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Greg Chappell has achieved so much, why is he padding his resume?

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Roar Guru
29th January, 2022
28
6793 Reads

Who is the best Australian batter after Don Bradman?

There’s a bunch of candidates you could argue for – Steve Smith, Victor Trumper, Neil Harvey, Ricky Ponting.

Personally I’d still vouch for Greg Chappell (with an asterix over Smith’s name… let’s see how the next few years go).

Chappell was an incredible player. He had a career full of achievements, some of which are still not fully appreciated, like his 620 runs in the 1979 World Series Cricket Supertests in the West Indies.

He had an incredible ability to bounce back from lows, such as the 1977 Ashes, the 1980-81 underarm, and the 1981-82 run of ducks.

Throw in his immaculate fielding and more-than-useful bowling and you have a true all-timer.

Since retirement, his record has been more spotty. Chappell was all set to be a big-time businessman – the press was full of articles in the early 1980s about how rich he was/was going to be – then for whatever reason he wound up back in cricket.

He had several trophy-free stints as coach, including Australia A, South Australia and India. He had a short-lived go at being a commentator and some years on the Australian Cricket Board.

Three terms as national selector all coincided with poor performances for the men’s team, followed by improvement once he left. He had various adventures behind the scenes (such as the Futures League).

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Greg Chappell

(Photo by Matt King – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

He has a book out, Not Out, written by Dan Brettig, which touches on the above.

I had a lot of thoughts about the book. For this specific piece I’m going to focus on one area: what he wrote about Queensland.

Chappell moved to Queensland for the 1973-74. He says “the only reason” was “the opportunity to captain a first-class team” although surely the $50,000, three-year contract mentioned in the press at the time (not mentioned in the book) had some influence.

Chappell argues when he arrived in Queensland in ’73-74, the team was a perennial cellar dweller of the Sheffield Shield. Which was true… for recent years.

Queensland had come last nine times out of the previous 11 seasons. From 1956-57 to 1961-62 – the period of Peter Burge, Ray Lindwall, Ken ‘Slasher’ Mackay and co – they’d been runner-up three times.

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But anyways, under Chappell, Queensland definitely improved – they came runner-up three seasons in a row, then again in the Chappell-less, World Series Cricket era in ’77-78, and during his last season in ’83-84. They could never quite seal the deal but it was a definite improvement.

In his book, Chappell takes credit for changing the way the Queensland team was picked.

He says the old method was to choose the players heading club aggregates, “supposedly the time-honoured way of selecting players for the next level” until Chappell came along with his tactic of identifying the “good, young players who merit opportunity and then give them the chance to learn how to play in Shield cricket on first-class pitches”.

Chappell gave evidence to his success in the form of players like Martin Kent, David Ogilvie, Phil Carlson, Trevor Hohns, Robbie Kerr, Greg Ritchie and Carl Rackemann, who were all picked for Australia.

Trevor Hohns, Australia's chairman of selectors

Trevor Hohns went on to become Australia’s chairman of selectors. (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

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“Every single one of that group [was] picked only because we thought they might stand up at first-class level” writes Chappell.

Does this mean their club stats are bad? Look, I don’t know enough about Queensland selection policy of the early ’70s to comment on that with too much accuracy – I’m a fan but not that big a fan.

I do know Phil Carlson and Trevor Hohns had made their Queensland debuts before Chappell’s arrival in the state, and Carlson was a regular, but anyways, maybe he did really push for them.

And Queensland did become more competitive under Chappell, a lot more. If I had to guess a more influential factor than Chappell’s eagle selection eye would’ve been the importation of Chappell himself.

After all, he scored 5905 first-class runs for Queensland at an average of 68.66 (plus he took 60 wickets at 29, plus catches), which is incredible.

I really loved how in the book he spoke up for Malcolm Francke, the Sri Lankan leg spinner Chappell calls “the master of the mental side of spin bowling”. If Chappell had more of a selection say in the ’70s, Francke could’ve played Test cricket.

Chappell refers to “a period subsequent” to his captaincy “in the 1980s and into the 1990s when Queensland sought to recruit its way to a first Shield title”.

Maybe he forgot that during Chappell’s time, Queensland imported players like Jeff Thomson, Allan Border, Ray Phillips, Ian Davis, Kepler Wessels, Viv Richards, Gary Cosier, Alvin Kallicharran and Majid Khan… oh, and Chappell himself.

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Kepler Wessels

Kepler Wessels. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But then this is what Chappell does all through his book – he omits things. Like the fact his last first-class game was the ’83-84 final against WA.

He scored 85 in Queensland’s first-innings total of 431 and was part of the second-innings collapse of 154 that saw them lose a game they should’ve won in a canter. This would be the first of six Sheffield Shield finals Queensland would lose, usually by choking.

I don’t blame Chappell for that… I would just love to have heard his thoughts on why he felt the state couldn’t get over the line when it came to the crunch.

It’s a shame Chappell didn’t continue as a state player only over the domestic summer in 1984-85 (the way Border did in ’94-95). Surely he would’ve made sure we won in that heartbreaking final.

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Post-playing, Chappell claims he was the sole voice of dissent out of the 25-odd executive when Queensland tried to enlist Ian Botham in ’87-88, worried about the influence the hard-partying man child would have on the side.

I actually can see his point – Botham did help Queensland get in the final, but legal incidents always seemed to follow the Englishman around, and what was meant to be a three-season contract was cancelled after one.

I’d just like to fact check the “sole voice of dissent” thing. I am not saying he’s lying. It would just be good to fact check.

Chappell says that when Queensland eventually won the Sheffield Shield final in 1995 it was “after another strong generation came through and, this time, was backed in fully to do the job”.

I was unsure what this meant. Were his players not “backed in fully”? Or is it just a saying? Intrigue!

Anyway, Greg Chappell did provide a lot of good service to Queensland cricket. I think he over-hypes his contribution in his memoir but isn’t that what memoirs are for?

It’s just a pity he couldn’t have gone into things with more depth.

Why didn’t those imports work in the 1970s? What happened in that ’83-84 Sheffield Shield final? Why does he claim credit for picking players who’d already made their first-class debut?

He achieved so much in the game… why pad the resume?

Chappell was often referred to as an enigma during his playing career. He remains one in many ways.

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