by Rex Clementine
Age is not a matter if you intend to make an impact in other peoples’ life. Pope Francis is 83. Joe Biden is 78 and Ian Chappell is 77. What has the former Australian Test captain done now, you may wonder? Well, he is working with the United Nations who are helping Afghan refugees by appealing to the Australian government to be more considerate to rebuild their lives.
“As a former Australian captain there are times you have a louder voice. If I am cranky about an issue, I feel that it is time for me to speak for people who don’t have a voice,” says Chappell, who himself is battling some challenges in life having been diagnosed with skin cancer.
His efforts in helping out Afghan refugees are revealed in a documentary that Channel Nine has done on him titled – Chappell; a glorious life. The documentary can be viewed on YouTube and it is a must watch for cricket fans as Chappell’s contemporaries and leading Australian players of other generations admire him.
Many have witnessed Chappell’s kind deeds over the years. Once when he was in Sri Lanka, the locals in the television production crew arranged a party for the rest of the crew. Among the commentators only Chappell turned up for the party. He had quietly inquired from the Director Hemant Buch who was paying for the party. Upon being told that it was the local crew, Chappell had told the Director, ‘these guys don’t get paid that much, here’s a contribution from me’ and hands out US$ 200.
It is for things like theses that people love Chappell. Former opener Keith Stackpole’s take on him is sensational, “I would give my life for him for I know he would give his for me.”
Here’s Mark Taylor’s thoughts. ‘If Ian Chappell says, ‘boys we are having a drink down the bar this Friday in Sydney’, people like Dennis Lillee will fly down from Perth.’
Names like Clive Lloyd and Mike Brearley stand out when we talk of outstanding cricket captains. Chappell was unique as well. He was different because he always wanted to win and didn’t believe in draws.
When the Australian captaincy was handed to him, it was not the most smooth transition. Bill Lawry is sacked and a journalist calls Chappell at the bar to inform him that he has been elevated as captain. The first thought that comes to Chappell’s mind is that, ‘the b******* will never get me like that.’ He then goes onto build an aura around the team. His tenure as Australia’s captain is called ‘Chappell Era’.
Rod Marsh was a pivotal cog in that Aussie wheel. “I never recall him saying well done to me even once. I think he was the greatest sports psychologist that’s ever been. I wanted him to say that but he never did. I told myself, I am going to do it better until you finally say well done to me,” recalls Marsh.
Chappell’s relationship with Don Bradman deteriorated after he becomes captain. It centers around pay disputes and he quits the job in 1975. Brother Greg is elevated as skipper.
But two years later it changes. Kerry Packer would bankroll the World Cricket Series and steamroll the world cricket establishment. The business tycoon wants Ian to captain Australia and not Greg.
Ian has his reservations as he is no longer Australia’s captain and says so to Packer. “What do you think this is a f***ing democracy. I pay the bills and you are the captain,” Packer demands.
Chappell and England captain Tony Greig have a huge rivalry. They rarely talk to each other and the animosity continues even after they quit and enter Channel Nine’s commentary panel. They are not paired together for commentaries. Most of the hostilities are from Chappell’s side and he realizes that this can not go on and they patch up and go onto become two of the finest commentators.
But what about his relationship with another England captain – Ian Botham. ‘No that will never happen,’ says Chappell.
They first fight in 1977 in a bar in Melbourne. Then it flares up again in 2010 in an Adelaide car park. They are both grandfathers by that stage! “See, if I don’t respect someone, I have a real problem not showing it,” Chappell admits.
Chappell has lived his life being himself. He has not put on a show to impress others. His leadership style was unique but there were other common traits like loyalty and trust. Anyone who aspires to lead a sporting team will do well by getting to know Chappell better. The documentary on YouTube – Chappell, a glorious life, is a good place to start.