Sunday, April 08, 2007

Greg Chappell's parting interview

Let's hear what Greg Chappell has to say before leaving India. I got the link via Homer and like him I'm making this post more as a record keeping exercise than to make any point.

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If you want to be like Australia, you can't run your cricket like Zimbabwe: Chappell
TIMES NEWS NETWORK / Sumit Mukherjee

How would you sum up your 22-month tryst with Team India?

It has been a huge learning experience for me. As a coach, it was easily one of the most challenging assignments one could ever hope to have. I have had only two 11-day breaks and a slightly longer one during this period, apart from one or two minor ones. But I have loved every moment of it, planning, strategising, analysing etc before every tour or series. It's a big high for a coach to watch the players pick up the cues and apply them successfully in match situations.


How did they react to your views and ideas in general?

Individuals react differently to different ideas. In some cases, the reaction time is longer whereas some others pick up the ball (cues) quickly and run with it. I have enjoyed challenging them to get better and better all the time.


Is this a better Indian team that you are leaving behind than the one you inherited?

Team building is a never-ending process. You have to keep at it all the time. We are a much better side than what our results have shown in recent times. Some of the junior players are not finished products yet. It's important that their development continues so that they are ready to take on bigger challenges.


But they may be lost forever in a divided Team India?

I came here to do a job that I have done to the best of my ability. I do not have any vested interests in Indian cricket. I have briefed the BCCI about the issues facing Indian cricket. One of them is youth development. It's up to the BCCI to act in the best interests of the game in the country.


What went wrong with the seniors?

I don't want to get into senior-junior issue again. Look, as a player, you have to keep challenging yourself. When that stops, it's time to do a quick reality check and take a few hard decisions. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite happen that way in many countries. So, in Australia we now have a system in place which will reject you the moment you slip below the mark.


Would you put it down to bad attitude?

Bad attitude is like bad habit, hard to get rid of. Greg Blewett started off with two successive Test centuries, Matthew Eliott had more talent than Matthew Hayden or Justin Langer and Stuart MacGill should have played more often for Australia. If they didn't it's because they failed to fit into the team fabric. They were rejected by the system.


Do you advocate such a system for Indian cricket?

You don't have to replicate the Australian system, but it is absolutely important to have a model in place that is similar to the one they have Down Under. It will entail making sweeping changes to the existing system and changing mindsets.


Isn't that a tall order...?

If you want to be like Australia, you can't run your cricket like Zimbabwe. The BCCI must adopt, may be, a 10-year plan, spelling out the aims and objectives and go about attaining those goals in a professional manner. Any half-measures or cosmetic changes at this stage would be like putting band-aid on cancer.


Have you spelt out your vision for Indian cricket to the BCCI?

I have given them the picture, highlighting the areas of concern. The BCCI must realise that a strong Indian team is a must for the games overall good. If India drops the ball now, it will be a tragedy for world cricket.


Changes would certainly mean a new look at our selection process?

It should be right there at the top of the agenda as it's critical to the team's performance. I still maintain that if we had Sreesanth in Pakistan (instead of three left-arm pacers), we would not have lost the Test series there. They must have, may be, four full-time selectors with an excellent background in the game and they should be paid to do the job. Along with the coach, they should be made accountable. The coach and the captain must also have a larger say in selection matters.


OK, so you didn't quite get the team you wanted for the World Cup. But can you say with any certainty that India would have fared better if you had the players of your choice?

I think we should have done much better in the West Indies with the squad we had. We batted poorly against Bangladesh, but we should have still squeezed out a win. You may point to the 1983 World Cup final, but history says India's record in defending low totals has been quite poor. We could have done with a few young legs, but I believe that we still had the ammunition to at least reach the semis.


You have always emphasised on youth?

Absolutely, but having said that, any good team always has a healthy mix of youth and experience. Seniors players in the side have an obligation to guide the juniors. As a junior I learnt such a lot from seniors. I like the look of India's crop of new players. My only concern is that the talent pool is not big enough for a country as big as India.


How big should be the pool?

Considering the fact that pace bowlers are injury-prone, if I were an Indian selector, I would love to have at least 12 pace bowlers to choose from before a series. And I am not talking about greenhorns. Right now, apart from the ones who were in the Cup squad, you only have RP Singh and a VRV Singh, both very young and raw.


What about Ranadeb Bose, the Bengal lad, who emerged as the highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy this season?

He has the movement, but not the pace. He must add a few yards of pace to be really effective in international cricket. On current form, he can be handy in only certain conditions in England and New Zealand. His partner Shib Shankar Paul, on the other hand, is a good back-up bowler. He hits the deck regularly and pitches it in the right areas. I have not seen him bowl after he underwent a knee surgery, but he too has fitness problems.


You have already said that Manoj Tewari (Bengal batsman) has impressed you?

