Ian Chappell was one of the great Ashes captains, regaining the urn in 1974-75 by four Tests to one. Here, he sets out the theory behind his captaincy
Australia's great old legspinner Bill 'Tiger' O'Reilly used to write that a well-trained collie dog could captain a cricket team.
Bear in mind that Tiger's normally sound judgment was impaired by the fact that most captains are batsmen. Bill was never kindly disposed to willow-wielders, even if they were on his side. He reasoned that at some point they would be an opponent, and that entitled them to be classed as the enemy. While I shared Tiger's implied admiration for man's best friend, I didn't entirely agree with his pet theory on captaincy.
Certainly a collie dog could arrange a batting order, manipulate the bowling changes and direct fieldsmen. However, they are only a minor part of the tasks confronting a captain. Before night cricket became such a spectacularly successful part of the game, I said that 'captaincy is not an 11 to six job'. A skipper must be prepared to plant some seeds (by spending time with his players after hours) if he wants to reap rewards on the field and become a respected leader. Once he acquires that status he'll well on the way to becoming a good captain.
Respect is vital to a captain. He must earn it in three categories: as a player, as a human being and finally as a leader. If a captain achieves those aims and complements them with a good knowledge of the game which he applies with common sense and a dash of daring, and he's endowed with a reasonable share of luck, he's on the way to a rating of excellent. If he also has very good players around him, then there's no stopping the guy.
However, a good skipper isn't always endowed with a top-class team and purely judging a captain on results can be misleading. An ordinary team that loses a hard-fought series can be well led, while a very good side that narrowly clinches victory against lesser opponents could be poorly captained. Therefore a good captain is someone who gets the best out of his team. Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga is an example of a captain who leads an average Test side well.
There are many ways to achieve this end and they vary, usually according to the personality of the captain. Character is an important ingredient in leadership; the man in charge must put his stamp of authority on the team. The golden rule decrees the captain gets the pat on the back when it goes well and the kick in the backside when it unravels. That being the case, he should be responsible for his decisions, rather than captain by committee.
Ray Steele, the excellent manager of the 1972 side in England, gave me some good advice early in the tour. He said, 'Remember this team will be known as Ian Chappell's 1972 Australian team. Your name will always be attached.' This advice confirmed for me that I should captain the side the way I thought best.
Having agreed there are a variety of ways for a skipper to get the best out of a team, there is one sure way: make the cricket interesting. A captain shouldn't fear losing, but he should hate losing. There's a big difference. The former will be a defensive captain, the latter aggressive. Why? Because in the first case the captain will do everything in his power to avoid defeat, including manoeuvring into a position from which he can't lose before he goes for the win. The second type will go flat out for victory from ball one and only opt for the draw when all hope of winning is lost.
If the bulk of the matches played are competitive it will bring out the best in the better players and, after all, they are the ones who generally influence the result. When a spectator says, 'Boy, that was boring to watch,' I reply, 'Well, being out on the field is twice as bad.'
Think about it. The guy in the crowd can leave any time he chooses, but the player is out in the field for the duration and when a Test is grinding to a draw on day three there is nothing more mind-numbing. It's a captain's duty to make the game interesting for his players and if he does, q.e.d., the spectators will find it worth watching.
A couple of excellent attacking captains in Richie Benaud and South Australian skipper Les Favell had different ways of achieving the same result. Not surprisingly, their methods leant heavily on their primary skill in the game. Richie expected his team to bowl as many overs in a day as possible, working on the theory that the more balls delivered, the more opportunities to take wickets. Richie was a fine exponent of the art of legspin, and his teams always maintained a good over rate.
Les, on the other hand, demanded that SA make 300 in a (full) day's play. He reasoned that scoring quickly allowed the bowlers more time to take wickets and hence gave the team a better chance of winning. 'There's a good crowd out there today', I heard Les say on many an occasion, 'let's entertain'em.' If we batted first and were 320 for 7 at stumps, 'Favelli' was as happy as a new parent, but if we were 280 for 2 then look out, he was like an Indian on the warpath.
Because Benaud and Favell weren't asking their team-mates to do anything they weren't prepared to tackle themselves, they quickly earned respect as leaders. The Australian system is a good one as the team is selected first and then the captain is chosen from the XI. That way the skipper earns his place in the team and automatically has respect as a player. I don't understand the logic of the English system where they pick the captain first and then add a further 10 names. This can lead to a situation where the skipper isn't good enough to hold his place as a player, but that drawback is overlooked and he's selected anyway. It's difficult enough to tackle an opponent on level terms, without being virtually one man short.
Under the Australian system the captain already has respect as a player and he needs only to continue playing well to maintain that respect. Also, under this system he's generally a long-serving player when he takes over, which means he's (hopefully) already popular with his team-mates. This relationship also has to be maintained, albeit on slightly different terms, but it makes me laugh to hear that as a captain, 'you can't be one of the boys'. A good leader can be one of the gang when the time is right and yet when he gives an order on the field his players will hop to it if he's respected. That leaves a newly appointed Australian captain, who has played his hand correctly, with one remaining task: to gain respect as a leader.
It's important to remember that respect is not something you ask for, demand, or, unless you're Otis Redding, sing about. It must be earned. Respect can be earned in myriad ways, but once again the best method usually equates with the individual personality.
However, there are some things that must be done to lead a side well. In addition to making the cricket interesting, a skipper would be well advised to inform his teammates exactly what part they are expected to play in the overall plan. I found this best done by talking to the players individually.
On the field, a captain must be proactive rather than react to situations. Like a good snooker player, who is always a couple of shots ahead in his planning, a captain should be at least two overs in front of the game. Wherever possible a captain should make things happen, rather than sit back and wait for the opposition to make mistakes, particularly when the match is in its formative stage. Treat it like a boxing contest: you can shadow-box for the first few rounds, sizing up your opponent, or you can walk forward, land a big punch and see what effect it has on the opposition. I prefer the cricketing equivalent of the latter method.
A good captain must be observant and have a good memory. Listen, watch and file things away. You never know when they might bring about the downfall of an opponent. A skipper can also help himself if he remains outwardly calm on the field at all times. There may well be moments when your guts are churning as the tension bites, but by maintaining composure, a captain helps keep his team focused on their task rather than worrying about the consequences if it all unravels. To help bring about a calmness on the field I preferred to create an atmosphere where the players feel comfortable coming to me with suggestions, rather than me seeking their advice. Usually a captain is only looking for help if the team is in trouble. In that situation I reasoned that asking for suggestions would entitle a player to think, 'If the captain is unsure of what to do, then we're in deep trouble.'
Remember, 11 heads are better than one you never know where the next good idea will come from. Fast bowler Jeff 'Bomber' Hammond came to me in his debut Test and said, 'I think I can bounce Kalli ( Alvin Kallicharran) out.' I replied, 'Jeez, Bomber, Kalli's a good hooker and the Sabina Park pitch is pretty flat.' After a short discussion, I told Jeff he had two bouncers and if they didn't work we'd go back to the original plan. Hammond's first Test wicket reads: Kallicharran caught Marsh bowled Hammond 50. Bomber's first bouncer was well directed and Kalli gloved it.
A captain must get to know his players; find out which ones react well to a pat on the back and which ones respond to a kick up the backside. Hence the need to spend time with the players after hours. A captain demands 100 per cent from his players when they're out on the field, therefore he should return the compliment when it comes to the players' off-field needs. This can result in discussions on cricket technique, personal problems or even financial hassles.