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Chappell should not be associated with Indian cricket
by Partab Ramchand
Apr 09, 2007
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 Board’s long term plans are indications that the former Australian captain’s 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 doesn’t for he did more harm than good during the 22 months he was the coach.

In the aftermath of India’s 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 coach’s main role. Given Chappell’s 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.

The team 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 language.

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 Chappell’s 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.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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