Sadly, I saw very little of Ian Chappell playing cricket. A child of the early seventies; my only memories are of an aging skipper of the Australian World Series Cricket team.
His brother Greg is a different story for me and still in the best three batsmen I have had the privilege of seeing. Ian took over as Australian captain when Bill Lawry was removed from the role in February 1971.
It was a bold and somewhat outrageous move by the selectors with one test remaining and the Ashes on the line.
Lawry had captained the side in a traditional and conservative manner, much like his batting and unbeknownst to him, cricket was about to undergo a paradigm shift as the seventies evolved and professionalism loomed.
Chappell was an agitator for and instigator of change and whilst much is made of his off-field negotiations and the fight that cricketers took on to gain a fair wage from the game, his influence on the field was just as significant.
There is some wonderful footage in the ABC series Cricket in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s which celebrates the early television coverage of Australian cricket, at that time, all emanating from the national broadcaster.
The relaxed, congenial and sportsmanlike manner in which the matches were played throughout the 50’s and 60’s is particularly noticeable. One vivid memory I have was when a wicket was taken in a Test at the SCG in the late sixties.
The bowler appealed, the umpire’s finger rose and the batsman left the pitch briskly. The Australians, who were in the field at the time, didn’t high-five, run from all quarters eyeballing the batsmen or create a scrum-like huddle of bum smacks and cuddles.
Keith Stackpole and team mates just strolled in from their positions, clapping slowly and eventually greeted the bowler with an understated handshake.
The contrast to today’s game is astonishing and Ian Chappell had much to do with it.
‘Chappelli’ brought a hard edge to the Australian cricket team and surrounded himself with men whom he would have been proud to share a trench in battle.
There were many ‘incidents’ during his reign and his temper on the field was legendary.
The term ‘ugly Australians’ was coined in his era and has since reared its head many times throughout the years.
Under Chappell, the culture of the team changed and his ruthless and unapologetic leadership set the benchmark for future teams to emulate. His aggressive attitude morphed into the on-field intensity and mode of celebration that the team employed.
Goading Dennis Lillee and claiming he had become something of a medium pace bowler, which eventually led to a firm punch in the stomach and another magnificent bowling performance by the great fast bowler, was typical of Chappell.
He was never there to make friends, he was there to win test matches and the modern penchant for ‘getting in the face of the opponent’ was part of his arsenal.
Hence, as Chappell ages and continues to provide clear analysis of the mental side of the game, there was something powerful about his words prior to day two of the Ashes Test in Adelaide.
In his opinion, the modern ‘chirp’ has gone too far and is a blight on the game.
Chappell has always struck me as a man up for the fight, just ask Ian Botham about their altercation at the Hilton Hotel in 1977 during the Centenary Test and their subsequent feud that still rages to this day. However, his comments around the ‘chirp’ employed by the English on day one in Adelaide were intriguing.
Commenting on the English barrage on Steve Smith, Chappell was incensed by the consistency of the verbals fired in the Australian captain’s direction.
Visually distracted, Smith’s willow did much of the talking as he battled to days end with his wicket intact and used his blade to indicate to umpire Aleem Dar that perhaps it was time for James Anderson to have a little break from play.
If there was ever a case for an umpire to use his new powers of dismissal, this was it. Perhaps on the pair of them.
There was no doubt England had planned the attack just as the Australians have done many times before. The ugly events brought about by the sheer speed and fear that Mitchell Johnson was able to create in 2013/14 is evidence of that.
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan, obviously privy to some team discussion, said as much when he claimed, “this is a response from England for Brisbane.”
The scenes on day one were childish and almost comical. Mark Nicholas referenced to the children watching, the image of the game and the reality that Test cricket is “at some degree under threat”, as excellent reasons for the verbal nonsense to end.
Chappell was livid and responded, “If I hear once more that it is part of the game, I think I’m going to throw up.”
Chappell was prepared for the undoubted criticism he would cop for his comments. Well aware that someone like himself, who was at the helm when Australia began to intimidate teams with more than just their cricket, could potentially be labelled a hypocrite.
In fact a chorus of, “it’s part of the game” is probably being typed as you read this and Chappell must surely have anticipated the impending backlash.
He completed his comments by saying that “the batsman is entitled to a bit of peace and quiet out there.”
There may be some who see an element of hypocrisy in Chappell’s comments yet that is potentially unfair. Whilst fierce in competition, he still played the game with a dignity and ferociousness respected by his colleagues and peers.
There must be something a little wrong with the game when one of its most loyal believers in mental toughness and intimidation looks at the modern version, infuriated at the nonsense he sees.
Mark Taylor concurred citing that, “there’s too much of it”, even former England Captain Vaughan agreed vehemently. However, no matter what these stalwarts of the game say, when Ian Chappell says enough is enough, maybe it is.