Cricket has never been a gentleman’s game, but when he captained the Australian team, Ian Chappell, now 70, turned the sport into gang warfare.
The irascible and uncompromising Chappell presided over an era when our Test team took no prisoners. He unleashed bowling fireballs Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, leaving them in no doubt that as well as shattering a rival’s wicket, they had carte blanche to also break his foot, arm or head.
But Chappell was much more than a bully, he was a gritty – the great cricket pundit John Arlott called him “a cricketer of effect rather than the graces” – top order batsman, who averaged 42.42 in his 75 Tests, and captained Australia 30 times in official Tests against England, West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand between 1970-75 for 15 wins, five losses and 10 draws. He was also an astute tactician and a natural leader of men.
It’s said Chappell’s teams, who included, as well as Lillee and Thomson, all time greats Greg Chappell, Doug Walters and Rod Marsh, would have died for him.
In recent times he has been asked to sum up his philosophy of captaincy: “Although we didn’t deliberately set out to be a bunch of bastards when we walked on to the field, I’d much prefer any team I captained to be described like that than as ‘a nice bunch of blokes on the field.’
“As captain of Australia my philosophy was simple: between 11.00am and 6.00pm there was no time to be a nice guy. I believed that on the field players should concentrate on giving their best to the team, to themselves and to winning; in other words, playing hard and fairly within the rules. To my mind, doing all that left no time for being a nice guy.”
Another time he mused: “Respect is vital to a captain. He must earn it in three categories: as a player, as a human being and finally as a leader. If a captain achieves those aims and complements them with a good knowledge of the game which he applies with common sense and a dash of daring, and he’s endowed with a reasonable share of luck, he’s on the way to a rating of excellent. If he also has very good players around him, then there’s no stopping the guy.”
If you watch the video, skip the first couple of minutes for the Chappell strokeplay: