Friday, Jul 04, 2003
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CHAPPELLSPEAK: The legendary Greg Chappell, former Australian captain, feels that sharing of information and a strong domestic structure is very important for the development of the game. Photo: Vino John
One of the pre-eminent batsmen of all time, Greg Chappell is renowned not only for his magnificent Test record (7110 runs at an average of 53.86, including 24 centuries) but also for his elegance on and off the field. Chappell is also one of the outstanding thinkers of the game.
Greg Chappell, in Chennai for the MRF Coaches' Seminar, spoke to
Excerpts from the interview by
Q: Do you think the dominance of the current Australian team is affecting the game adversely?
I don't think their dominance is. I think the fact that other teams are struggling is really a problem for world cricket. I think the fact that England and the West Indies, in particular, have been down for a long time is not a healthy thing for cricket. I think at any given time, you need three or four strong teams for the health of world cricket.
The West Indies are showing signs of rebuilding at the moment. England show signs of rebuilding but really I think their infrastructure is not producing the right sort of players for Test cricket. Their domestic cricket just doesn't produce the right sort of players and I don't know how they can change that. If one team dominates for a long time, I think it gets unpleasant for cricket. At least when the West Indies were strong, there were still two or three other sides that were giving them a good contest. They were probably more dominant in one-day cricket at that stage than they were in Test matches. Australia have now set the bar; we need two or three countries to sort of reach that standard quickly.
Q: Increasingly, there is transfer of information among cricketing nations. Rod Marsh is a national selector in England. You and Dennis Lillee have coached here. Do you think this will help bridge the gap?
I think so. I think it's important we do share information. Australia have the advantage at the moment. The success of the Australian team hasn't come about by accident. The decisions that were taken 20 years ago have borne fruit and have been bearing fruit now for some time.
A lot of information has been discovered; a lot of information, research and resources have been applied to Australian cricket in recent times. Out of that has come a lot of information that I think would be unhealthy if we held it to ourselves.
What MRF Foundation has done this week is a tremendous thing for Indian cricket. It is probably the best cricket seminar that I've been to as far as the quality of information is concerned. It would be tremendous if in ten years time India were the dominant country and all of a sudden was sharing the information they had developed. So I think the more we can share the information, the better.
A lot of people looked at Australian cricket and said, "Oh, Australia have got an academy and that is the reason for their success. We need an academy and once we've got an academy, we will be okay.'' There is a lot more to it than that. The decisions that were taken in Australia more than twenty years ago were to improve identification programmes, improve elite development programmes, and build on the infrastructure that was already there. We had a fairly solid development programme anyway the centrepiece of which is our domestic cricket. The academy is a finishing school. It's not only a matter of getting the academy in place. It's getting the right students into the academy.
The domestic structure is very important. That is a requirement for all countries. Domestic cricket has perhaps suffered because it's been sort of forgotten and has languished somewhat. We seriously, as a cricket community, must call a halt and have a moratorium for a while and say we can't afford to keep playing all this international cricket, particularly the meaningless one-day cricket. It's been the golden goose, but I think the golden goose, if it's not dead, has been seriously wounded.
We perhaps need to look at how much cricket we need our international players to play to be able to generate the income that is required to sustain the game. Maybe we've got to look at having, instead of just an ad hoc array of one-day cricket all round the world at any given time, some `Major tournaments' (stealing ideas from tennis and golf) through the year for one-day cricket plus our Test programme.
That relieves the players of some of the pressure of playing non-stop, but builds a product that is good for television and sponsorship a product that generates the income the game needs but doesn't drain all the resources to the extent that is possibly damaging to the long term future of the game, particularly at the infrastructure level.
Q: Is cricket getting devalued by the globalisation of the game? Bangladesh getting Test status for example. What procedures should be put in place before teams are allowed into the Test arena?
It's a difficult one. We always want to promote and increase the numbers of Test playing nations, but I think it has got to be done in an orderly way. This is not to denigrate Bangladesh in any way. With any nation, if they are not ready for it, you can do more harm than good.
