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TSI

Alter this Chappell

 

Whimsical experiments & humiliating losses – these have been Chappell’s gifts to the Indian team so far. What for the World Cup, Mr. Chappell, asks Prashanto Banerji
TSI | Issue Dated: October 8, 2006
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Alter this Chappell though centuries apart, Gregory Stephen Chappell has a lot in common with a certain Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. Whimsical autocrats and stubborn as mules, both left a royal mess in their wake. While Tughlaq’s deeds are done, Chappell can still mend what he has so totally broken. Whether that would happen in time for the battle for the Holy Grail of cricket, the World Cup is just about anybody’s guess. For now, scheming with Dravid in a bid to push India’s most successful captain from the crest of a series win remains the only significant feather in the coach’s cap.

But we are being unfair to the bloke. Where else but in his cap should we shove a feather for making a slow medium trundler and occasional top order pinch hitter of India’s pace spearhead Irfan Pathan, thus transforming a genuine match winner in both forms of the game into one of those dime a dozen utility players. And yet another feather for shattering the confidence of Virender Sehwag, a veritable destroyer of bowling attacks during the Ganguly/Wright era who knew that the captain and the team management would always hold him up through the odd lean patch because they recognised the perils in his approach as well as the potential in his talent. Today, a disillusioned and tentative Sehwag is drifting in confidence, form and the line-up. No wonder poor Viru remembers the Ganguly days with fondness. Take a bow, Greg, but we aren’t done yet. Don’t you deserve a feather for scrapping and capping India’s seam attack with all the precision of an orthodontic maniac which has left the attack virtually toothless. Chappell’s random resolve must surely have dented the confidence and faith of every seamer, from the resurgent Zaheer to the bustling Sreesanth. By the way, we’re just getting warmed up. Of all his sins, Chappell’s greatest has been his effective dismantling of the tremendous team spirit and ‘all for one, one for all’ maxim that the Wright/ Ganguly regime had so successfully infused. Subcontinental teams have rarely competed as a galvanised force in the region’s cricket history. Regional and cultural lobbies, both within the team and within the system have restrained teams like India and Pakistan from performing to potential. Only two captains from the region, the dashing Pathan from Pakistan, Imran Khan, and India’s Captain Courageous, Sourav Ganguly, have success Alter this Chappell fully fused their teams into fighting and committed units, and with stupendous results. Today, the Indian team that had a 50% win -loss test record against the rampaging Aussies – one of the greatest Test teams of all time – along with a drawn series in their own backyard, and a victorious campaign in Pakistan against the archrivals, has become a rag tag bunch of unsettled, suspicious and perhaps even disillusioned cricketers, without the unifying spirit or the camaraderie that was so typical of Team India, circa 2003-04. Now, with all those ‘turkey’ feathers in his cap, Chappell sure looks like an ‘Indian Chief’. But come spring in the West Indies, hopefully the heads he scalps wouldn’t be all Indian.

The Indian cricket team looked visibly lost and turned in a by now predictably listless performance during the recently concluded DLF Cup in Malaysia. Says legendary batsman and former team selector Gundappa Vishwanath, “While Wright was coaching India, the team batted superbly. But Chappell’s experiments are wreaking havoc on the team. He should be immediately restrained. Frequent reshuffling makes players go low on confidence and morale.” You bet, Vishy! Quite clearly, there is something wrong with the way Chappell is coaching India. Under his tutelage, Team India has commenced its descent from the upper echelons of cricket rankings in both forms of the game and the signs are ominous. The only bit of swinging that poor Pathan’s deliveries usually do nowadays is in the immacculate arc between the extra cover boundary and the long on boundary. At his pace, maybe Chappell should recommend Pathan pick up the ‘chinaman’ as a possible counter measure. As for the vaunted batting juggernaut called India, guess it’s given up the ghost and all that remains is a pale apparition. Says former test batsman and coach Anshuman Gaekwad, “Maybe Greg needed to carry out these experiments to understand the team’s strengths and weaknesses. But it is time that he stopped these experiments.”

The clamour for Chappell’s head has begun anew, led by a zillion Gangulyphiles as well as experts and former cricketers. But what’s poor Greggy’s fault if the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) startles him and shocks his bottom rung South Australian Sheffield Shield team by picking an all-time great cricketer but an absolute failure as a coach and entrusts him with the dream of a billion Indians. Cricketer turned commentator, Ravi Shastri says “ It’s time Chappell stopped his experiments...”. Ho hum, here we go again, but for the sake of Indian cricket, not for too long....
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017