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In real life Greg Chappell did not reveal the same grace or composure as in batting

By Harsh Thakor 

On August 7th we celebrated the 75th birthday of Greg Chappell, who was without doubt one of the greatest batsmen or cricketers ever to have ever trod on a cricket pitch. Greg was descendant of the allround sportsman Victor Richardson, who captained Australia in test cricket. He was part of famous trio of brothers with Ian and Trevor, who all played test cricket. Given weekly coaching lessons by Lynn Fuller, the brothers were baptised in intense backyard cricket matches, with no restraint.
In my view few batsmen in the history of cricket were such an epitome of batting perfection or as much a doyen of classical batsmanship as Greg Chappell. Watching the composure of Greg Chappell in the middle was reminiscent of witnessing a priest in a church bowing before a pulpit. Even a hook or pull shot of Greg had a velvety touch.
No overseas batsman manifested the classical English style to the extent of Greg. He could also tear any bowling attack to pieces None as surgically or geometrically dissected bowling attacks. Few batsmen ever more fitted the tag e of being ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ than Greg Chappell. He may not have decimated bowling attacks in the manner of Viv Richards but in a more refined or cultivated manner could be virtually as effective. No batsman was a better exponent of the leg drive on the onside .His stance and balance was perfection personified. Very few batsmen possessed such a stunning range of shots. In the area of the ‘V’, no batsman of his day was his equal.
The fortunes of Australian cricket in the late 1970’s virtually determined by Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee. It is hard to describe the extent to which Australian batting depended on Chappell, with Australia unable to regain the Ashes in England in 1981, during his absence.

Career Highlights

At home on fast bouncy surfaces Greg Chappell tore apart the likes of bowlers like Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and John Snow. Ironically he scored a century in his very debut. after coming in with his side in a precarious position of 107 for the loss of five wickets. From the very word go he illustrated the sparkling talent he was endowed with.
Playing against Rest of the World in 1972 Greg took consistency to heights rarely reached averaging 100.His unbeaten 197 at Sydney in the 4th test revealed batting art in sublime proportions. In England with the ball seaming Greg was the ultimate epitome of technical correctness and consistency .Even if he averaged fewer than 50 in 2 series in England, at his best like his 131 at Lords in 1972, he defined the classical element in batting like Rembrandt painting.
In 1972-73 in West Indies Greg averaged above 48 in test matches, and topped the batting averages in first class games. At Wellington in 1973-74 Greg gave glimpses of Bradman when scoring 247 not out and 133 not out. Greg was a model of consistency in the 1974-75 Ashes where he averaged 55, scoring 608 runs and was thus one of the architects of Australia’s 4-1 triumph. In 1975,on an Ashes tour of England, he was hardly at his best, averaging a mere 21.20.
What is always embedded in my mind was his domination against West Indies in 1975-76 when he exuded the invincibility of a great emperor. He scored 702 runs at an average of 117 including a classic unbeaten 182 at Sydney, which was simply majestic. I doubt ever the likes of Roberts and Holding were swept away with such degree of finesse. Above all his batting won Australia the unofficial World test cricket championship, with his Sydney classic being the turning point.
In 1977, leading his side in England. Greg made every Australian team mate of his look like a club level player. He averaged around 41.22, single-handedly bearing the mantle of his side on his shoulders. His unbeaten 125 scored during a rain drizzle on the pitch at the Oval in the 3rd ODI of the 1977 prudential trophy, was batting of such a classical height that it was worth preserving in a museum.
In Kerry Packer WSC supertsets Greg had the highest batting aggregate of 1416 runs, ad averaged 56.14. In 1977-78 his 174 and 246 in the fifth and sixth supertests against the World XI were the epitome of batting perfection taking domination to surreal regions. Of simply mythical performances, arguably surpasses that of any great batsman of his time.
No batsman of his time was as prolific on the fast Carribean tracks. He averaged 69 in 1979 in 5 WSC supertests scoring 621 runs and 3 centuries. His 150 out of a total of 282 on a turning pitch at Trinidad in a super test in 1979 was a true classic, executed in most challenging conditions.
His match-winning unbeaten 98 at Sydney in 1979-80 against England was classic in it's own right on rained wicket, enabling his team to cruise home to a winning target of 216 in the 2nd innings. He never played in India but scored a classical 235 at Faisalabad in Pakistan in 1980, which was a true classic. Rarely had an overseas player taken domination to such a scale. Overall he averaged above 56 in that series.
His 204 versus India in 1980-81 at Sydney resembled a combing operation, where he took apart both Kapil Dev and Karsan Ghavri with absolute disdain. In that series he was ever consistent averaging 76.80. At Brisbane against Pakistan in 1981-82 he took domination to peaks rarely climbed against the great Imran Khan, dispatching him all round the wicket, with most clinical execution.
In 1981-82 Greg suffered a loss in form against West Indies.with a series of ducks. Still, he brilliantly resurrected himself, when scoring chanceless 176, of a mere 218 balls, out of total of 353 at Dunedin in 1982.taking batting virtuosity to heights rarely scaled. In 1982-83 against England his centuries at Perth and Adelaide played an instrumental role in Australia regaining the Ashes, averaging around 48.
Greg bid farewell to test cricket in fitting scenario, after a home series in Pakistan, where he scored 182 in his final test, in addition to a 150 at Brisbane, and averaged 73.60 in the series. Happily he retired at his very best, in classical style.


