There aren’t a lot of people from whom I have received the same number of mails as I have sent them. Greg Chappell is one such. In those presumptuous days of print and paper when I could shoot off mails to anyone who had moved a leg in competition, Chappell had taken over as India’s coach beating Tom Moody comprehensively among others. After a journalist had disclosed his email ID, I powered down an eight-point questionnaire. Now that he is back home and now that even Rajan Bala has revealed private messages (and really, now, who the hell reads this blog), I can do the same. This is what his delightfully curt reply say:
Sorry RS I am not prepared to give interviews at this stage. Once I have settled in and have a feel for the people and the job I will keep my thoughts to myself. I do not want to do my coaching by the media. Thanks for your understanding.
Despite the rebuttal, I took this as a remarkably able way of dealing with the media, of a man who was going to change Indian cricket. He didn’t answer a whit, but let me see how his actions over two years answer for him.
1. How involved would you be with India’s domestic cricket? How aware are you with the structure and do you see a necessity for change?
Was he really involved with domestic cricket? When senior players can’t be involved, how can a national team coach with a contractual agreement to go on off-season holidays be involved? And again, maybe it wasn’t his job, when it isn’t his job to select players in the first place.
2. You have been given a contract till the 2007 World Cup. Do you worry that your tenure would be approximated to the result of this particular event?
Yes. That is what happened. Prior to the West Indies tour (the earlier one), he was the flavour of Indian cricket. After Cricket World Cup 2007 West Indies (that is how the ICC wants it in editorials), he is out. This is tragical given how much time has been wasted on, by and of Chappell. Everyone agreed that there was a significant chance of India doing well in the World Cup. How many can say that of the tour to Australia in December?
3. As a coach, do you have to coach differently in Tests and ODIs? Like captains, are coaches prone to be better in one format than in the other?
This is admittedly too technical a question at so farcical a time. Chappell spent time on theory while being a born natural. One doesn’t know how far he was successful. He will simply not be remembered as a coach of stature because there aren’t many results to show.
4. In Indian cricket, the line between cricketing and administrative issues are generally blurred. Is two years enough time for you to get used to this culture?
It appears he got used to it and that is why he left. There have been wanton leaks and invisible sources from BCCI’s and Chappell’s camp. “They started it,” the Aussie might say after his Saurav Ganguly criticism escaped confidentiality, but he too seems to have played that game sneakily.
5. Coaches need to be able to motivate. In your webstite, http://www.chappellway.com, you come across as a top-class academician. How natural is it for you to mix technicality with management?
He has left some players technically confused and badly managed. Bad management is not necessarily a new problem for India, but confusion out of regimentation is. In John Wright’s time, and certainly before that, there were a number of matches won by individual excellence. This is how a team with talented players is expected to play. In the last two years, most of whatever India won was by collective effort. The problem being, most of what was lost was because of this deviation from the individual to the collective.
6. Your tenure with South Australia is cited as a failure. What went wrong and has it changed your approach towards this job?
7. Is cricket really a simple game when you play in front of a maddening, demanding audience?
8. Personally, how badly do you need a good career as coach?
This question is still open.
By the way, he sent me another mail denying he was involved with the PETA.