There's thunder Down Under

Nov 08, 2018, 05:58 IST | Clayton Murzello

Chappell and Taylor have abundant mutual respect for each other, so it's surprising to see them disagree over Cricket Australia storm

There's thunder Down Under
Captains-turned-commentators Michael Clarke, Mark Taylor and Ian Chappell before the ODI between Australia and Pak at Adelaide on January 26, 2017. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloWe'll give 'em thunder Down Under," Australian wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh said in a television promo for the 1983-84 Test series against Pakistan. Later, Australia triumphed convincingly in the first Test at Perth but they could only clinch the series in the fifth and final Test at Sydney after three draws in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

This season, thunder has struck even before the first ball has been bowled in a Test out there. And there is only one team running for cover — Australia. The storm is so huge that the Virat Kohli-led Indian team shouldn't be blamed if they use Australia's fragile state as a vocal tool to earn bragging rights for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series. And it shouldn't come as a surprise if the feisty skipper and his trigger-happy coach Ravi Shastri touch upon Australia's frailties during the arrival press conference.

Skipper Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft caused the first storm through their involvement in the ball tampering controversy during the Test series in South Africa earlier in the year. Then came the independent review that said there was something wrong with the culture in Australian cricket. Once the cultural report findings were out, the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) demanded that the bans on the trio be lifted, since the report threw black paint on Cricket Australia (CA) as well. As of now, the CA hasn't relented, but their chairman David Peever quit, following which Mark Taylor, former captain, exited his position from the board of directors and criticised the ACA for their demand.

Taylor's association with Channel 9 had him and fellow erstwhile captain Ian Chappell discussing the current crisis in a studio. During the Sport Sunday show, Taylor took exception to Chappell saying that his position as a CA director was only "window dressing" in an establishment that didn't respect the opinion of former players. Taylor also attempted to crush Chappell's view of the CA board not listening to his suggestions. Here's how the conversation went: Chappell: The board have never really wanted to hear from ex-players.

Taylor: I do disagree with some of your comments, Chaps, and we've done that before. People on the Cricket Australia board listen to me. I've been around for 13 years and I'm now our longest serving director. At the moment, I think I'm probably four or five years more senior in service than any other director. Another difference of opinion concerned Smith. Chappell felt Smith will find it hard to regain the respect of his players, but Taylor stressed that the players still "very much" respect Smith.

These two highly successful former captains being involved in verbal conflict surprised me, because Taylor and Chappell don't have a history of disagreements and Chappell was a great admirer of Taylor's captaincy. In fact, he rates him right up there in the list of modern Australian captains. He also loved the fact that Taylor didn't let high-profile coach Bob Simpson call too many shots like Taylor's predecessor Allan Border did.

Chappell and Taylor also have a happy connection with West Indies. The former's team won the 1972-73 series in the Caribbean, a feat no other Australian team accomplished until Taylor's side did in 1994-95. Chappell even wrote the Foreword for Taylor's book on his great year of 1995: "As a commentator on the game, I believe it's important to be impartial, but that doesn't mean in any way that I can't appreciate the Australian team playing good cricket. I have admired Mark Taylor's captaincy, which is tailor-made for the modern game, in which a team not only has to win, but also entertain, to satisfy the patrons."

Taylor will still be Chappell's favourite captain, but what will also not change is Chappell's attitude towards his country's Board. In 1970, a year before Chappell became captain of Australia, influential radio commentator Alan McGilvray passed on to Chappell what a Board member had told him — that he would never captain Australia because of the role he played in the player protest on the 1969-70 tour of South Africa. The Board members were informed that it was Chappell, who, as vice-captain to Bill Lawry, stressed that if the Board wanted the team to play an extra Test in South Africa, they should be compensated well for it.

Ultimately, the players didn't have to play the additional Test, but the black mark against Chappell was made in indelible ink. Cricket pundits in Australia believe that the selectors, particularly Neil Harvey, the only surviving member of Bradman's 1948 Invincibles, insisted on him becoming captain. Bradman was also part of that selection committee.

Bradman was very much a Board member when Chappell fought for extra benefits for his players and he didn't get many nods from the legendary batsman. This added to Chappell's angst towards the Board. In 1974, he placed print-outs of his points in front of every member's seat when he met the Board as captain of Australia. His demands were not well received. In 1975, Chappell declined the invitation to be part of the Board meeting. He just got nowhere with them.

Chappell's attitude towards the administrators didn't change after he retired from the game, so the fact that he believes CA has contributed much to the current crisis shouldn't come as a surprise. Taylor was annoyed at Chappell's "window dressing' comment, but it's not something that he should take personally, especially now that he doesn't wear that CA hat. There is quite a thunder Down Under and India have all the ammunition they need to wrap up the series before the fourth and final Test at Sydney.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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