Greg Chappell: The man with a noble mission
The Aussie veteran has always been in the limelight during his tenure as the Indian coach. He adopted few harsh decisions trying to rebuild the Indian cricket team and in the process earned a bad name. While some of these gave positive results at the end of the day, the batting legend lost all respect among his fans. If we analyse, the change can be felt in volumes.
- Pressure on seniors – Everyone was bound to perform. No one could take their place for granted. The skipper (Sourav Ganguly) felt the heat and couldn’t cope with the pressure. The new coach mobilized his resources with Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid being given a chance to show their captaincy skills.
- Opportunity to youngsters- It was during this phase that we saw many young players making their way into the team. Though most of them could not consolidate their position, the new coach assured opportunity was given to young talent. RP Singh, Munaf Patel, R Pawar, V Rao, D Karthik, S Raina and a few others made it into the team.
- Creating all-rounders – The focus was on all-round development of existing cricketers. Part time bowlers were encouraged and bowlers spent more time practising batting. Young pacer Irfan Pathan was given more opportunities to bat up the order which gradually affected his bowling adversely. His batting average during that period rose and we could see him scoring fifties, his highest score being 83. But Irfan lost the gift of spin with which he was born. The Baroda boy who once achieved the ICC Emerging Player of The Year 2004, is still struggling to seal a place in the team after a decade long battle. The left-arm swing bowler who was compared with Pakistan captain and all-rounder Wasim Akram soon started to fade away.
- Change in fielding – In the early 2000s we only had two quality fielders in the squad (Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh). Greg knew the importance of saving crucial runs in one dayers and this period saw Raina, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik and few others showing their skills within the circle. During his two years he tried to raise our standards with respect to the others.
- Fitness – From where John Wright left India, Greg felt the necessity to ensure fitness. Though his authoritative attitude was not appreciated, we could see its impact after five years of his departure. The players had to practice playing tennis which would increase their concentration and their agility. Today most of the players inside the circle know how to save runs, throwing their body without getting injured.
Such unusual approaches towards the game didn’t have instant success but today we can speak volumes about the effect of those changes. Skipper Dhoni giving the ball to a spinner to begin the match is quite unorthodox but has worked out on batsman friendly tracks as well.
It should be noted that the strategy went well for Harbhajan Singh who improved as a batsman scoring runs in Test cricket. The off-spinner has got two hundreds and nine fifties.
Though his intentions were right, the execution was far from correct. Maybe because of his lack of experience as a coach at the international level, he took a few harsh decisions which made him all the more unpopular. He gained immense criticism when he voiced his opinion against the then captain and his relations with the other players raged controversy in the dressing room.
While some felt Greg used the policy of “divide and rule”, it’s important to see how the man took all the criticism trying to put the best players together.Published 25 Jun 2013, 16:46 IST