The Telegraph
Sunday , March 3 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Captain is always the boss... Has been a captain’s game’

Greg Chappell

Calcutta: Former India coach Greg Chappell, also a former Australia captain, spoke to The Telegraph during his trip to the city for the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture. Here goes...


Q Have you, off and on, reflected on your 23 months as the India coach from May 2005?

A I’ve reflected on it a number of times. I reflected on it even during the time I was coaching India.

Your stated goal was to make India the No.1 team...

Yes... There was clarity of purpose from my side and certain tests had to be put in place. However, some things happened which allowed the media to focus on personalities.

Like Sourav Ganguly, the then captain?

Yeah, but there was nothing personal from my side... Sourav was struggling and he just happened to be the captain. If he hadn’t been, it wouldn’t have been a big issue. I understood that, but I did what I thought needed to be done... I don’t want to dwell on it too much, for it’s history. What has happened can’t be changed.

Have you and Sourav moved on since?

Yes... On Australia’s tour of India in 2008-09, we did have a few conversations... I’m not on Sourav’s Diwali list and he’s not on my list for Christmas, but that’s okay.

[On Tuesday, Chappell telephoned Sourav, using this Reporter’s cellphone, to condole the passing away of his father.]

Generally speaking, weren’t you able to communicate properly?

I did explain everything I wanted.

Just how much can coaches do at the highest level?

The role is highly misunderstood (in India) and the expectations are very high... When I took over, the expectations were such that nobody could have achieved what was expected. One must realise that, at times, you need to risk losing in order to set things up for the future.

Initially, you did take risks...

In the first 12 months, yes... We blooded a lot of young players, the Suresh Rainas, the Sreesanths... My philosophy is that once you excel at a certain level, say the first-class, then you need to move up because the longer you stay at the level you’re already confident in, the least likely that you’ll become good at the next level. To be a good international cricketer, you need to play international cricket... We identified a number of players who we thought were the next generation. In that period, if you recall, we won a record 17 ODIs while chasing.

You had a good rapport with Rahul Dravid, who was the captain for most of your tenure. What was it like working with him?

Dravid showed courage because, for everyone else, it was we can’t do this, for if we get beaten, the media would tear us apart... Dravid did a magnificent job, because he bought into the philosophy of taking risks, making changes and looking ahead. As I’ve said, you don’t stand still in sport... We wanted to take risks because we wanted to get better as a team.


Who is the boss, the captain or the coach?

The captain is always the boss... Every single day... In order to have a strong working relationship, you need to have influence, but it won’t work if the coach thinks he’s the boss. Cricket is different from soccer and it’s important for a cricket coach to remain unemotional... If the dressing room is such that all the players are only moaning about the things which haven’t gone right, and the coach joins them, then that team won’t go far... It’s not easy, but a coach must stay unemotional. Or, at least, disguise his emotions. Be detached, if he can’t be unemotional.

What should their relationship be like?

They should have a very good working relationship... They don’t, of course, have to be the best of friends. The coach has to create the right environment and have the plans, but he’ll need the captain to execute them... Cricket has been a captain’s game and should always be so.


Well, how best would you describe cricket?

Cricket is a microcosm of luck, Test cricket, in particular. There will be some days when you’ll do everything right and it won’t work and there will be other days when you may not have prepared as you would have liked to, but everything could still go right... Life has a way of working that way.

How does one improve?

The way to get better isn’t living cricket 24x7. You’ve got to look at other areas and you’ve got to learn from them. A narrow approach to life, just focusing on the things you’re doing, is not the only way to get better at whatever you’re doing. I read a lot and spoke to successful people from other walks of life, looking to apply their approach to my cricket. There are no shortcuts, you either get into it the full way or you don’t.

The ideal approach...

If you fail one day and can’t come back the next, expecting to succeed, then you cannot survive. If you cannot take criticism, you cannot survive in this game.

Is the issue of integrity the biggest challenge confronting cricket?

It’s an issue, definitely. I don’t know how you can deal with it, because you can’t stop it. If you’ve got greedy people and you’ve got people with a mind to cheat, then it’s very hard to stop them... You don’t have to use a telephone and you don’t have to use anything that can be traced... It’s for the players to stand up and say they won’t get involved.


Elder brother Ian was your role model...

Indeed, but our father (Martin) had a huge influence... As youngsters, he taught us... He knew what he needed to do, was like a general who took to battle with plan ready... With the ammunition in the right places.

Have you envied any sportsman?

No. I don’t live my life that way.

A daydreamer?

I’ve dreamt of being better at golf... Perhaps being Jack Nicklaus! I wish I’d taken to golf much earlier than I did. Taking the mental aspect into account, golf suits my personality.

Has golf taught you something?

That there are so many things you cannot control, but you better be good at the things you can control... Look, you’ve got to accept that the good things are as much an accident as the bad.

Your handicap?

Seven, but I don’t play more two or three times in a month. I don’t practise, just turn up on the course.

Nicklaus apart, have you been fascinated by a sportsman?

I’ve always had great respect for Muhammad Ali.

Who have you admired the most outside sport?

Nelson Mandela... He’s a shining example... Then, I continue to admire those who work with the handicapped, work with the elderly, work for charities.


Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius have been knocked off a very high pedestal... Your thoughts...

They’re humans... There’s disappointment on one hand, realism on the other... Armstrong would have had to come from another planet to win seven Tour de France titles cleanly... Obviously, things were going on in Pistorius’ life and what he has done has affected so many lives. I hope there’s an explanation.

What should role models not do?

Well, we shouldn’t be expecting too much from people... Talking of sportsmen, why should they be any different? People from other walks of life have had dysfunctional lives, so why would a sportsman be any different? The general public and the media have got to be a bit understanding. But, yes, there’s a responsibility to behave in an appropriate manner... Actually, I’d rather look at it the other way, that an overwhelming majority of sportsmen and women are fantastically good and are doing such a wonderful job.


In the cricketing context, what’s your message?

(Grins) Don’t be happy believing that all the good is because of your skill and all the bad because of bad luck. If you don’t take responsibility for the bad, then you’ve got a problem. A big one at that.