BROTHERLY love? Forget it. Ian Chappell asks Aussie selector Greg Chappell the tough questions.
IAN CHAPPELL: Why would you take on another monumental challenge like this (becoming a selector)?
GREG CHAPPELL: I enjoy the challenges. I knew we were coming to the end of an era and it was going to be a challenging time but I think that probably made it more exciting.
Perhaps a few years ago it wouldn’t have been a lot of fun ticking the same 11 boxes every game.
This way, it’s very much about trying to put a team together over the next few years.
IAN: You obviously still feel that Australia can level the series and hopefully win it. What do you think we have to do?
GREG: Well, we’ve got to play well, I think that’s the obvious answer. We can bat well enough.
We under-performed in Adelaide and paid the penalty. England played to their ability and we didn’t. I think if we play to our ability, there’s not much between the two teams.
IAN: I’m thinking of the series when Bradman first captained Australia. They lost the first two Tests then won the last three, which has never been done since. You look at the scores Bradman made, you know, double centuries. Is that the sort of thing you have got to get from Ricky Ponting?
GREG: Not only Ricky. Ricky’s certainly got to make runs but Michael Clarke is another one who is really important. Michael Hussey’s showing he’s still a good player. We need all of that.
But big scores from Ricky make a big statement to the opposition and also our guys, and it will help him in other aspects of his cricket. So yes, I think it is a critical part of us coming back and winning the series.
IAN: It’s fairly obviously how you judge batsmen and bowlers — you look at how they perform. But how do you judge captains?
GREG: There are different factors, like leadership, being able to respond to different situations, knowing when to attack and when to defend. All those things are really important.
A lot of that is learned but it’s intuitive, too. You just have to feel it’s the right time to be attacking or defending.
Ricky’s a really strong leader and he works really hard tactically.
IAN: One thing a bloke who captained both of us used to say about wicketkeepers was that once they start to hurt the team, it’s time to move them on. I’ve sort of used that in judging captains but do you think it’s got to that point with Ricky?
GREG: No, I don’t. He’s perhaps been dealt with a little harshly at times. He’s the right one to lead the team and I will continue to believe that for a little more time yet. He has the ability to lead this side back from where they are and I am quite happy he is the man in charge.
IAN: Does there come a point when you draw a line in the sand and say: ‘We hope we can still level the series but we are now going to pick a team to try and win matches but also look to the future’?
GREG: You have always to do that. One of the difficulties leading into this series was there was a lot of talk on the importance of the Ashes series. If you’re not careful you can be blinded to the requirements and as a selector you have always got to keep your eyes above the horizon.
IAN: Mitchell Johnson came into this series as probably the most important bowler. His confidence appears to be chopped to pieces. Do you think it can be regained in the nets?
GREG: I think it can be regained. Once Mitchell feels comfortable with his action, I have no doubt he can get back to the sort of form we’ve seen before. So I’m not overly worried about that.
IAN: Have you selected Johnson because you have run out of options?
GREG: Well, there are not a lot of options. Mitch was, up until very recently, our best wicket-tacker and the one most likely to win a Test or to help us get 20 wickets. If we can get him bowling well, he’s still the most dangerous bowler we have.
IAN: How much say does the captain have in selection?
GREG: His opinion is always sought but then the selectors go away and pick the side. When the selectors are pretty confident of the direction they want to go, they are quite happy to make those decisions. If there is a more difficult situation, the captain’s opinion is more eagerly sought.
IAN: You were a terrific fielder. Is that an aspect of the first-class game that disappoints you at the moment?
GREG: I think the fielding standards certainly haven’t reached the heights that we would like. The Australian cricket team has always prided itself on being a good fielding team. I don’t think we are a great fielding team at the moment. It certainly didn’t look like it was a good fielding team in Adelaide.
IAN: Do you see things that make you confident of an Australian cricket resurgence in the future?
GREG: Yeah. We have some good young cricketers coming through. We have a few experienced cricketers around the place who are doing OK as well. It’s always trying to get that balance and we have a balance that’s probably a bit top heavy with experienced players. The age factor is an issue and something we need to address as soon as possible. I have no doubt we can climb back up the rankings reasonably quickly.
IAN: I struggle to work out why Michael Clarke gets a lot of adverse publicity. What are your thoughts on Michael as a future Australian captain?
GREG: I’m like you, I don’t understand why he gets some of the negative publicity. The times he has captained Australia he’s done a pretty good job.
He’s a young cricketer learning his way and I know he has a great respect for Ricky Ponting. Recently at times he has felt reluctant to go to Ricky with ideas as a vice-captain. I told him that’s part of his role.
Whether Ricky accepts all the advice and suggestions is up to Ricky. But he at least owes it to Ricky to put those thoughts forward.
I have great confidence that he will be our next captain. I’m hoping that’s not for a little while yet and I know in talking to Michael that he’s not trying to push Ricky out or anything like that. He’s happy to wait his time.
IAN: Australia are ranked No.5 in the world. Is that a fair assessment?
GREG: It is on our current form. We’ve struggled to finish recent series off. Obviously we would like to turn that around, not least of all because the new Test championship has come in and it’s going to be the top four teams in that championship. We haven’t got long to turn it around if we want to compete in the championships.
IAN: Michael Hussey’s been the bright point in the series. How close was he to missing out in Brisbane?
GREG: He was under some pressure to get runs. We have the belief he still is a good cricketer and had a part to play in the series.
In his final innings before the first Test he got a hundred in Melbourne. His first innings I think was about an 18-ball duck, which was probably the turning point for him.
He realised he probably couldn’t play for survival but had to go out and bat to score runs. With just that change of attitude his whole batting changed around and he’s been a revelation.
It’s a great example to other senior players in the Australian side.
IAN: What’s been your reaction to all the “bring Warnie back” talk?
GREG: I’ve been amused by it. I mean I’m sure he could still land a few but I don’t know that that’s going to take Australian cricket forward and I don’t know that Shane has necessarily done the preparation required to play three Tests.
IAN: Thanks mate.