Yes, he looks to be a smart cricketer, doesn't he? He is young, so he must learn not to get carried away after just one big season. He must look to make most of the opportunities that come his way and remain positive even if he meets with no instant success.


What happens to Suresh Raina if you go away?

I think he had paid dearly for the few good words I have said about him. Unfortunately, as a coach, I do not measure success and failures by applying general yardsticks. In my book, as also in the books of a few others, he is a special kid. I hope he will go on to be a big star one day.


Who are the others who rate Raina so highly?

Brian Lara for one. If you remember Raina went up to Lara recently and sought some advice. I later asked Brian what he thought of Raina. Brian just said: 'Anyone who can play like that off his back foot has to be special'. In Malaysia, a couple of Australians, including John Buchanan and their fielding coach Mike Young had asked me 'Gregy, where did you find this guy?'


Just for the record, why do you rate Raina so highly?

He is a complete package, for god's sake. You guys didn't do him a good turn by comparing him with Sachin Tendulkar after he had played one or two brilliant knocks. However, if you look at Sachin's record in his first 30-35 ODIs and compare it with Raina's you will not find much difference, especially after you factor in that Sachin has always batted in the top 4, while Raina comes lower down. As Brian said, if someone can play good shots off the back foot, he has to be special. He is still learning and far from mature. You have to be patient with him. Look at Jacques Kallis. He hadn't set the stage on fire on his debut. He has, however, made slow and steady progress over the years and emerged as South Africa's leading batsman and the world's premier all-rounder.


And how would you rate Raina as a fielder?

Only behind Ricky Ponting in contemporary cricket. And only because Ponting is more experienced. In the games he played for India, Raina got us one run-out, on an average, per match with his superb pick up and throws. He has an uncanny ability to hit the stumps which India can ill afford to ignore. Yuvraj and Kaif are also good, but more flamboyant. In Pakistan last year when we had all three of them manning the off-side at point, cover and extra-cover, Rahul didn't need a sweeper on the boundary!


Is Sreesanth ready to lead the Indian attack or he is still a step or two behind?

He is ready. We have had to work hard on him, drop him for the Champions Trophy because he was losing focus. But he has now sorted all that out and is bowling with lot of fire. As I said, they are good kids, but need to be nurtured carefully so that their talent finds full expression.


When did he catch your eye?

At the first camp (for pace bowlers) in Bangalore after I took over. We were playing a practice match and Sree was pitching his out-swingers nicely. I got so excited that I told Ian Fraser that I am going in to field at first slip to take a closer look at the guy. Soon enough, Sree pitched another one up and the edge flew to me.


Is RP Singh coming along well?

He ought to have been played more. He didn't because we couldn't afford three bowlers bowling the same stuff from the same angle all the time. He should not lose heart and look to improve all the time. He is one for the future for sure.


We all know that Irfan Pathan has forgotten how to bowl. Can you tell us why?

The funniest thing that I have heard after coming to India is people saying Irfan forgot how to bowl after Chappell tried to make him into an all-rounder. If someone had suggested that to Ian Botham, I would not have been responsible for the consequences. Irfan hasn't lost his talent; he has only lost his way. That's what's wrong with Irfan. We are trying to help him sort this thing out, which appears to be more mental than a physical problem. Someone has to work with him till he gets his confidence back. If he is not handled with care, he may be lost forever.


What impresses you most about VRV Singh, his pace or his ability with the bat?

His attitude. He is like a sponge, absorbing all he can. He is a tireless worker and enjoys the game. We all know that he can work up a bit of pace, but we are still trying to show him how to harness it the best. With a bit more control, he will be an asset.


The spinning cupboard seems to be bare?

It's definitely an area of concern. We must go to the root of the problem. Other countries are also facing similar problems.


Is the lack of options in batting a major worry?

We have to give the likes of Raina, Venugopal Rao and Rohit Sharma more chances. Rao was a trifle unlucky. Perhaps, he deserved more chances. However, he may be a better option in Tests rather than ODIs.


What about VVS Laxman?

It's a pity that injuries have taken their toll on him. He still looks so classy when he is looking to attack. One common thing I have observed about Laxman, Sachin and Sourav's batting of late is that they are not allowing themselves to be guided by their natural instincts. I can understand the pressure they are under all the time, thanks to you guys. Perhaps they are too scared to fail.


With Dhoni and Karthik in the side, you have options in wicket-keeping?

They are different characters, but great talents. Dhoni's controlled aggression is something that rivals will always be scared of. He simply needs to tighten up in terms of technique, both with the small as well as the big gloves on.


You have said Dinesh Karthik has leadership qualities. Why do you think so?

If you give him a cue, he is quick to grab and run with it. He is a thinking cricketer with a sharp cricketing brain. They usually make good captains.


Are you disappointed with Yuvraj's slow rate of maturity?

