It's a poor
general who blames his troops for failure in battle.
Has Indian cricket heard the last of Greg Chappell? One would have to
say `not likely going by latest developments. The praise given to the
former Indian coach by the BCCI president Sharad Pawar and the offer of
an advisory post so that he could be associated with the Boards long
term plans are indications that the former Australian captains links
with Indian cricket may continue.
Chappell has not yet hinted that he
would take up the offer. For the sake of Indian cricket it is hoped
that he doesnt for he did more harm than good during the 22 months he
was the coach.
In the aftermath of Indias World Cup debacle even while Chappell took
his share of the criticism there were many who defended him saying that
he could not go out and play for the cricketers so it was really the
cricketers who were at fault. My own feeling has always been that
Chappell failed in his role as a motivator and as an inspiring father
figure. That is a coachs main role. Given Chappells exalted status as
one of the all time great batsmen he was an unmitigated failure and
this was proved by results which I shall come to shortly.
From the time he assumed charge Chappell started striking the wrong
chords. He came through as a high headed individualistic personality
with dictatorial tendencies. He got Sourav Ganguly out of the way when
it was obvious that he and the Indian captain would not see eye to eye
on cricketing matters concerning the team. He then found an ally in the
less assertive and mild-mannered Rahul Dravid who succeeded Ganguly.
But could Dravid, the gentleman cricketer, manage to keep the ambitions
of a megalomaniac personality like Chappell under control?
Chappell by this time had worked out his strategy for Indian cricket.
Overall this constituted plans that were hailed in some circles as
"fresh and innovative'' and derided by others as "alien and fanciful".
Chappell however was determined to put his agenda into action and over
the next few months emerged as the chief architect of Indian cricket
complete with the positives and negatives. At the start of the 2006-07
season it was obvious that he had emerged as the dominant figure. The
captain was no longer in charge, it was the coach who was controlling
the fortunes of Indian cricket.
Chappell's experiments to an extent seemed understandable. But when he
overdid them eyebrows were raised more so because the balance sheet in
the team's results began to show more minus than plus. And by the start
of the World Cup the report card for the Men in Blue was positively
red. Losing had become a habit for the Indian team. India failed to
qualify for the final in the DLF Cup in Kuala Lumpur a three-team
competition. They failed to make the semifinals in the Champions Trophy
held in their own backyard. They were thrashed 4-0 in the ODI series in
South Africa which followed a 4-1 loss in the West Indies. They went
down in the Test series both in Pakistan and South Africa. The few
crumbs of comfort were the expected victories at home, the ODI wins in
Pakistan and the Test series triumph in West Indies. Overall however
these were not the kind of results the Indian cricket follower was
expecting with a leading personality like Chappell as coach.
was obviously not playing up to its potential. And why were the
cricketers not performing up to potential? Because tactically,
technically and temperamentally the Indians were playing like losers.
They went about their tasks like lost lambs in the great African
jungle. But perhaps the most important reason was that they did not
appear to be a happy lot. It was clearly seen in the negative body
And why were the players not happy? Because the team had been tinkered
with. Because there was a sense of insecurity among some of the team
members. Because they had lost the winning habit. Because nothing was
being done to revive it. By now Chappell was receiving a lot of flak.
Was the coach doing his job effectively? Was he fulfilling his
responsibilities? Was he being the guiding spirit a good coach is
expected to be? Had he provided a touch of inspiration in keeping with
his reputation as one of the giants of post war Australian cricket?
On the contrary Chappell took the easy way out by putting the blame on
the players - and not just once but over and over again. It's a poor
general who blames his troops for failure in battle. But Chappell's
refrain was just this: ``They are not playing well enough.'' And this
totally irresponsible and utterly unacceptable line was carried well
into the World Cup too. But had he done some introspection and asked
himself some tough questions? Why was the team not playing well? Why
were the players out of form for such an extended period? Why was the
confidence level down?
By the end of the World Cup Chappells Vision 2007 document lay in
ruins around him. Moreover he had isolated the players who feared
approaching him. He had destroyed the confidence of the team members.
On his return from the Caribbean he went from bad to worse blaming the
selectors for picking the wrong team for the World Cup and the senior
players who he said operated like a `mafia ganging up against the
juniors. Such was the nature of his allegations that even the normally
reticent Sachin Tendulkar had not only to come out in defence but made
a few counter charges of his own. Some of the players followed suit and
it was an altogether sickening atmosphere. It has been one of the
unhappiest periods for the game in India thanks to Chappell and if he
were allowed to be associated in any capacity it could only mean that
Indian cricket will be in for darker days.