It has become a norm for current-day cricketers to react to criticism in a way that doesn’t do justice to the kind of professionalism they love to profess time and again. It’s one thing not to agree with someone’s view and quite another to ridicule or question their authority on a subject.
The latest example of such behaviour is of Australia’s stand-in captain George Bailey, who slammed Ian Chappell’s view about the ongoing India vs Australia limited overs series being ill-timed with the Ashes series so close at hand.
“Agreeing to this meaningless ODI tour of India, so close to an Ashes series, is evidence that CA is more concerned with dollars than sense,” wrote Chappell to which Bailey decided to react in his pre-tour media conference at the Cricket Club of India on Sunday.
Here’s what Bailey said: “I don’t think his (Chappell) comments have any bearing on the team. I don’t think he has been involved with the Australian team for a very, very long time. I am not sure his comments will have any particular relevance to this series.”
It’s not unnatural for a captain to hit back at criticism, but in this case, Bailey was not the original target. It was Cricket Australia, hence his reaction is difficult to comprehend.
Probably, the Tasmanian was just speaking up for his employers, who have been accused by Chappell of putting financial interests before the all-important Ashes battle. Or was he getting back at Chappell who had slammed the move to make him captain of the Australian Twenty20 team in 2012 before playing an international game for his country? Chappell came up with a powerful response back then: “Twenty20 might be the shortest form of the game and viewed as rock ‘n’ roll cricket, but that’s no reason to start devaluing the Australian captaincy. The sight of George Bailey receiving his Australian cap only moments before tossing the coin with MS Dhoni at the Olympic Stadium might have been amusing to some, but not to me.
Indeed, Chappell’s comments are relevant to the seven-match jamboree in India. Ask Ryan Harris who is not with the Australian squad in India due to a hamstring injury. A little more than a week ago, Harris was asked about what he felt about the Australian team returning home from India more than a week after the Englishmen arrived for the Ashes series. Here’s what he said: “It’s a bit strange and not ideal but that’s the calendar and we’ve got to do it. We’re professional… we can’t sort of say no to India.” Note that bit about India and you cannot be wrong if you connect it with its financial influence.
Poor little Australia, it’s so terrible and catastrophic that you have to be at India’s mercy all the time. I’ll end the sarcasm here.
Chappell is qualified to be judgmental and will continue to do his job as a straight-talking commentator and sharp writer. And while nothing will stop him, Bailey will now have to watch his back while he leads Australia in the absence of Clarke. Not that Chappell will seek revenge, but he’ll watch closely even from afar.
In his time as captain, Chappell was known for his man-to-man tackling of journalists who he didn’t agree with on certain issues. And after he was done with that, he’d sit with them for a drink. That won’t happen with Bailey and Chappell in this series since the former captain is not here as a commentator, but it can happen later down the track.
Time for a yarn. Chappell was critical of Australia’s performance in the first half of the 1999 World Cup in England where he was doing commentary. At breakfast, he greeted a senior player from the team. The hello didn’t attract a warm response. Instead, the player indicated that he would like to chat about what he had written at another time. Chappell was only too happy. He gave the list of hotels where he would be throughout the tournament and said to the senior pro that he would wait for his call. The meeting never took place.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor