, I had to refer to him as Greg Chappell. That was just the decision I made.

HB: Was there a big buzz about being captain? Was it something that you wanted to be? You took to it like a fish to water. It was almost like you were born to be the leader of 10 other men on a cricket ground. Was it something that you dreamt of doing? And did you approach it with great intensity, for example?

IC: It's a rather mixed story, the captaincy. I have always said, even when I was appointed the vice-captain of Australia, that I really wasn't thinking about being the captain of Australia. I wasn't even expecting to be the captain for Australia. That sort of belies…

HB: Is that true? Because literally you are just one step away, and being captain is a big honour...

IC: Yes, it is. I guess what I am saying is that I never took anything for granted in cricket. But that sort of belies the fact that when I was playing in the schoolboys' competition in Adelaide, which was an under-16 competition, at the end of that they picked a squad to practise and then they played a match between the two squads that they picked. As part of that, Geff Noblet, who was a former Australian player, he gave us a guided tour of the Adelaide Oval at one stage, as we were practising at the back at No. 2 ground. He took us up to the dressing room; he walked us down the steps out to the middle, and then he walked us up again. Before we left the ground he said, "As you're walking back up the stairs, think of something that you would like to do in cricket, write it on a bit of paper and stick it in your wallet." I don't think I did it at the time, but when I got home that night, for some reason or other I wrote "Captain Australia". I put it in my wallet and it was there for many years…

HB: Like in the movies, you suddenly found it… you opened the wallet and there it was.

IC: No, I think I sort of remembered that it was there and I think I probably threw it away round about that time. It was just something that I did. I didn't have any great desire. In fact, I think Australia hasn't had many poor captains, but they had a couple. Particularly in one case it was because the guy wanted the job, he was desperate to get the captaincy. I think most of Australia's good captains have been guys who have just got it out of the blue, and I think that's the way to get it. You shouldn't crave the job, and I didn't.

I remember getting the phone call. I was in the Overway Hotel in Adelaide having a counter lunch. Which consisted of a schnitzel and two schooners of beer…

HB: Was the beer on the left of the plate or the right? I'm sure you remember that too…

IC: I am a right-hand drinker, so the beer was on the right-hand side.

HB: Or maybe the ones that were over were on the right, and the fresh ones were on the left… [laughs].

IC: [laughs] No, no, only one at a time. Suddenly someone said, "There's a phone call for you." I took the phone call, and it was Alan Shiell, who was a former South Australia player and also a journalist. He said, "Congratulations mate." I said, "What on?" He said, "You are captain of Australia." And I said, "You're bloody joking, aren't you?" He said, 'No, I am serious."

They had sacked Bill [Lawry]. I don't necessarily disagree with the decision, but the way they did it was most unfair on Bill.

"I learnt a lot about captaincy by being told that I was an idiot"

HB: Ian, you've got this reputation of someone who is mildly irreverent. The word you used to describe the Ashes, for example. And yet, every time I have spoken to you, I've thought, "If there is one romantic in the game it will be Ian Chappell." Good old-fashioned romantic, even if you may not like being called that.

IC: I am not sure what a cricket romantic is…

HB: Well, you remember with joy all the little things in the game. You still enjoy the little traditions of the game. You don't strike people as someone who enjoys the traditions, but you actually do.

IC: What I have a problem with is that I don't suffer fools very well.

HB: [laughs] Don't we know that.

IC: And, I guess, authority. I'm not really good at accepting instructions without question, and that's why I was absolutely useless in the cadets.

HB: But when you became a leader, were you open to the idea of people not accepting the idea without questioning?

IC: Oh, absolutely. I learnt a lot about captaincy by being told that I was an idiot - in worse terms than that actually. But…

HB: You're holding back.

IC: Well, I can't use the words that guys like Rodney Marsh used. I learnt a very good lesson from Rodney calling me exactly that in the middle of the Test match at Old Trafford in 1972.

I had Johnny Gleeson the folded-finger spinner bowling at one end. I had John Inverarity bowling left-arm orthodox spin at the other end. It was a green top, it was seaming everywhere. I wasn't a first slip, I was fielding at midwicket. As I crossed over, Rodney was crossing from end to end, and as I went past he just said, "You're a *&%$*& idiot." And I said, "What, Rodney? Is there something that I said to you in the bar last night?" And he said, "No, this is a greatest seamer's paradise of all time, and you've got a spinner bowling at each end." And I said, "I will remind you, Rodney, that one of the spinners has just got Geoff Boycott out, which was a pretty important wicket."

In fact, I was vice-captain of Australia before I was vice-captain of South Australia. But I had only captained about five games and a lot of those were at the Adelaide Oval. And at the Adelaide Oval I would go from two quickies, the two new-ball bowlers, straight to Ashley Mallett and Terry Jenner, the two spinners. I was doing basically the same at Old Trafford. What it made me realise that I was in danger of becoming an Adelaide Oval captain. I had to realise that I wasn't at the Adelaide Oval every game, and I had to captain according to the conditions. So it was a very good lesson.

