I’m a bit late to this, but after watching the Pakistan v. Australia highlights (at cricket-online.tv; try it now!), I have to ask: just how much does Ian Chappell hate Pakistan’s captain?
Did anyone else notice this? For a good 15 minutes, Chappell railed against Shahid Afridi’s choices — why didn’t he have this fielding position; why did he choose that bowler; why does he keep “missing a trick”? Even Afridi’s way of celebrating wickets (like a gymnast after a somersault, two index fingers in the sky) drew Chappell’s ire — surely, he said, his teammates are getting tired of seeing that. (Why? Did teammates get annoyed when Freddie parted the Red Sea and, to quote Uncle J Rod, “became Jesus”?)
Actually, this is part of a larger pattern of behavior for Chappell. Most commentators tend to be ex-players (Harsha Bhogle aside), and some of them come to grips with their not playing better than others. Sourav Ganguly, Atherton, Nasser Hussain — these guys understand what captains and bowlers try to do, and they explain it. Chappell, Gavaskar, Ian Botham — these guys do not understand what players do and constantly berate captains for not doing things they would do.
It’s backseat captaincy at its worst, because it ruins the whole experience for viewers. Granted, captains sometimes make appalling decisions (Dhoni’s last two games have been examples), and I don’t mind commentators putting forth a question or two. What I cannot stand is hearing a commentator go on and on, especially with that patronizing tone best suited for high school math teachers. Chappell is the worst offender in this regard, and is all the more annoying because his only mode is attack. If there isn’t a close-in fielder around a batsman (no matter what the situation), he’ll start on a tirade. If a player smiles and has a chat with the opposition, he might as well be hanged for treason.
I suspect there’s something deeper to his dislike. There’s something in Chappell’s method– a ruthless mission, an organized pursuit of victory — that simply cannot understand Pakistan. Unlike Chappell, who cannot bear any mischief (or perhaps even the pure expression of joy on the field), Pakistan excels with X-factors and hidden talents that only reveal themselves when they see fit. The Australian mind just can’t handle it.