Officially Greg Chappell score 7110 runs at an average of 53.86, with 24 centuries in 87 tests and 151 innings. His highest test score was 247 not out .In ODI cricket he scored 2331 runs at an average of 40.18 and three centuries with 14 fifties. In 1st class cricket Greg compiled 24535 runs at an average of 52.20, scoring 74 centuries. Greg Chappell was also a handy medium pace bowler capturing 47 wickets at an average of 40.70. , with 138 his highest score. He was also an outstanding fielder in the skips pulling off 122 catches, which was an Australian record at one time.
In my view Greg Chappell is the best Australian batsman after Don Bradman. Ricky Ponting may have been more prolific and scored more centuries or even Alan Border, and Steve Waugh or Steve Smith has a considerably higher batting average, but none possessed Greg's classical style or technique. Steve Smith is no doubt statistically in the top 3-4 of all, but when I weigh all factors, I still rank Greg ahead. Steve Smith has hardly faced the same calibre of bowling or proved himself in as variable conditions or bowler friendly wickets as Greg Chappell.
To me, statistically he was the best batsman of the 1970's, if you consider aggregate against best bowling attacks and matches won. If you include scores of Kerry Packer supertests and games against rest of the world in 1972. Greg scored 31 centuries in test matches at an average of above 55.Greg had the leading aggregate in WSC supertests scoring 1416 runs at an average of 56.14 with 5 centuries.. The cricket of Kerry Packer supertests was more competitive than conventional test cricket, if you consider the quality of the teams.
Significant that in WSC supertests from 1977-79 Greg averaged one run more and had a higher run aggregate than the great Viv Richards. No batsman ever averaged as much in that era against the great Calypso pace attack in their very conditions, including Sunil Gavaskar. Above all he averaged above 70 in test matches won and adding unofficial games scored 17 centuries in match winning causes.
To me Greg suffered in comparison with brother Ian as a captain, even if his record was similar. Ian was the greater motivator and tactician. Greg Inherited the mantle of captaincy from his brother in 1976-76 against West Indies, leading his team to a 5-1 victory in what was billed the unofficial world test championship. Greg led Australia to an Ashes win at home in1982-83 but was unable to lead Australia again to regain the Frank Worrall trophy against West Indies. Still it is remarkable that Greg led Australia to 21 victories, in his 48 tests as a captain. To me his best achievements as a skipper was leading his side to a 5-1 win against West Indies in his very debut series and later leading his team to achieve a drawn rubber against West Indies in 1981-82. and a home Ashes series win in 1982-83.
Where Greg Chappell may have fallen out in comparison to Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar was his weakness against the short bouncing ball. After 1979 Greg displayed vulnerability against the rising ball like in 1979-80 and 1981-82 versus West Indies. Significant that Greg was not at his best on bouncy Australian tracks facing the Carribean pace quartet, including the 1977and 1978 home supertests.Greg also did not equal the mastery of seaming conditions in England in the manner of Viv Richards or Sunil Gavaskar. Greg also did not prove his prowess on turning tracks or, having never played in India. To an extent Greg's average was helped by his numerous not outs.
Greg’s batting was in complete contrast to his brother Ian‘s who was more rugged and crude but still more combative, and a better player of the short ball or bouncer and better exponent of the hook shot. Arguably Greg and Ian moulded into one would constitute the perfect batsman. Greg also missed out on crucial tours of England in 1981, Pakistan in 1982 and India in 1979. Unlike Gavaskar Greg did not score over 10000 runs nor prove himself against the four pronged Carribean pace battery ,after 1982.
