AMRITBANI: Chappel shakes Indian cricket

New Delhi:

If Greg Chappell were a boxer he’d be standing in the ring, arms aloft in triumph. In a previous bout he went down, was handed a public rebuke, humbled when the contents of his leaked e-mail were rejected as untrue.

Now, with the appointment of a new captain and a rejigged Indian team, he has had his way. He is on his feet, his opponents flat on the mat and the tables, as they say, have turned. The unanimous verdict: Greg Chappell shook all.

This knock-out will impact Indian cricket in a major way, it clearly establishes who the boss is, who calls the shots. Chappell is the C-in-C and the players, their radars trained to pick up such signals, know who controls their destiny. They understand the rules of the game have changed, their roles and responsibilities rewritten and, importantly, the bar raised.

In this perform-or-perish arrangement they are obliged to not just keep jumping but keep jumping higher. Players realise there is no protection, no insurance in the high-risk-high-return business of Indian cricket. Result of this seismic turbulence: Expect greater urgency, more effort; none will complain of pain in the toe or niggle in the finger. Also, players will look carefully at their watches and report on time.

The BCCI appointed Chappell because his competitors were not as good. As coach he was supposed to provide credibility to Indian cricket, train and manage the top 20 players. The usual words, about progress, cricket at the next level and moving forward were uttered, but that, as happens, were for public consumption. He announced a new vision for Indian cricket but few thought he would enlarge his role and become a player himself. Chappell was expected to follow Wright by working within the structure but the Aussie, erect and unbending, turned out to be an allround doctor — part physician (who diagnosed cricket’s illness of accommodation, complacency and lethargy) and part surgeon (who moves swiftly to remove the cancer).

Chappell talks of passion, intensity and commitment, says he is searching for players with the right attitude because this matters more than cricket skills. He speaks about promoting group activity and team goals, and individual players buying into these plans. Stated simply this means team interest is not just paramount but the only consideration, and anyone who does not fit in must sit out.

This thinking is not new, all teams (from Himachal under-15 to the ICC World XI) try to play the game in this fashion.

What is revolutionary is rejecting sentiment and emotion, and ruthlessly enforcing a zero tolerance policy where Ganguly is told bluntly to work on form and fitness and Laxman, exceptional player that he is in the cold.

We will find out whether this pressure spurs performance or paralyses players. But one thing is certain: Chappell has given Indian cricket a much-needed massive shake.

Amrit Mathur is former media manager of BCCI