I don't understand why any leader, be it a cricket captain or a world leader, would want to have around him a whole lot of people who agree with him. Because how are you going to learn…

HB: It's a sign of an insecure man.

IC: Well, I think it is. Kim Hughes made a comment that you can't be one of the boys and be a good captain. And that is the greatest load of codswallop I have ever heard in my life. Because under the Australian system, they pick the XI and then they pick the captain out of that XI. So before I was captain, I had been a member of the team for quite number of years, so I'm drinking with Marsh, Walters, Taber, Mallett and all the guys as a player; and then suddenly I come along as captain, and what, I just say, "Now, boys, I'm not drinking with you"?

HB: But there is also the danger of forming a bit of club and saying, "He is my friend, how can I leave him out?" That can happen.

IC: Look, we dropped Doug Walters from the Oval Test match in 1972, first time ever that an Australian side went into the fieled without a New South Welshman in the team. One of the journalists, Dick Tucker, came to me and said, "Ian, I'm surprised." That's all he said. Then I said to him, "Dick, if you're talking about what I think you're talking about, then you don't know me very well. If you think I'm going to pick Doug Walters because he is a mate of mine, when it's not in the best interest of the team, then you don't know me well."

I am going to pick a team to win that game. I am not going to pick a team that is full of my mates and keep out guys who I am not fond of. I have always said about captaincy that like and dislike does not come into it. You've only got to ask yourself two questions: Can he get me a hundred? Can he get me five wickets? If the answer to those questions is yes, then the guy is in the team. Whether you like him or dislike him, whether he is a disruptive force or not in the team, that's your job as the leader. There are two parts to it, captaincy and leadership. Captaincy is on the field, placing the batting order, changing the bowling, moving the fielders around. Leadership is off the field. So if I have got someone in the team who can get me five wickets but is a bit of disruptive force, then it's my job to make him fit. And I have got to tell the guy, "Mate, I want you in this team. Now we've got few things that we need to sort out here…"

HB: Let me throw a tricky one here. If he says, "Buzz off, skipper, I'm giving you five wickets on the field. How does it matter to what I'm doing off the field?" I'm sure those characters exist in a cricket team.

IC: Well, I will try and work with the guy, and if it gets to the point where it's unworkable then he goes, or I have been sacked because I can't make it work. But I'm going to try my darnedest to make it work.

The most important thing as a captain is respect. Under the Australian system, you've already earned respect as a player, because you have been there for few years. Hopefully you have earned respect as a human being. Now you become captain, and now you've got to earn their respect as a captain. And you've got to maintain the respect in the other two areas.

The other thing that they want from you is honesty. If the guy comes to me and says, "Buzz off." If he said that to me then I would ask, "Do you really want to play for Australia or not?" And if he says yes, then I would tell him, "We need to work this out and make sure it works. I am not going to tell you how to run your life, but we've got to make things work because whilst it is a game for individuals, you have also got to mesh as a team."

I think as long as you give them honesty, you will get on with most cricketers.

HB: Can you look at a cricketer and say that he will become a good captain? More important than being a good captain, a good leader of men - because you separated captaincy from leadership? Can you look at someone and say that leadership will weigh him down? Can you look at someone and say leadership will buoy him up?

IC: Well, maybe it's an exceptional example, but I remember seeing Shane Warne as a captain, in the Super 8s tournament. It was being played in Townsville, up north. Victoria was playing, I think, Western Australia. Bear in mind that you've got only six players in the game, and in the last over the opposition needed something like six runs to win with two wickets in hand. And Warne just said that we can't win this game by containing, we've got to get these two guys out. Damien Fleming bowled the last over, and he had a couple of slips, I think, and a guy in close, and they got the two wickets.

I was so impressed that I went home that night and I rang up Richie Benaud, who was in the UK doing commentary there. I rang him up and said, "I have just seen a really exciting young captain, he just happens to be a legspinner. We might have our next gambling, legspinning captain from Australia."

HB: Did he agree with you?

IC: Well, he hadn't seen Warne at that stage, but I think he was excited about the thought of a legspinner captaining Australia. So, in the case of Warne you could see that. But his talents were so obvious.

The other way, I can look at someone out there and say that this guy should not be the captain. He is weighed down by the captaincy. And if a guy is weighed down by the captaincy then you should never appoint him, because you are doing him a disservice and you are doing the team a disservice.

"I would place Ponting ahead of Steve Waugh as a captain"

HB: I can think of a couple of people in recent times who have really been buoyed up by the fact that they were captain. And closer home, I think Sourav Ganguly falls into that category as someone who really enjoyed the job.

