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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

This one's for Jeanne

In praise of a thoroughbred mother

Ian Chappell

September 9, 2012

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The Chappell brothers with their parents, Martin and Jeanne, December 1980
Trevor, Greg and Ian Chappell with their parents in December 1980 Brian Ferguson / © The Sunday Observer
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If Jeanne had been a racehorse she would have commanded a hefty breeding price. My mother was sired by an Australian cricket captain and she then produced two of that breed and a third son, Trevor, who also wore the baggy green cap.

Meat Loaf might have been happy with two out of three, but not Jeanne. All the same, she wouldn't be impressed by me saying she was worthy of a high fee. She was happiest with family and friends around her, having a good time. You know your mother loves you when she admits: "If any of you three boys ever commit a murder I'll still stick by you."

No crime was ever contemplated; I only had to recall the belting I got once for not tying my shoelaces properly to refrain from any confrontation with the law. While my father Martin's form of discipline bordered on bribery ("Son, if you don't behave yourself I won't take you to the cricket/baseball/football"), Jeanne preferred a good old-fashioned whack on the backside. Martin's form of mental anguish worked because I often thought to myself, "Please Dad, just belt me."

Martin encouraged us to play sport but Jeanne also contributed greatly to our achievements. She spent a lifetime at cricket matches. Growing up, she followed her father, Vic Richardson, and then as an adult, she traipsed from ground to ground supporting her three boys. How she must have yearned for more matches like the two the three of us brothers played together at the Adelaide Oval - one where the three of us represented South Australia, and the other when Greg had moved to Queensland.

The first season Greg made the move, I returned home from South Australia's encounter at the Gabba and rang Jeanne. After the usual pleasantries I told her: "You'll be surprised to hear Greg and I had an argument about ten minutes into the game." Her wry sense of humour shone through when she replied; "What took you so long?"

Her happiest day was when the stands bearing her married name were unveiled at the Adelaide Oval right next to the gates commemorating her father's achievements. She stood proudly on the ground with her three boys.

In addition to her positive encouragement I learnt from her to value money but not worship it, and to judge people purely on their behaviour. I also inherited her trait of speaking your mind; if some people think I can be blunt and stubborn, they should've met Jeanne. When I was captain, an Australian cricket administrator complained about how difficult I was to deal with. I told him, "Mate you're lucky." When he asked what I meant, I replied: "You could be dealing with my mother."

Jeanne, and Martin for that matter, both professed to treat all three boys equally. They lived up to that admirable sentiment except in one area. When Greg and I used to engage in our highly competitive backyard Test matches, they would quite often degenerate into heated arguments. Jeanne would come storming out of the kitchen and demand to know what was going on.

"This little so-and-so nicked one," I would pipe up, "and he won't go out." The prototype third umpire would then respond not with a red light; instead, I'd be told firmly: "Well, dear, he's younger, so let him stay in."

There was another occasion when cricket and I collaborated to cause Jeanne a bit of aggravation. On the 1972 tour of England, Australia played Northants prior to the fifth Test. I was more concerned with the upcoming Test match and played what Doug Walters described as "a wild village yahoo" to be bowled early in my innings. Following my dismissal, I delivered some signed miniature bats to Martin, who was sitting in the crowd. When I handed him the bats, he said, "Nice shot, son." Aroused by his sarcasm, I angrily responded: "Piss off, Martin, I'll get my head down on Thursday when it matters," and stormed off.

When Greg and I made centuries on the following Friday at The Oval, it was in front of both parents. By the time I reached the tent for a drink after play, Jeanne must have had a couple of gin-and-tonics to celebrate. She came rushing up to me as I came through the door. "Well done, darling," she said, as she planted a kiss on my cheek, "you were right." Martin was quickly at her side and responded angrily: "You don't have to bloody well agree with him." I can't imagine she lost that disagreement.

Despite her directness, or maybe because of it, Jeanne had plenty of admirers. I've lost count of the nurses and carers who told me, "Your Mum's a character."

Sadly her health deteriorated following a fall in her 92nd year, which resulted in a broken hip. It was heartbreaking to see her in such pain, but right to the end she was stubborn. In one of her final lucid moments, surrounded by family, she suddenly sat bolt upright and asked: "Who's dying?"

She was a stayer to the end. That might have added to her value as a horse, but Jeanne was happy just being a thoroughbred mother.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

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Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

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