Clearing the Air

Sun, Nov 7, '04

by GREG CHAPPELL

Greg Chappell

My apologies for being unable to comment over the past few weeks but once I withdrew from the selection process for the West Indies coaching position I promised the Board that I would not talk to the media. Now that Bennett has been appointed to the role I think I need to clarify a few points. What has appeared in the media has not been a true reflection of the facts.

When the West Indies Cricket Board approached me I was honoured and readily agreed to attend an interview in London just prior to the ICC Champions Trophy. In preparation for the interview I put together a document to support my presentation. The information contained in that document was based on my research into all facets of the game, based on my experiences as a player, selector, administrator and coach, and looked specifically at the West Indies situation and how to rebuild the game in the region.

As you know from the Chappellway web site I have expressed some strong views about the direction that coaching and game development is going. Over the past four years, Ian Frazer, my partner in the Chappellway web site, and I have done a lot of research into the champions of the game from Bradman to the present day. What we found has been fascinating and is compiled in a book that Ian and I have collaborated on called "The Making of Champions" that has been published by Lothian Books in Australia and is now on sale.

In the book we also look at the development process that has helped develop these champions. Ian and I have strong views about coaching and the direction game development is going around the world. We believe that the idea of one-size fits all programme of development is not in the best interests of the game. Each country has a distinct cricket culture and this has to be recognised in any programme, as does the fact that a coach with the national team is limited by the quality of talent on hand at the time.

Australia?s success over the years is because of the whole system that develops the right type of player to succeed at the highest level. The biggest part of our development programme is club cricket and our first-class structure. Coaches have a role to play and academies can be beneficial but without a proper infrastructure, that provides the right level of competition and the appropriate challenges at each stage, the development process will break down and even the best coaches will struggle to overcome the deficiencies in skill and experience in senior players.

What I presented to the interview panel was a proprietary system based on the research we have done through Chappellway that was based on what we know of West Indian cricket in the past and the present. It touched on all aspects of the development process and was aimed at developing coaches as well as players. I believe it is important that each region in world cricket should be self-sufficient and should be able to provide home grown coaches.

Cricket needs to get smarter with what it does in game development and has to realise that a different coach each three to five years is a short term solution to a long term problem. Each country must look to their own culture and personality to develop a system that suits the local requirements and must include a career path and a succession plan for coaches as well as players.

What I proposed to the WICB was a different approach that addressed all of these issues. I told them at the interview in London that if they were only looking for a coach to replace Gus Logie then I was not the right person for the job, as I did not want that position in isolation from the rest of the development process. If they wanted to buy into a plan that was aimed at addressing all areas of development, including developing coaches throughout the region, then I was interested in taking up the challenge.

When they came back and offered me the job, I was excited and began to make plans to rearrange my life to be in place for the domestic tournament in Guyana but when we started to discuss remuneration I began to be concerned. It was obvious from discussions and the offer that was made that the Board wanted a quick fix and was only looking for a coach to replace Gus. I reiterated that I wasn?t interested in the position on that basis and withdrew from the process. Despite what has been said in the media, money was not the major issue. It was a philosophical difference that caused the breakdown in negotiation.

I believe that cricket is going to have to change its ways. Instead of looking for the magic bullet solution, each country must make some long-term plans for a viable development program that can produce champions. A coach, or even a whole raft of them, will not produce champion players. A properly evaluated system is the only thing that can and will produce champions.

The old peer-driven system worked well for a number of reasons. It was a user friendly and competitive environment that allowed players to learn from experience and to develop their decision-making skills under pressure in a realistic match environment. The important aspect was that it taught the participants how to compete and that is an important part of the process that develops champions. The one characteristic of any champion is that they love the contest. Without that they would never become champions.

This is one of the major differences between the old peer-driven system and the new academic system that is sweeping the world. While we cannot go back to the old days we must recognise what it was with the old system, and it was a system, that developed these champions. Many sports around the world are struggling to find that missing ingredient in their structured academic based programmes. Cricket needs to go ?back to the future? to find it and marry it with modern technology and real science to ensure that we produce more champions for the future.

As much as it would have been a great honour to have taken on the West Indies role I found it too difficult to reconcile the philosophical differences between what they wanted and what I believe is necessary for anyone to be successful in the long-term. Short-term success may be important to some individuals, and I can understand that, but world cricket needs the West Indies to be strong over the long-term for the ongoing health of the game.

* Greg Chappell played in 87 Tests for Australia between 1970 and 1984, scoring 7110 runs at an average of 53.86 (top score 247 not out). His philosophy on coaching can be found at Chappellway.