More than me, he should be disappointed with himself. He is an incredible talent, perhaps too much for his own good. He should have been leading the batting charts in both form of the game by now.


People seem to have forgotten Mohd Kaif?

He has had his opportunities. We have tried to impress upon him the importance of using his feet. He is working on it, but his progress needs to be monitored.


When you came in Virender Sehwag was struggling. He is struggling even now?

The way he loads his bat he reminds me of a golfer and as his game is reliant on fantastic hand-eye coordination, it will be quite futile to teach him technique at this stage of his career. It's best for him to clear the cobwebs, if any, in his mind and look to bat through 30-40 overs. Against Sri Lanka, he was looking good till he became over adventurous.


Your take on Sourav Ganguly?

He has practised most of what I had preached during the time he was out of the side. He has shown plenty of determination in winning his place back. I hope he continues to work hard on his fitness and score heavily for the team.


What is the problem with Sachin as an opener?

In ODIs, opening is an easier option. I felt that the team would benefit immensely if Sachin came in at No 4, for he has the experience, technique and the talent to milk the bowling in the middle overs. In any case, we have to be very flexible with our batting order in ODIs till we have a settled side.


Finally, how has been your partnership with skipper Dravid?

I have utmost respect for him both as a person and a player. We have had our differences on many issues, but I have always believed that the captain should have the final say. That is the way I have played the game and I suppose that's the way it should be. It's not an easy task being the captain and also the sides best batsman, but Rahul has managed that brilliantly. He deserves more credit and success.


In hindsight do you regret not taking the Sri Lanka offer and sticking with India?

No regrets mate. I have enjoyed every moment of it. Wouldn't have missed it for anything.
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I have no intention to put people to sleep by listing my views on so many pointed observations from the departing coach but I must say I still like Greg Chappell for the way he speaks on cricket and continue to be amazed to hear that his words were supposed to be the exact problem with him (according to reports) while dealing with players.

He may or may not have been a good coach for his failure at dressing room management and bridging two different cultures but he has the makings of a bloody good advisor. BCCI President Pawar was not too far off the mark in requesting him to work as a consultant.

His take on the two Bengal opening bowlers was agreeable. I too would like 'Ronaa' to add a bit of pace to his ability of accurately exploitating favourable conditions and hence force selectors to consider him as an all surface bowler.

4 comments:

Homer said...

the question Angshu is - what does Ranadeb need to do to add that extra yard of pace?
Is it strength training, do his bowling dynamics have to change, is his bowling rhythm suspect?
And if he cannot add that extra yard of pace, how does one utilize him? Do we say that since he is not fast enough, we don't use him- even if he gets lovely shape on the ball?

The thing with cricket in India is - we all have ideas, in the very general sense. But none of these are thought through to identify the pros, cons,detailed solutions, fall back options etc.

Chappell says Ranadeb should bowl faster- why and how? That is the question.

angshu said...

Homer

There's nothing much wrong with the general people having general ideas. Problem is that some people taking up assignments as specialists are also having general ideas, and worse, succumb to general ideas of general people and media.

In this case I cannot hold it against Chappell for not explaining in detail the aspects you mentioned for that would be digression; but the inability to rectify Pathan's bowling and Viru's batting would rank as his failures on the 'identification-detailed solution' count you mentioned.

However I like the first opinions - say outsider's view - he gives on cricket and cricketers. That's why consultant - to point out the areas of concern. Now the next part is not easy either - India need to find people to solve the problems he (or any consultant) finds out. After the past year it is only logical that the person who sets questions and the guy that answers it are different. Chappell - as I see it - is good at the questions.

The 'why' for Ranadeb is quite obvious I think - the moment a 74 miles an hour bowler fails to move the ball he disappears all around. You may cite Vaas and Bradshaw but they learnt the craft of 'how to make do without pace' when they had it. Moreover both are of much less worth in Tests.

But we may try Ranadeb for a period even if he fails to add pace - who knows he may pull of a Vaas (of 2007) right from the begining of his career. However he went for a few runs in the Ranji ODIs and that's a worry.

Homer said...

Angshu,

was not expecting Chappell to elaborate, but now that the question has been raised - no one is stepping forward with an answer or suggestions.

regarding Ranadeb himself - what does he get to the plate- a tireless work ethic and the ability to get good shape on the ball.

Assuming he cannot add to his pace, given that he bowls tirelessly, cant he be made into a stock bowler with the remaining bowling resources providing the shock value?
Also, given his pace and the shape he gets, isn't he a candidate for tours to England or New Zealand instead of BD?

And regarding upping his pace, why hasn't the CAB thought it prudent to send him to the MRF Pace academy for training?

Thing is - a problem has been identified ( Bose's pace)- have various options even been aired, let alone debated?

And that is the crux of what I am saying about general ideas without the required follow through

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