IC:Dhoni, I think, is a classic example.

HB: Rahul Dravid realised a couple of years into his captaincy that he wasn't enjoying it. He was probably getting weighed down. So can you look at people's personalities. Is there sort of template to say, "This kind of personality gets buoyed up and this kind of personality gets weighed down"?

IC: I think you can make mistakes if you purely went on personality.

HB: But could you look at Ganguly, for example, and say, "I think this guy is going to enjoy it? Or, say, Michael Vaughan, who people rate as a captain?

IC: I think those examples are more difficult than Shane Warne. He was pretty obvious. But there are things that the good selectors must be able to read. They have got to be very good selectors nowadays because it's tougher. If you go back to my case, I captained South Australia at least five times or so before I captained Australia. So the Australian selectors got a bit of an idea about what sort of captain I was. But you take Michael Clarke now - I don't think he has ever captained New South Wales. He captained Australia Under-19 teams and things like that. But I really don't count that for much, because kids playing against kids is not a good way to judge cricketers, never mind captaincy.

So the selectors of today have a much tougher job because they have got a sort of judgement that you are talking about, which is obviously his playing ability, but they have to judge his character from not actually leading the team. And it is not necessarily an easy thing to do.

HB: Is a good captain in one system necessarily a good captain in another? For example, Australia has got a fairly ordered system. People learn very early in life to play their roles in a side and acquire a certain work ethic. Would a captain of Australia be an equally good captain of, say, Pakistan, where you've got to find your way amidst certain chaos and yet motivate a side to do well? Would you require different personalities, do you think different teams demand personalities as leaders?

IC: Why would you worry about this, because somebody who is going to captain Australia is not going to captain Pakistan?

HB: Fair enough, but that kind of character. I mean, for example, a Shahid Afridi kind of character. For all that you know, he might just be the right person for those kind of people. Well, this is just the view from outside...

IC: No, you can't have Afridi as a captain.

HB: Because he bites the cricket ball…

IC: You see, people seem to have forgotten that that's not his first major - and I am talking major - indiscretion. That pirouette that he did in the middle of the pitch [against England in Pakistan]. I mean, you might forgive a guy for once having a brain lock, but two brain locks…

HB: But I am not talking about Afridi as one person, but the kind of person who is sort of ebullient, outgoing, maybe a little mischievous… in a team that requires a slightly mischievous person.

IC: But the problem with Afridi is that he can't control himself, so how can he control the other 10? If I was a Pakistan selector and if anyone came to the selection table and mentioned Afridi's name, then I would say that that name is off the list.

HB: Who are the captains you have admired over the years?

IC: There are some pretty obvious ones. I had great admiration for Imran Khan as a leader. Mark Taylor, I thought, was an excellent captain. But some of the less obvious ones - I thought Mike Gatting was an excellent captain of England. One of the smartest things that Gatting did on that tour of Australia in 1986-87 was that every time Ian Botham started waving his arms around and wanted the fielder moved somewhere, Gatting just turned his back and placed the field that he wanted.

HB: But that's the only reason …

IC: No, that's not the only reason and it's got nothing to do with Botham. Botham was the sort of bowler who needed 16 fielders, because he wanted a fieldsman everywhere the ball was hit. But you can't captain a side that way, because in the end all you are going to be doing is moving fielders to cover bad deliveries. And Gatting was smart enough to realise that you can't captain like that, so he just turned his back on him and placed the field that he wanted.

I thought Arjuna Ranatunga was a terrific captain. I am not just talking of the fact that he won a World Cup. I saw him in a game at Bellerive Oval where he was outgunned. If you listed the two teams there, Australia outgunned Sri Lanka by quite a margin. In fact, Australia really only won the game on the final day in the last session, when they were the only team who were going to win from three and a half days on. But Arjuna kept that side, an outgunned side, in the game for much longer than they had any right to be in the game. So I don't judge captains from their win-loss records.

For instance, Steve Waugh is the most successful Australian captain statistically*. But I think out of the last four Australian captains, Steve Waugh runs fourth in my book. I have got Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting and Allan Border probably about even, depending on which Border you're talking about - when he wanted to be the captain and when he did not want to be the captain. I think Ponting is a bit conservative with his field placings for my liking, but when you think of the turnover... I'm not just talking average Test match players here, I'm talking about the turnover of really top-class guys. And in the case of Warne and Glenn McGrath, two champion bowlers. He has had an enormous turnover of that level of players, and yet he has still kept Australia competitive. He has got to get some credit for that.

He has won two World Cups and two Champions Trophies. I would place Ponting ahead of Steve Waugh as a captain. The reason why I don't rank Steve Waugh very highly is because I think he ran out of ideas pretty quickly. He didn't have to run out of ideas quickly very often because he wasn't under the pump very often. But I saw him run out of ideas. Kolkata, for instance, in 2001. The times that I saw him under the hammer, he did run out of ideas. I have never seen Ricky Ponting run out of ideas.

