Even among the many outstanding talents that Australia have produced, Greg Chappell remains special. He achieved fabulous numbers as a batsman, scoring over 7000 runs in Tests and more than 1400 in the World Series Supertests at 50-plus averages, but with Chappell, the process was as fulfilling as the outcome: his sheer grace and technical excellence at the crease meant watching him bat was an exhilarating experience, no matter how many he scored. His all-round strokeplay helped him adjust to the demand of one-day internationals quite easily too, as he averaged more than 40 and scored three hundreds in 74 games.
There were more arrows to his bow, though. With his medium pace he took 47 Test wickets - including a solitary five-wicket haul in Sydney against Pakistan - and 72 ODI ones. Chappell also led Australia in 48 Tests, of which they won 21, and held 122 catches, mostly in the slips, where he excelled.
It was as a batsman, however, that he truly stood out. A feat he will forever he remembered for is scoring hundreds in his first and last Test matches. He started with a bang, scoring 108 against England in Perth, and finished even more emphatically, with 182 against Pakistan in Sydney. Only three others - Reggie Duff and Bill Ponsford of Australia, and India's Mohammad Azharuddin - have achieved this feat, but Chappell remains the only one to have batted just one innings in each of those matches. His last knock helped him go past Don Bradman's Australian record for most Test runs and made him the first from his country to the 7000-mark, while the three catches he took made him the most prolific catcher among non-wicketkeepers.
The Chappell name was a familiar one for Australians even before Greg entered the scene - his brother Ian was already an established Test player - and Greg ensured he lived up to expectations right from his debut. In fact, one of the features of his career was his consistency: in the 12 calendar years in which he played more than one Test, he averaged more than 40 in every year except his first; in 21 series of three or more Tests, only five times did his average dip below 40. Similarly his record against and in each country was wonderfully consistent: his lowest average against an opposition was 45.94, versus England; against everyone else it exceeded 50. His lowest in a country was again in England (40.80); in every other country it was more than 48.
Thanks to his consistency, Chappell's cumulative stats graphs show no major peaks or troughs. After 44 Tests his average was 55.78, and it stayed within the narrow band between 52.50 and 56 through the rest of his career. Chappell himself believed that World Series Cricket toughened him considerably and made him a better cricketer, but in terms of averages the difference was negligible.
Throughout his career Chappell had a sense for the big occasion. The hundred on debut is the obvious example, but his next century came in his debut innings at Lord's: a fine 131, the only hundred of the match, which helped Australia to an eight-wicket win. It was to be his only Test century in eight innings at the ground. When he took over as captain, Chappell celebrated by scoring 123 and 109 not out in another eight-wicket win, this time against West Indies at the Gabba. Four years later, when he returned from Packer exile, Chappell nearly repeated the feat against the same opponents at the same ground, scoring 74 and 124.
Despite playing during a period when there were several high-quality bowlers around, Chappell finished with an average of almost 54. During the 15 years he played, only one batsman - Pakistan's Javed Miandad - scored more than 4000 runs at a higher average. How tough batting was in that era can be gleaned from the fact that only five batsmen scored more than 4000 runs at an average of more than 50.
With his brother Ian, Greg Chappell was part of a formidable Australian batting combination at Nos. 3 and 4. In the 43 matches they played together, the two Chappells amassed more than 7000 runs at a combined average of 52.10, with 23 centuries between them. At The Oval in 1972, they became the first pair of brothers to score hundreds in the same innings of a Test, when Ian made 118 and Greg 113 in a five-wicket win. Less than two years later, in Wellington, they became the first pair of brothers to score centuries in each innings of a Test, with Greg scoring 247 not out and 133, and Ian 145 and 121.
Through much of his career Greg batted at No. 4, and it was clearly the position that brought out the best in him. He batted at No. 3 on 38 occasions, mostly after Ian retired, but only managed an average of 43.39, with five hundreds and as many ducks, including two golden ones in successive Tests when he was in the midst of a terrible slump in 1981-82.
