Ian Chappell was born on 26th September 1943 and is widely regarded as one of Australia’s greatest ever Test captains. He was also a fine batsman, particularly at the number 3 position and after retirement became a great broadcaster famous for calling it like he sees it, and using his cricketing knowledge and acumen to enrich the experience for the viewer. Chappell was born into a cricketing family with his grandfather, Victor Richardson, representing and captaining Australia. His 2 younger brothers, Greg and Trevor also played cricket for Australia.
Ian played in 75 Tests and scored 5345 runs at a batting average of 42.42, with 14 centuries and 26 fifties. That record may not seem all that great but a closer inspection reveals certain truths. As a captain, Chappell led in 30 Tests and scored 2550 runs at a batting average of 50. Just as a player, he scored 2795 runs from 45 Tests at a batting average of 37.26. He was one of those players who was buoyed by the pressures of captaincy and he reveled with the extra burden averaging nearly 13 runs more when he led the side, rather than just as a player. Chappell was also an excellent number 3 for Australia, as he was versatile enough to defend and consolidate his team’s position if they lost an early wicket, and also possessed a complete array of strokes to put his team in the ascendancy if they got off to a good start. Chappell scored 4279 runs at 50.94 at the number 3 position with 13 centuries and 22 fifties. He is one of only 12 batsmen who have scored a minimum of 3000 Test runs at number 3 with an average in excess of 50. His astute captaincy and excellent broadcasting career should not take away the fact that he was a fine batsman at the Test level.
In 1963-64, Ian Chappell first batted at number 3 for South Australia in a match against Queensland at Brisbane and scored an unbeaten 205. He was the youngest member of the team that won the Sheffield Shield that season. In the next season, Ian scored a century against Victoria and that earned him a place in the Australia Test side against Pakistan at Melbourne in December 1964. Ian did not make much of an impression with the bat and scored just 11, but took 4 catches and was subsequently dropped from the Test side. At that stage of his career, Ian used to augment his aggressive batting and brilliant fielding, by bowling leg-spin. At this juncture, the selectors and the Aussie skipper, Bob Simpson considered him as an all-rounder ie someone who could bat at number 6 or 7, and chip in with a few overs of leg-spin. In his early days, Ian was a compulsive hooker and used to get out quite often playing the shot. His skipper, Simpson, advised him to give up playing the shot.
In spite of the relative quiet start to his international career, Ian was selected for Australia’s 1968 tour of Australia and that turned out to be the watershed moment of his career. He vindicated the Australian selectors faith in him by scoring the most First Class runs in the tour and also topping the Australian Test aggregate runs for the tour by scoring 348 runs at 43.5.
Ian had a bit of trouble facing the short-pitched bowling of John Snow and after a conversation with Don Bradman decide to once again start playing the hook shot. Even though he still used to get out occasionally playing the shot, by the time of his retirement he became known as one of the best players of this particular shot. He used to hook all the West Indian quicks and even Jeff Thomson on occasion.
Ian Chappell lost his very first Test as captain, against England at Sydney in February 1971. However, he was unbeaten as captain in a further 7 Test series, which is a tribute to his tactical acumen and his leadership skills. In 1972, Australia toured England for a 5 Test series, with many English critics calling the team the worst ever Australian side to tour England. Australia managed a very creditable 2-2 draw in the series and a lot of credit for that could be attributed to Chappell’s shrewd leadership and marshalling of resources. Chappell was ruthless in his selection of the team and he dropped his best mate Doug Walters for the last Test at the Oval as Doug was out of form. He picked the best XI on cricketing merit and form without indulging in any personal bias.
Even though Chappell played just 16 ODIs in his career, he managed to make a mark in this short span. He scored 673 runs at 48.07, at a batting strike rate of 77, which was considered exceptional in his era. He played in the first ever ODI, against England, and top scored for Australia with 60. He also led Australia in the first ever World Cup and in the final, West Indies had posted an imposing total of 291/8 in their 60 overs. In reply, Australia were in the hunt, until Ian was at the crease. When he was run out brilliantly by Vivian Richards for 62, Australia’s challenge faded away. While Ian was considered a good Test player, there is no doubt that he would have been all-time great batsman in ODIs as he was a naturally quick scorer and the format would have suited him to a tee.