HB: Mike Brearley?

IC: Well, I think I would say about Mike Brearley that I always thought it was hard enough to win a game when you are playing 11 v 11. Why are you going into the game with 10 v 11?

And the second thing that I would like to say is that Mike Brearley captained against only one decent cricket team, three Test matches, and Australia won all three of them. But then I only played two of those three Test matches, I didn't play against Brearley in the other games. He may have been better than what I ranked him, but from what I saw, he lost 0-3, so he wasn't making a hell of a difference as a captain, and he really wasn't a good enough player to be playing for England. So I don't rank him anywhere near as high as a lot of people do.

"The more you know about yourself, the better off you will be, not just as a cricketer but as a person"

HB: One of the things that I have noticed with Twenty20 cricket over the years, and it's something that fascinates me because we all had a lot of theories, some of which are proved right, some of which are being proved wrong, but one thing that is coming through is that the captain is almost worth two players. The more dynamic a game gets, the more important is the role of the decision-maker. I just get the feeling that Twenty20 is evolving into a captain's game.

IC: Well, there's no surprise there. It was an idiotic suggestion that came out of the Kolkata Knight Riders to have about four different captains. It wouldn't matter whether it is Twenty20, 50 overs, a Test match or playing a backyard match. Multiple leaders was never ever going to work. It was just a ridiculous idea.

It doesn't surprise me one little bit that people are coming to the conclusion that the captain of the Twenty20 game is really important. You think about it - the game can be won or lost in the space of a couple of overs, so why isn't the captain going to be really important? Probably more important in a Twenty20 game than, certainly, a 50-overs game. I wouldn't say more important than a Test match.

HB: There is something that John Buchanan said, though, that has always resonated with me, which is that as the coach, his idea was to make himself redundant. Let's take the personality out of it…

IC: Do you think he really meant that? He never ever…

HB: Let's leave the personality out.

IC: I'm always leaving the personality out. I am making judgements on their ability...

HB: He said that the players were not allowed to come to him with a problem, but with their solution to the problem. So in principle he was suggesting that each player be his own leader, and that you think of your problem before you come to the coach. And that's sound in theory, I thought.

IC: Well, hang on, that's exactly how the game was played when I played. If a guy came to me with a problem, if Terry Jenner came to me with a problem, I would say, "Right, you are a legspinner, let's get Richie Benaud on the phone. We will get him and I will go and sit with you while you are talking to Benaud, because I might learn a bit about legspin bowling." If I had a problem as a batsman, who did I go and see? I go and talk to Greg Chappell, because he was batting against the same bowlers that I was batting against. I am not going to go and talk to some coach who has played three games for Oodnawoopwoop

HB: For whom? [laughs]

IC: Oodnawoopwoop. When I have got in my own team guys who are Test match batsmen, and they are playing against the same bowlers that I am playing against, they are the best coaches.

HB: It begs a large question, with all the academies and all the coaches coming in: are cricketers getting more and more disinclined to think for themselves and relying more on coaches and captains to tell them what to do? So to that extent that theory is right, in the sense that you analyse your problem and you come to me with the solution to your problem. And then we debate the solution.

IC: Probably one of the most important things I was told, and I think I was told this when I was about seven or eight by the old guy who coached me, Lynn Fuller. Lynn said to me, "Son, it doesn't matter how good a coach I am, when you are out in the middle, I can't help you. So the quicker you learn the game for yourself the better off you would be." It was the best advice I got.

And yes, there is a danger that players are going to look for the coach every time they play and miss to figure out what they did wrong. Mate, if you can't work it out when you're out there in the middle… if John Snow is running up, trying to get me out, and if I haven't got a fairly decent clue how he is trying to get me out, then what chance have I got?

This is why I give advice to all the cricketers - know yourself. The more you know about yourself, the better off you would be, not just as a cricketer but as a person in life. Because I have got to know not only what makes things work for me when I am batting but I have also got to know what makes things go wrong. So if I start doing something and I realise that it's wrong, then I have got to know how to correct it. I'd better know when I am out in the middle. Not find out when I get out and go back to the pavilion. Much better if I can work it out while I am out there in the middle.

HB: Why don't we have too many wicketkeeper captains? I think Dhoni is sort of raising the flag in favour of wicketkeeper captains to some extent. But traditionally captains have always been batsmen. I know you had a Benaud, you had an Imran Khan, you had a Warne, who might have been, who was outstanding with Rajasthan Royals. But traditionally, why are batsmen made captains? Is it because when the game is on, the bowler's got too much to think about or the wicketkeeper has got too much going on?

IC: I think it's just a habit. But it does have a bit of logic to it, in that the bowler has a hell of a lot to think about while he is bowling. I think you've got to be a bit of a special type of bowler to succeed as a captain, as Benaud, Imran... and not at Test level, but Geoff Lawson was a very good Sheffield Shield captain for New South Wales.

Wicketkeepers is also a bit of habit. I played a lot of Sheffield Shield cricket against Western Australia when Rod Marsh was the captain of WA, and he was a damn good captain. And he should have captained Australia. When Greg wasn't touring overseas, Rod Marsh should have been the captain of Australia. But that all came about because of poor administration. They did not want two World Series players as captain and vice-captain, so they put Kim Hughes in the middle. And when Greg stopped touring, Kim Hughes became the captain. What a lot of people forget is that if Kim Hughes was any good as captain, then Greg would have never got the job back again. But because of the poor administrative decision, not only did Australia appoint a bad captain, or a poor captain, they lost a very good batsman as well. Kim was a damn fine batsman, but his batting went downhill. So, it was a three-pronged mistake, because you could have had a decent captain in Marsha, you didn't. You had a poor captain, and you lost one of your better batsmen because his batting ability went down.

HB: There are people watching this programme in South Africa, and they might wonder why we haven't talked about Ali Bacher, as a captain purely, because he enjoyed pretty good results.

IC: As I told you before, I don't judge captaincy based on results. Any captain, when you are leading 2-0 comfortably and in the third Test match you have got Australia in deep trouble, and I haven't made a run since Cocky was an egg... I am batting with Doug Walters and we are just starting to get a bit of partnership together, we have gone from 12 for 2 to 100 for 2, and we are well behind in that game, as well as 2-0 behind in the series. And you've suddenly got Trevor Goddard bowling left-arm around the wicket, outside my legs with five guys on the on side. I don't call that good captaincy.

You should never generalise completely, but in case of South African captaincy, it is very conservative.

HB: Is Graeme Smith in the same boat as well, you think?

IC: Well, I think he has evolved a bit more. The idea with South African captaincy basically is, if you've got a couple of quickies, use them, and then you've got these seamers to hold things tight in between times till your real quickies are ready to come back again. So I think they place too high a store on containment, whereas I like captains who are always trying to get the opposition out.

One of the guys I learnt a lot about captaincy from was Ray Illingworth, and I should have mentioned him before when I was talking about captaincy. I had the good fortune to captain against him in my first full series, in 1972. And the most important thing I learnt from Ray was, when you are backing off as a captain, and there always comes a time when you've got to back off, where the opposition is starting to get runs fairly easily and you've got to do something about stopping runs... but what Ray was brilliant at was, he would pull back a little bit but he would never stop letting you know as a batsman that he was trying to get you out. And that was a very important lesson to me.

"Modern captains place too high a priority on saving boundaries"

HB: Is captaincy tiring, mentally? You are constantly thinking all the time, especially if you are on the field. I can understand if you've been put in and there is a partnership going, you can sort of relax a little bit. But if you are on the field the whole day, and if you are constantly thinking if the backward point is a little bit fine, should I get a short leg in, you must be tired at the end of the day?

IC: I think if you've had six hours in the field as a captain and you are not mentally whacked at the end of that, then you have not done your job properly.

HB: How can you then remain a leader off the field? You talked about being captain on the field and a leader off the field. If you are an exhausted captain at the end of the day, can you still be a good leader off the field? Because your mind still has got to be working.

IC: One of the great relaxants in the world is…

HB: It's not what you are drinking at the moment [laughs].

IC: [laughs] It's not what I am drinking at the moment. I have always said that it took me about two hours to leave the dressing room. My creams would come off pretty much straight away as soon as I got in the dressing room. Shirt on, towel around me, and I would sit there and I would have a couple of beers and yap. That was my coming down, unwinding, just relaxing and talking. Half the time, or probably even greater, you are talking rubbish. But in amongst all that, you talk some sense as well. So that was where I used to enjoy. I used to love that time.

HB: Can this be taught - the ability to unwind - or is just part of the natural ingredients of a leader? Can a Michael Clarke look at what a Ricky Ponting does, and say, "Okay, when I become the captain I would learn to unwind like that?"

IC: Well, I was fortunate that I was a drinker. Take a guy like Bill Lawry. If he was batting at stumps, he would come in, change his pads, take a shower, and if the stumps were at six o'clock, he would be gone from the ground, absolutely latest, by 6.15. Bill would not sit around in the dressing room.

When I got the news that I was going to be the captain, I had played under three captains, one for South Australia, Les Favell, and two for Australia, Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry, chronologically. I sat down and went through all the things that I liked about their captaincy and the things that I didn't like, and I tried to not do the things that I didn't like. I tried to incorporate the things that I liked, and then imprint my personality on the game.

So to answer your question, I don't think it would be wise of Michael Clarke to look at Ricky Ponting and say, "That's the way he unwinds and I'm going to do the same." He has got to unwind his own way, and that's not to say that you can't learn things, as I did. I learnt a hell of a lot about captaincy from Bill Lawry, for instance. I thought Bill Lawry was a damn good captain. In Sheffield Shield cricket the hardest runs I made were against Victoria. I learnt a lot about field placing from Bill.

HB: You put a lot of store on mateship, you often talk about drinking together. What if someone isn't built like that? A lot of your stories come around understanding people by sitting and having a drink with them. And understanding people, I guess, is at the heart of good captaincy…

IC: Good leadership.

HB: Yes, good leadership. Because it's off the field, you don't drink on the field. What you drink on the field is what you were drinking sometime back… [laughs]

IC: [laughs] Yes, water.

HB: What if someone is not like that?

IC: Well, all I said to the teams that I captained was, I want you to stay for an hour after play. I don't care what you drink, you can drink whatever you like. If a guy is a non-drinker, you can't say that you've got to sit and drink beer. You've lost the guy straight away. All I asked for was to hang around for an hour. I didn't say that they had to go into the opposition's dressing room when it was time for Australia to go into their dressing room. But if you go in as a captain, then you're giving them more than a gentle hint that it would be nice if they came in as well.

I have never had any curfews, and I have always said to people, "Why do I need to have curfews when you have got the selectors?" But I am the captain of Australia. If I am in the bar drinking, and if it's 11 o'clock and I put my beer down and say, "See you later, guys, I'm going," that's also a fair hint that if it's time for me to go to bed, then it's probably about time for them too. I didn't expect Doug Walters…

HB: [laughs] Yes, he has given up smoking, though.

IC: Yes, he has. I did not expect Doug Walters to be the next guy out of the bar following me. But I expected that he might be banging on my door at about five to three wanting a chat [laughs].

HB: Do you think that modern captains have got their hands full? Do you need to be different kind of captain in Twenty20, ODIs or is it really the same thing?

IC: Yes, I think it's certainly tougher as a captain now. You've got the different varieties of the game, and I think there is much more involvement of the media. And the media also plays a much bigger role in the game than when I was captain. But one of the problems with the modern captain is that they place too high a priority on saving boundaries. My order of priority is wickets, way up there, right at the top by miles; saving singles next, quite a distance down; and then, way down, saving boundaries. That's one thing that I would say to them.

The other thing is that with all the jobs that the captain is required to do nowadays, the one thing that I would say, if I was advising any young captain, is never delegate anything that is going to impinge on winning or losing the game. You can delegate all you like, but if it's going to have an effect on you winning or losing the game, then don't delegate that, you be in charge of that.

HB: When is your book on captaincy coming out?

IC: No, no…

HB: You owe it to the game. The game has given you a lot.

IC: Sure, the game has given me a lot, but no. I remember somebody from my club Glenelg, when I was younger, still playing, said something about how I owed it to Glenelg. My answer to that was, "So you mean Glenelg picked me when I really wasn't good enough to get into that team?" Which is rubbish. The only reason Glenelg picked me was because I was good enough to get in the team.

I am quite aware of my responsibility to the game of cricket. I have gained a lot of things from the game of cricket, but writing a book on captaincy... well, it will be about two pages.

"I was cursing Tendulkar"

HB: The only thing that I have not understood about you over the years is: you enjoy cricket, it's a real game. I have not understood why you enjoy that other slogathon...

IC: Baseball?

HB: Yes

IC: Baseball is a great game. I was fortunate in an era in Australia where you had winter baseball and cricket in the summer. Nowadays it's summer baseball as well.

HB: And even cricket is played 10 months of a year.

IC: Yes, and because you have summer baseball, you can't play both even if you wanted to. But I could, and I had an equal love for baseball as I had for cricket.

HB: That's continued in Australia - you've got an American baseball coach helping your cricket team out.

IC: To me that was an indication of John Buchanan's lack of knowledge of the game of cricket. Australia had just lost Ian Healy, Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh. Your catching cordon is not going to improve when you lose those three guys, three top-of-the range catchers behind the wicket, and Australia started dropping catches in that area behind the wicket. So Buchanan went to the board and said that we need to improve our fielding, when what he should have been saying is that we need to improve our catching.

Now Youngy [Mike Young], far and away, is the best Australian baseball coach that the country has ever had. But Youngy has caught the ball all his life with one hand and with the glove.

I will go in order. You've got guys like Bob Simpson, the best slip fielder that I have seen; Greg Chappell; you've got Mark Taylor, you've got Mark Waugh. Any of those guys, you could have got those guys in to talk to fellows about catching in the slips. But Buchanan was able to get Youngy in there because the Australian cricket board as it was then, the administrators, didn't understand the game properly. If Don Bradman had been on the board, for instance, and Buchanan had gone forward with that idea, then Bradman would have said, "Mate, it's rubbish. What we need is somebody to tell them how to catch in the slips."