As a No. 4 batsman, though, his stats were outstanding, as he scored more than 4300 runs at an average of almost 60. In the entire history of Test cricket only two batsmen - Jacques Kallis and Mahela Jayawardene - have scored 4000-plus runs at a higher average. Among Australian No. 4 batsmen, Greg clearly has the best stats: Mark Waugh has scored more runs but at an average of less than 43, while Allan Border's eight hundreds in 88 innings compare poorly with Greg's 15 in 86.
As mentioned earlier, Chappell began his captaincy stint with a century in each innings, and thereafter maintained a pretty high level with the bat, not allowing the extra burden to impact his run-making ability. In the 48 Tests he captained in, Chappell averaged more than 55; in the 39 Tests when he didn't lead, he averaged less than 52. Chappell is one of only seven batsmen to score more than 4000 runs as captain, and among those seven only Brian Lara has a higher average.
Of the 87 Tests he played, Australia won 38, and in those games Chappell's contributions were immense: he scored more than 3500 runs at an average exceeding 70. Like in his overall Test career, his first and last innings in wins were also centuries. As the table below shows, his numbers in wins are among the best in the game.
Forty percent of the Tests Chappell played were against traditional rivals England. He had his share of victories in those battles, scoring five hundreds in the 13 Tests Australia won, but overall his stats against England were slightly below par: against an overall average of almost 54, his average against England slipped to under 46 overall, and to 40.80 in England. Not surprisingly the two bowlers who dismissed him most often are both from England - Derek Underwood (13) and Bob Willis (nine). Despite those relatively average stats, Chappell remains the fifth-highest run-getter for Australia against England, and only Steve Waugh and Don Bradman have more centuries against them.
His other great battles came against the pace attack of West Indies, including some of his best and worst moments. In the home series in 1975-76, Chappell scored 702 runs at an average of 117; his aggregate is the highest by an Australian in a series against West Indies, and the fourth-highest by any batsman against them. In 1981-82, though, the story was completely different, as Chappell managed 86 runs in six innings, which included two first-ball ducks. That was easily his worst performance in a series.
Chappell's battles against the West Indies pace attack extended beyond the Test scene; he tackled them in the Supertests in World Series Cricket as well, and performed superbly. In 14 matches he averaged more than 56, which was significantly more than any other Australian batsman.
Chappell's move to Queensland from South Australia in 1973-74 helped his new home state enormously, but another huge benefit was that it familiarised him with the conditions at the Gabba, the Test venue in Queensland. In seven Tests there, he struck five centuries and four fifties. Only Bradman scored more than 1000 runs at a higher average at a single venue. However, at the Adelaide Oval, the Test venue for South Australia, Chappell struggled, scoring only one century in 19 innings, and averaging less than 36. It was clearly his least favourite, in terms of numbers, of all home venues.
Chappell played only 74 ODIs, but was clearly at home in the format. His tally of 2331 runs doesn't seem like a lot today, but when he played his last game, in April 1983, he was the leading run-getter in the format, and the only one with more than 2000 runs. Both his average (40.18) and his strike rate (75.70) were very acceptable too. Arguably his finest ODI innings was at The Oval, in a challenging run-chase: England scored 242 in a 55-over game, and Chappell's unbeaten 125 guided Australia home with two wickets and 10 balls to spare. Apart from opener Richie Robinson, who scored 70, no other batsman scored more than 12, but Chappell stayed firm even as wickets fell around him.
He could be pretty useful with the ball too, as the Indians found out in Sydney in 1981, when Chappell's spell of 5 for 15 skittled them out for 63. The fact that he won nine Man-of-the-Match awards in 74 ODIs indicates just how comfortable he was with the format. Chappell also led Australia to 21 wins in 49 ODIs, and he performed much better when he led (average 45.21) than when he didn't (30.65), but his ODI captaincy will probably only be remembered for that underarm incident in Melbourne in 1981, when he instructed his brother, Trevor, to roll the ball along the ground when New Zealand needed seven off one ball.