Chappelli, as he is fondly known is not one to shy away from verbal confrontation and is openly critical of many players whose style of playing, or personality irks him. He does not have an ounce of diplomacy and passes provocative opinions without fear of censure, or any possible repercussions. He has clashed with Sir Don Bradman and had a famous altercation with Sir Ian Botham. One of the things that endeared Chappelli to the players under his watch was the fact that he did not ask them to do anything that he himself wouldn’t do and that he was always willing to go to bat for his players against the administrators. He was always willing to negotiate with the establishment for better conditions of employment and payment. Prior to Chappelli’s reign as captain, the relationship between Australian cricket’s administrators in the Board and its players used to be akin to that of a servant and his master. Chappelli’s no-nonsense approach and willingness to take a firm stance played a key role in helping future generations of Aussie cricketers getting better treatment and better pay packages from the ACB and dealing with the administrators on an equal footing.
World Series Cricket
World Series Cricket (WSC) played a huge role in changing the way cricket is played and all current players who earn much more than their predecessors did, owe a lot to Ian Chappell, who had a lot to do with the event coming to fruition. Chappell’s participation was, fundamental to the credibility of the enterprise. Chappell devised the list of Australian players to be signed, and he was involved in the organization and marketing of WSC. His central role was the result of years of personal disaffection with cricket officialdom, in particular Don Bradman. Chappell wrote,” While captaining Australia, I was approached on three separate occasions before WSC to play 'professional' cricket, and each time I advised the entrepreneurs to meet the appropriate cricket board because they controlled the grounds. On each occasion, the administrators sent the entrepreneurs packing and it quickly became clear they weren't interested in a better deal for the players. That's why I say the players didn't stab the ACB in the back. The administrators had numerous opportunities to reach a compromise but displayed little interest in the welfare of the players. It wasn't really surprising then that more than 50 players from around the world signed lucrative WSC contracts and a revolution was born. About half of the WSC players were from Australia and this high ratio can, in part, be attributed to Bradman's tight-fisted approach to the ACB's money.
As mentioned earlier, Chappelli has been involved in a lot of altercations with famous players. The most famous of those involved the legendary English all-rounder Ian Botham. Both men give differing versions of the story. Botham says that he was drinking in a bar in Melbourne and Chappell was indulging in a lot of trash talk and making derogatory comments against England. Botham said that he gave Chappell 3 warnings and when the latter refused to heed those warnings, he threw a punch that made Chappell collide with a group of Aussie Rules footballers. Botham further adds that he chased Chappell out of the bar but pulled back when he saw a police car. Chappell has a different version of the story and says that Botham held a beer bottle to his cheek and threatened to cut him from ear to ear, an allegation which Botham denies. Even though this alleged incident happened in 1977, the bad blood between the two of them still remains and both of them still stick to their version of their story.
Chappell has also been a staunch critic of Steve Waugh’s batting and his captaincy. Even though Waugh has a very good record winning 41 and losing just 9 out of his 57 Tests as captain, Chappell felt that he ran out of ideas very quickly in the field and that it is a mistake to judge a captain purely on the basis of his Win-Loss record. Even though Steve Waugh had the best Win-Loss ratio as captain amongst Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Waugh himself, Chappell calls him the worst captain out of the 5 and claims that Steve was a selfish batsman and an unimaginative captain. In his biography, Chappelli Speaks Out, written by Ashley Mallett, Ian said that each and every innings of Steve Waugh was the same and that he would much rather watch Mark Waugh bat than Steve. When Steve Waugh was made captain in 1999, Ian had this to say on Steve,” I think he's been a selfish cricketer. I've always felt that the things you do as a player leading up to getting the captaincy do have an effect on how players perceive you. I've had the feeling that a selfish player when he becomes captain gets a little less out of his players than someone who is not selfish.
In spite of Steve’s success as captain, Chappelli felt that Shane Warne should have been made captain and was openly critical of some of Waugh’s decisions. On his part, Steve Waugh had this to say, “Ian Chappell always sweated on my blunders and reported them with an 'I told you so' mentality. To say Chappell's criticism irked me would be an understatement, though I knew that, like anyone, he was entitled to an opinion. I don't mind the fact he criticized me — in fact, I would much rather someone make a judgment than not, but I have always felt that a critic must be either constructive or base his comments on fact. It was something I had to live with, and when I realised he was never going to cut me much slack, I decided anything he said that was positive would be a bonus and the rest just cast aside. “
The Australian teams led by Chappell in the 1970s, were called the ugly Aussies. Chappell confesses that he used to be a frequent user of profanity but claims that there was never any premeditation in those altercations or any deliberate attempt to unsettle his opponents. He insists that it was more a case of losing his temper with an opponent in the heat of the moment. He also added that he would rather have a team that was called Ugly Aussies or even anything more uncharitable, rather than having his team called a bunch of nice blokes in the field.
Chappell was inducted in the Sports Australia Hall of Fame in 1986, the FICA Cricket Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in 2003. On 9th July 2009, Chappell was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.
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