HB: Do you look back at your career and say that there is unfinished business?

IC: For me personally? I wouldn't have retired.

HB: Somebody you want to see in the game?

IC: Yes…

HB: I don't expect you to turn up and play No. 3 for Australia tomorrow morning.

IC: No, no. One of my great regrets in life will be that I didn't see Virender Sehwag's innings at the Brabourne stadium.

I remember the day Barry Richards made 300 in Perth. I remember sitting there late in the afternoon, and I was thinking, "Damn it, I have never seen anyone make 300 in a day, but I am just going to fall short today because Barry is going to get about 280 if he bats the whole day." At about that point, he suddenly got a move on and he went to 325. Great, I have seen somebody actually make 300 in a day, which is one of the special things that happen in the game of cricket, because it happens so rarely.

I was doing the commentary in Multan [in 2004] and Sehwag was absolutely going. And I reckon if Sachin Tendulkar hadn't come in and steadied Sehwag down, I reckon he might not have quite got 300 that day, but he would have got damn close. He got 224 or 228 by stumps. But I was cursing Tendulkar…

HB: [laughs]

IC: I was saying, "Stay down your end, keep away from Sehwag, just let him go." Because I think when a guy is in that mood, just let him go.

HB: Do you keep track of how many matches you have played and how many you have watched, and therefore gross number, because you still get excited. I see you at cricket matches and you come up in the morning and you still get excited watching cricket, and I hope that never stops.

IC: Well, so do I; and I think I am a very fortunate person that I have been able to work in a job where you really love going to work. People ask me whether I get sick of it, do I get bored, to which I reply, "Mate, I could have easily been working down the coal mine. And this is much better than working down the coal mine."

I sit down there as a commentator, and the thing that I enjoy is captaining both sides in my mind.

HB: You still are?

IC: Yes, I am captaining both sides, as to what Australia could do when they are down… I think it's part of my job as a commentator to try and tell people that. For a number of reasons. One, it's my job, but two, I think rather than bang people over the head and say, "This is exciting, you should stay and watch that"... If I am sitting at home in my lounge and some commentator says to me that this is exciting and you should stay and watch, I would say, "Mate, you let me be the judge of what I think is exciting and whether I am going to stay and watch."

You could do it subtly by saying, "Ricky Ponting is having a bit of trouble with the hook shot at the moment and Kemar Roach has got him in trouble with that short one, and I think you will find somewhere in the next over coming up Kemar Roach will probably try get one straight at Ponting so that the hook shot gets in the air."

Stuff like that. Now hopefully the guy sitting in the lounge is watching either to see if that happens, and if doesn't happen then he is going to say, "That dope Chappell, he doesn't know what he is talking about." But you are giving the viewer a reason to continue watching the game, a subtle reason, and not banging him on the head: "Mate, this is going to be exciting."

HB: Good to talk to you. I am delighted that you enjoy watching the game, because sometimes you can watch the game and as a former captain you can say that I know it all and get cynical. Or you can say that the game is never as good as it was in my era, which a lot of former cricketers get into. I hope you continue to be as refreshing and enjoy just talking about the game.

IC: Well, I love the game and you should never think that you know it all because you will be surprised every day you go to the cricket.

HB: Can I give you a word of advice, though?

IC: Yes, sure.

HB: Do come in five or 10 minutes late sometimes, it will make me feel a lot better.

IC: [laughs]

HB: There you are. It's always great fun to talk to Ian Chappell, not just on the issue of captaincy but generally on his observations on the game. The next time I sit in the commentary box with Ian Chappell, I am actually going to sit and see if he is gesticulating about where the field should be. That's part of the fun of being with Ian Chappell.

*second most successful

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by RohanHNair on (May 15, 2010, 17:54 GMT)

Interesting interview. One can't help but notice though that most of Chappell's stories and experiences have come from series/matches against England, NZ, as well as from within Australia itself. Is that simply because these teams played each other a lot more than they played the sub-continental teams back in those days? Or is it simply that Chappell acknowledges that there are cultural differences and leaves it as an area he wouldn't really understand? Early in the interview for instance Harsha asks Chappell what kind of a captain a country like Pakistan needs given that the system is a lot less ordered, but Chappell doesn't bite.

I also can't help thinking that because of the way the game has tilted towards the subcontinent especially India these days (tournaments-players-media-audiences), it will be very difficult to get frank opinions from people (Chappell included?) on what they think of anything to do with cricket in India.

