Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The charm of Ian Chappell

Most ex-players avoid speaking about themselves or referring to anecdotes from their playing days in the commentary box. Probably they feel they are not supposed to do that in the midst of live commentary. Another reason may be a false sense of guilt at 'blowing their own trumpets'.

Ian Chappell does not share that philosophy. He is an ex-player worth reading and listening to. He has a talent for linking some development at the current time to a related incident from his days. Being fair in his observations and viewing things without a bias adds to his charm. He was himself a great and fearless player of fast bowling and averaged 50 against the 70's West Indies (to his overall 42); yet he avoids taking indirect swipes at sub-continent batsmen for being short on that ability.

I have seen or known little of player and skipper Ian Chappell. Ian the commentator appreciates places and players for what they are. Little surprise then that he was such a well-respected leader of men. Not one to swear by averages alone, in 1998 he said Jadeja to be a better ODI finisher than Bevan considering the teams they played in, and has never missed an opportunity to stress the value of Jayasuriya's play to his team.

He was the rare non South Asian commentator who praised India's Mohammad Azharuddin for his skills instead of the 'artistry'. Praising Azhar's other exceptional skills was a strange unstated taboo for a number of ex-player commentators even in those pre match fixing implication days. Perhaps Azhar's well-circulated weakness against short pitched bowling was held against him, rendering him a 'lesser' player to some.

Ian had none of it though. While the Hydrerabadi was scoring his last century in what ended up as his last test in 2000, I recall Ian Chappell demonstrating to televiewers how Azzu played spinners so well and adjusted to variations at last moment by staying on his toes ("balls of the feet" - I still remember Ian uttering that) while some others like Dravid (back then) got rooted on heels and invited problems.

True to his disposition Ian did not stint in showering praise when it was time to bid Jayasuriya good bye in Test cricket. Here's his ultimate compliment to the Sri Lankan master while harking back on Jayasuriya's greatest week in cricket. [On that theme, here's another tongue-in-cheek recollection from the same phase]


Razib Ahmed said...

Well written article. Ian Chappell does his job well. I feel that cricket bosses of today are failing to realize the changing scenario of the world. I am happy that BCCI is trying to make
cricket popular outside of India (especially in USA) by
organizing some of
its home matches.

Nilay Majumdar said...

Spot on Analysis