People have suggested a two-tier system of Test cricket. For young players to develop, they need to have some success. To be playing in a team that is being beaten and being beaten badly all the time is not good for their confidence and not good for their development. I think they should play against the better nations but in a much more controlled way and play among the second tier grouping more often. Particularly as they don't have a strong domestic base, their players are being asked to jump from club cricket to Test cricket.
Maybe there are opportunities to use the `A' team structures a little bit differently to get some of that international experience. I don't have a single solution for it, but I know it needs a lot more thought than it's perhaps being given thus far.
Q: You've mentioned Clive Lloyd's West Indians in comparison with today's Australian team. It's difficult to compare across generations but how do you think the current Australian team would fare against that West Indies team?
I don't know but all I know is that they could beat better teams than they are playing against at the moment. Had they had and if they have more competition, I think they would get better. I think it is a great credit to the Australian team that they continue to keep improving and aiming to improve despite the fact that they can win comfortably.
They are a very good side. They will play well against any team. Different eras aren't that different. Players are probably fitter and stronger than they have ever been in the history of the game but the basic talent doesn't change that much. I think, perhaps, a lot more thought goes into the planning of your own game plans and looking at the opposition than ever before.
The good teams might not have had the technology that is available today, but they did it and they learnt what it took to be successful. They would be successful sides in any era. Good players, by and large, would have been good players in any era. In some ways I feel that the current Australian team have been cheated a little bit by not having had the opportunity to play against some strong teams because I think it would have really drawn the best out of them.
Q: Chucking is increasingly a problem in world cricket. How do you view the International Cricket Council's procedure of clearing players?
I think what they are trying to do is the right thing. I don't think we want to see situations where you've got players being continually called in international games. Equally, you don't want guys running up and flaunting the law. A lot more thought needs to be given to it. Again, I don't claim to have any simple solution. It really needs to be sorted out before it gets to Test level. It should be sorted at domestic first class level and international youth levels.
The super slow motion camera highlights actions like never before. I am sure there would have been bowlers in the past had the super slow motion applied to them, you would see some flex. There are forces being applied to that arm that will cause, at different points, some flexion. What we need to know is whether at five per cent, ten per cent, fifteen per cent at what point does the bowler get some advantage? Maybe we need to rewrite the law to reflect what modern technology can show to us. Players who have some concerns in their action should be stopped long before they get to international cricket.
Q: How does the standard of umpiring today compare with the standard in your era? Are we more critical now only because we are looking at things more closely?
I think that is probably the main situation. I think they are umpiring a lot more. Umpires have always made mistakes and they will always make mistakes. One of the strengths of our game is that you have to accept as a player that, from time to time, you are going to get decisions that may not have been the right decision.
I am not in favour of too much technology becoming involved. For run outs and stumpings and the sort of things we have in place at the moment, I don't have any real problem with that. But get to lbws and caught behinds and all that sort of stuff, I am not sure that the technology is there that would make it perfect anyway.
To lose the human element, if I was an umpire, I wouldn't want to go out there and stand there and just count six balls! One of the things I've noticed since television has come in more and more is that umpires make a lot of good decisions. We never ever talk about that. I think there has got to be a greater responsibility again amongst the community of cricket, not least of all the media, to give the umpires a break.
From a playing point of view, it's always been my belief that you get the standard of umpiring you deserve. If you are going to put pressure on umpires, they will make mistakes. I think the players have a responsibility to make sure that they make the job of the umpires as uncluttered as possible. The harassing of umpires by bowlers and fielders running at umpires, demanding decisions I don't think that is acceptable.
If the players can take that responsible sort of attitude, I think they are going to find the umpiring standards will reflect that. Playing five Test matches in a row is hard enough. To umpire five Test matches in a row would be extremely difficult because they are out there all the time.
If we are going to get the best standard of umpiring that we can get, then the players have got to play their part.
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