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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Column > Jitesh Chanchani

Was Chappell hallucinating?

April 10, 2007

There is a well-worn axiom that aptly describes Greg Chappell's stint as the coach of the Indian cricket team: Vision without execution is hallucination. Undoubtedly, Greg Chappell had a great vision for Indian cricket. But then, so did George Bush for democracy in the Middle-east. Where they botched it up was in the execution.

I am not for a moment suggesting that the World Cup debacle is entirely attributable to the coach. Blame must be apportioned to all the dramatis personae -- in particular the BCCI. But Chappell did contribute his modicum towards the failure. At the time of writing, one learns that the Australian admitted failure at the BCCI meeting, and that to me, has not come a day too soon.

Chappell's intentions and commitment were never in doubt. And much has been said about the innovative ideas he brought to the table. But the most brilliant strategy is not worth the paper it is written on if it cannot be executed effectively. And that execution must be effected within the constraints imposed by the system. Achieving success with a team of malleable and talented eighteen-year olds in a professionally-run cricket regime is not quite the same as doing it with a fractious team and a politics-ridden selection process. Wasn't that part of the challenge when he took up the job? Or did he really expect to fly in on his magic carpet and supplant the Australian Way on Indian cricket?

Chappell's tenure has been in stark contrast to that of his predecessor who incidentally inherited the team in worse shape. John Wright may not have been a "visionary" but still managed to extract the utmost from the teams that were given to him even as he navigated the minefields of Indian cricket for over four years.

Where the former was always tactful and restrained, Chappell chose to be blunt and dismissive (but he's a "straight-talking Australian" you see). Ironically, the man who demanded flexibility from his players remained intransigent to any suggestions. Thus the four-bowler approach cost us many a game, but it was all explained away as process. Despite pleas from the likes of Wasim Akram and Kapil Dev, Irfan Pathan (the bowling version thereof) was made to play batting-order musical chairs until his bowling skills deteriorated completely. There are other examples as well. Notably, Chappell's coaching record prior to the India assignment was none too stellar. In his five years at the helm of South Australia (1998-2003), the team never went beyond fourth place (out of six teams).

But perhaps his greatest fault lay in his insidious manipulation of the media through ill-founded comments, leaked emails, SMS and such. Where was the need to speculate on Ganguly's financial compulsions for playing cricket after he had already been dropped? Why comment publicly on Pathan's "loss of confidence" when the player is struggling to find his bearings? In the end, Chappell managed to alienate a large part of the team. Forget Sachin Tendulkar, you don't often hear an Anil Kumble saying anything negative about anyone.

Thought leadership does not necessarily translate into great coaching, simply because coaching is not done in the laboratory. Frankly, it does not matter whether the next coach is an Indian or a foreigner. What we need is a person that is able and willing to wade through the cess pool of Indian cricket as they guide the team forward.

The Cup: Complete Coverage

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