At the behest of David Gower, the guest editor of the July issue of Wisden Cricket Monthly, Adam Collins spoke to Greg Chappell – a long-time hero of Gower’s – about the highs and lows of his life in the game. Here are some highlights from that interview.
Chappell on… Bradman
“In my second season with South Australia I happened to be near the exit while shadow batting as Bradman was leaving. He stopped and pointed at my top hand and said, ‘I’d change that grip if I were you’. I was a bit taken aback but said: ‘What would you suggest?’ He replied, ‘The grip I used worked pretty well, you can read about it in my book’. I told him I didn’t have his book right there and shoved the handle of my bat into his midriff saying, ‘Show me’.
“He showed me his grip with the ‘V’ of the thumb and forefinger down the splice of the bat, slightly to the off-side of neutral. He said, ‘This will feel a bit strange because you haven’t done it before but I recommend that you persevere because it will improve your off-side play’. I thanked him and he turned to go. Then he stopped and said: ‘By the way, I’ve only given this piece of advice to one other person, he didn’t take it and he is no longer in the team.’ Then he walked out! It was a very important piece of advice.”
Chappell on… the underarm incident
“I can offer up the rest of my career as evidence to say that day was an aberration because of the mental state and physical exhaustion that I felt at that stage.
“I felt sorry that I put Trevor [Chappell, Greg’s younger brother] in that position but I did speak to him in that period just to check-in and see how he was going. He has had moments where it hasn’t sat very well but, as I keep telling him, ‘I made you famous’. But, of course, I know it’s not quite as simple as that.”
Chappell on… the best he ever batted
“It was probably against West Indies during World Series Cricket. There were times I felt I batted as well as that but didn’t get the run of scores I did in that period. The quality of bowling and difficulty of scoring runs against the type of bowling where you had 12 overs an hour, three or four short balls an over… with the best will in the world you couldn’t score quickly so if you couldn’t score from their less-than-good balls, you were in trouble.
“I’d developed a method. A lot of people describe me as a front-foot player but I think I was equally adept on the back, which was why I was able to make the most of the opportunities.”
Chappell on… coaching India
“It was the biggest challenge I’ve had in cricket, including playing. I was never going to be able to achieve what I wanted but I really enjoyed the experience and learned so much from it – some good, some bad. The bit that is often glossed over is we had a particularly successful run for 12 months. When the new board was elected they were so busy trying to work out what was going on they left the selectors and ourselves to do what we were employed to, and we had a lot of success. I can’t remember a more satisfying period in my post-playing time than putting together an Indian team that was having some real success.
“The Ganguly thing [Chappell and the Indian captain had a highly publicised row] overrides the lot of it, which just shows the difficulties where individuals became more important than the team. That’s why it was impossible to achieve what we wanted, because there were competing agendas that didn’t necessarily work.”
Gower on Chappell
“Greg once did me a favour, which was completely above and beyond the call of duty. He was persuaded by Fred Rumsey, who was my sort of surrogate dad, to have a word with me about playing Test cricket. It was about a year or two into my Test career, I’d had a few ups and downs already, and we had dinner in Nottingham. He was fascinating to listen to.
“When I think of Greg I think of him playing a straight drive, punching it back down the ground. He also played the short ball well and he had that flow that we always like to see. He’s a very disciplined sort of character, less feisty than his brother Ian. I quite enjoy Ian’s company too, although don’t tell my Ian that because he gets a bit upset.”
To read this article in full, as well as an exclusive interview with Jos Buttler, pick up a copy of issue of issue 10 of Wisden Cricket Monthly