Unlike Viv Richards, Lara, Barry Richards or Tendulkar Greg could not invent strokes from out of the book or desecrate bowling attacks in as mercurial a manner but combining sheer technical skill with ability to dominate and elegance only Barry Richards could match him. Greg was like a medley of the solidity of Sunil Gavaskar with the stroke making of Viv Richards. No middle order batsman of the 1970’s was as much a perfect batting model. I would place Greg amongst the 5 most complete batsmen of all time, in contention with Barry Richards, Sachin Tendulkar,Rohan Kanhai and Don Bradman.
Overall I place Greg at 10th place amongst test match batsmen of all, just a whisker below Gavaskar and possibly Graeme Pollock. I rank Gavaskar ahead by a whisker as he opened the batting, championed more diverse conditions, and bore the brunt of a much weaker team in his era. I would place Greg amongst the 5 most complete batsmen of all time, in contention with Barry Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Rohan Kanhai and Don Bradman.
Gary Sobers and Imran Khan rated Greg below brother Ian Chappell because they felt Greg did not relish pace and Ian was a better player in a crisis. Cristopher Martin Jenkins and Geoff Armstrong have ranked Greg Chappell a whisker below Gavaskar but ahead of Alan Border , Javed Miandad and Ricky Ponting .However David Gower rated Ponting ,Miandad and Border ,also ahead of Greg. Fast bowler Jeff Thomson still ranks Greg Chappell as the best batsman of his time, even ahead of Viv or Bary Richards. Great Kiwi pace bowler and all-rounder Richard Hadlee rated Greg as the best batsman he ever bowled to in an all-round sense, while Dennis Lillee ranks him most perfect.
Overall as a cricketer I place Greg Chappell amongst the 25 best of all. Geoff Armstrong rated Greg Chappell at 24th place, Late Cristopher martin Jenkins placed Greg at 38th place, while former batsman David Gower ranked Chappell at 37th place, amongst the best cricketers of all time.12 former cricketers selected Greg Chappell in their all-time X1, including Ian Botham Mohammad Azharuddin, Alan Donald, Graeme Pollock, Mushtaq Mohammad, Arjuna Ranatunga, Joel Garner , Dilip Vengsarkar and Richie Richardson. Personally Like writer Geoff Armstrong I would select Greg in my 3rd all-time test XI. Greg rated Dennis Lillee and Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marshall as the best pace bowlers of his time and Gary Sobers, Viv Richards and Graeme Pollock as the best batsman.


After his cricketing career Greg became a coach but sadly his term or stint with India was most controversial, with many holding him responsible for demise of Indian cricket by creating a duel with skipper Saurav Ganguly. I would not like to take sides but admit that he was a true mercenary or politician.
It is regrettable that in real life as a player and coach Chappell did not reveal the same grace or composure as in his batting and could be, crude or even unsporting. He is a vivid example of how even jewels of sport are not the best of characters. A most regrettable incident was in a ODI game against New Zealand in the best of 3 finals of the triangular tournament in 1980-81, when Greg asked brother Trevor to bowl and underarm delivery, with 6 runs required for the Kiwis to win. It was an act which violated the spirit of sportsmanship at its very core. I also regret the incident when Dennis Lillee kicked Javed Miandad at Perth in 1981 but Greg Chappell accused the Pakistani players of launching a plot and did not reprimand Lillee.


Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist



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