Posted by Vinit_Sharma_Singh on (May 15, 2010, 14:38 GMT)

I find it extremely interesting that the very first question in this interview summed up the difference between India and Australia, and why India has a history of failure & will continue to be failures in the future, and why Australia is a consistent model of success: Harsha guessed that if Ian had to pick one thing he remembered most it would be never losing a Test series as captain, whereby Ian replied "No, it's things as a team that you remember mostly." Therein lies the contrast in fundamental attitudes of the 2 nations: India is obsessed with individual feats & meaningless records etc whilst Australia's sole focus is team success. India is more concerned about Tendulkar breaking a token record, whereas Australia is concerned with winning the game. I just found it absolutely fascinating for this to be so perfectly illustrated in the very first dialogue between Ian & Harsha.

Posted by Clavian on (May 15, 2010, 5:02 GMT)

Really good interview. Two of the better commentators in the game today who really speak their mind in the commentary box and assesses performances very well. In the last video, I hope he was having a dig at Shastri/Morrison/Gavaskar because they were pathetic in the IPL.

Posted by sudarsh44 on (May 14, 2010, 20:31 GMT)

Was somehow never been a fan of Ian Chappel, felt he was very a very biased commentator and analyst. But offlate (thanks to my ex colleague, a big fan of Ian) i rate Ian as the best cricket analyst and an 'Expert'.. After reading this article, which according to me is the best i ve read , i ve become a huge fab of him,,Brilliant analysis and i feel he wud be a better coach than his bro and Team India needs currently a coach like him. I think Dhoni and Ian Chappell would make a terrific combination as both these gentlemen ve astute cricketing brain!!! Both ve lots of similarities, Calm in nature, excellent captain and they want a spade to be called a spade..Hope one day they both work together, if not for India atleast for CSK :)

Posted by kiwifascist on (May 14, 2010, 6:11 GMT)

Is Ian Chappell mad re Brearley's captaincy. Does he not remember Botham's Ashes when Brearley one three and drew one against Australia after Botham had led England to a loss and a draw?

Posted by ianChappellFan on (May 13, 2010, 21:24 GMT)

awesome! I prefer Jack welch over Stephen Covey and I prefer Ian Chappell over John Buchanan.They might not sound as philosophical but they say things that really matter in real life, and they know because they have done it themselves.

Posted by RajaSw on (May 13, 2010, 20:53 GMT)

This is easily one of the best (possibly the best) interviews I have ever read on cricinfo. I have been following cricket for the last 36 years and get a wonderful sense of history in this interview with Ian. Besides this, what I like is that Ian says it as he sees it. No sugar-coating. I agree with almost everything he says here but even if I had not, I respect his clear take on things. People have made captaincy/leadership a complicated science. Ian gets to the guts of it and sheds it of its mystique. I loved his take on Buchanan, on catching, on wicket-taking being top of a captain's list...on practically everthing. Just one hell of a wonderful interview. One piece of feedback for Harsha : Please do not interfere when the interviewee is speaking. Thanks, cricinfo, for this wonderful piece. It is so refreshing in all the noise that we hear nowadays. Ian, I am a big fan of yours. Have been since 1974-75 (when we got the "bastards" back ;-) ).

Posted by kool_Indian on (May 13, 2010, 20:44 GMT)

@ Satish Shankar - bhai saab, I agree with your comment on Dhoni about qualifying for the semis. But how does it help by banning IPL - think practically and logically bhai. Its the players responsibility to be fresh and give 100% when you are playing for the country - I clearly felt that intensity was missing. But let me correct you on 'India is protecting their #1 Test status by NOT PLAYING Test matches' - dude, appreciate the BCCI when it is due. They requested SA tests when it wasnt in FTP and now are requesting Aus for more tests when they are going to tour India in Oct this year. India is trying to protect the #1 ranking by trying to play more tests now. Please get the grip on things before blasting unnecessarily. BTW - the interview was really good, the points given by Mr. Ian can be applied to every field of our life. Very Good read - Thanks to Harsha and ESPN Cricinfo!

Posted by jakecricfan on (May 13, 2010, 19:10 GMT)

Great interview! Ian has always spoken his mind and this was no exception. It would be brilliant if there are more interviews with the greats like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Imran Khan, Richie Benaud and so on. I would love to hear Viv's thoughts on what he felt was the weakest link in his batting or how Clive Lloyd managed to get the best out of most of his team. I look forward to more such terrific interviews! Hope all the modern day captains are reading this.

Posted by gravapine on (May 13, 2010, 18:27 GMT)

Cricket in its short form is expected to be more unpredictable. But here also it is going in the same predictable line. We all need to appreciate the Australian team. No matter what ever it is, 5 day, 1 day, quarter day game T20) they have shown that they are the best team in the world. Even an unseansoned captain also doesn'tt maje any difference. Their focus, commitment, planning is relentless. Honestly it is not good for cricket.Other teams in the workd should be ashamed of this. Iam very disappointed with the showing of South Africa, India in the series. We need more competitive teams like Australia which can take to the next level. Thats why i want to see England winning this tournament. I am joining barmy army.

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.
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