Trevor Chappell was born on October 21, 1952. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the proverbial ‘dark sheep’ of one of the greatest cricket brethren whose underarm has earned more fame than his cricket.
It is unfortunate that Trevor Martin Chappell was born in one of the most celebrated cricket families and got overshadowed by his famous grandfather and legendary brothers. Despite being the only Chappell to score a World Cup hundred he would probably have been remembered as the ‘other Chappell’ had he not rolled a particular ball along the ground.
Chappell was a stocky, gutsy batsman who was more obdurate than brilliant. His numbers may not suggest so, but he had that ability to occupy the crease for hours. He was also a brilliant fielder at cover, and as have seen in one of the most famous cricket videos of all time, his accurate medium-paced bowling was good enough for Greg Chappell to ask him to bowl the last over of a tournament final.
Trevor Chappell’s three Tests fetched him a mere 79 runs at 15.80, but more significantly he consumed 418 balls for these; his strike rate of 18.89 is probably an indication of how he batted. Of all cricketers with over 50 runs and a known strike rate only two (Clive Eksteen and Pragyan Ojha) have worse strike rates.
From 20 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) he scored 229 runs at 17.61 and picked up 19 wickets at 28.31, which probably suggests he was a better bowler than batsman. Even at First-Class level, spanning 88 matches, Trevor Chappell had scored 4,049 runs at only 29.55 with five hundreds, while his 59 wickets came at 24.77 apiece. His bowling was intelligent, and his wickets were earned more out of accuracy and change of pace than anything else.
Trevor Chappell was born after the Chappells had shifted to Glenelg from Unley. Nine years younger to Ian and four years to Greg, Trevor grew up in the shadow of the two in one of the most famous backyards in international cricket. The nets around the backyard made it ideal for playing both baseball and cricket.
The competitive nature was always prevalent. Greg Chappell recollected an incident in Fierce Focus. Greg had decided to play a prank, watered the pitch, and asked Trevor to bat against him. Obviously Trevor was all at sea against Greg’s bowling; he decided to teach Greg a lesson, acquired a tomahawk, and chased Greg. Greg eventually managed to jump over a gate as Trevor managed to dig the tomahawk into it. Trevor still regrets that had he not had his pads on that day he would probably not have had to bowl that underarm delivery.
All three brothers have maintained that they had to do nothing even at international level (that possibly included underarm bowling as well) that they had not done on that backyard. Despite their similar thoughts they had different personalities: Ian was obviously the most outspoken; Greg chose the middle way — speaking his mind in a slightly diplomatic fashion; Trevor was the quietest of the three.
He played school cricket and then went on to represent Alfred College. His school days, unfortunately, were spent under tremendous expectation: he was still at school when Ian was an established player and Greg had made his Test debut.
He made his way through various levels of cricket and eventually made his debut against Queensland alongside Greg at The Gabba in 1972-73, scoring 67. In his next match against Western Australia at Adelaide he went a step ahead with 70 and 41 not out.
Despite the decent start, Trevor’s first four series’ were rather ordinary. However, he was chosen to play for DH Robins’ XI on their South African tour. Playing against all the South African greats of the era, Chappell scored 196 at 28.00. Once back home he shifted to Western Australia, where he had a chance to play more matches.
After playing just one season he made a shift to New South Wales (NSW). He thus became the third player to have played Sheffield Shield for three different states after Graeme Watson and Gary Cosier. Rod McCurdy (in only 33 matches), Dirk Wellham, Michael Bevan, and Shane Watson have subsequently emulated this feat.
The move to NSW helped: Rodney Marsh did not enforce the follow-on even after Western Australia took a 170-run first-innings lead at SCG in Chappell’s first match for them; NSW were eventually set a target of 321, but Chappell made things look easy with a 150 not out. It was his first First-Class hundred and also remained his highest score.
Later that season Chappell top-scored with 144 against Tasmania at Launceston as NSW won by an innings inside three days. He scored 750 runs in the season at 44.11; both numbers remained his career-best. By now a part-time bowler he also picked up six wickets at 14.50 (his first six seasons had collectively fetched him a single wicket).
He scored a crucial 70 not out for NSW against the touring English side at Canberra and shortly afterwards he came in as a shock change against Queensland at The Gabba; he clean bowled Border, had Greg Chappell caught, and eventually finished with three for 22. Within a month he made his ODI debut.
By then Ian Chappell had quit cricket, which meant that the three brothers could never play international cricket together. Making his debut in the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup at Adelaide he scored 12 from 17 balls and conceded 21 in five wicket-less overs.
The series was an ordinary one for Trevor with the bat: he never passed 14 from the six opportunities he got. His first wicket came in his second ODI against India, when he ran through the defence of Gundappa Viswanath. India were eventually eliminated from the tournament as Australia and New Zealand made it to the best-of-five finals.
Richard Hadlee’s five for 26 won the first final for Australia at SCG. The hosts struck back in the second ODI at MCG: New Zealand were bowled out for 126; Trevor played a crucial role and picked up the wickets of Bruce Edgar and Brian McKechnie; he finished with figures of 10-1-28-2 and Australia cruised to a seven-wicket victory.
Then came the third ODI.
Should we always listen to our elders?
“Marsh said ‘no’ and Benaud frowned,
Greg just wanted it on the ground.
Had to say yes,
And I won’t type McKechnie’s sounds.”
Things proceeded normally in the third final at MCG. Allan Border, promoted as an opener, fell early, but a partnership between Graeme Wood and Greg Chappell and some lower-order hitting from Martin Kent and Marsh took Australia to 235 for four.
John Wright and Edgar then added 85 for the first wicket but took a lot of time. There was frantic batting after that, Edgar scored a patient hundred, and New Zealand eventually required 15 off the last over with six wickets in hand. Greg Chappell threw the ball to his younger brother.
Edgar was still there along with Richard Hadlee. Hadlee hit the first ball for four but Trevor trapped him leg-before with the second. Ian Smith walked out and took a couple of braces before being clean bowled by Trevor in the fifth ball of the over. McKechnie reached the crease with seven required off the last ball.
A six would have meant a tie, which was certainly not Greg had in mind. He wanted to win the match. Earlier in the match he was caught by Martin Snedden on the deep mid-wicket boundary but had refused to leave. Since there was no television camera Chappell had batted on.
As Trevor moved to his bowling mark he saw Greg approaching him from long-off, a rather unusual position for a captain. The following conversation followed:
Greg Chappell: How’s your underarm bowling?
Trevor Chappell: I have no idea.
Greg Chappell: Well, you’re about to find out.
At that point of time Trevor had thought that it was a smart idea. True, it was not in complete synchronisation with the rules of the great sport, but with the competitive spirit developed in the backyard over years had imbibed the importance of a victory in him. He later said if he had refused it might have triggered a family argument that day in MCG.
Greg informed Donald Weser, the umpire at the bowler’s end; he consulted with his partner Peter Cronin and came to the conclusion that Greg was not about to do anything illegal. Greg then asked Marsh to step back. With a look of disbelief and exasperation Marsh, always a friends of Greg’s, uttered the plea “no, mate,” but eventually had no option but to listen to his captain.
A helpless Ian Chappell went ballistic on air: “No, Greg, no! You can’t do that!”
The youngest of the brothers walked up to the crease, made sure he did not overstep, and rolled the ball along the ground. A livid McKechnie blocked it and threw the bat in the air in dismay. Geoff Howarth rushed in to intervene, but there was not much the umpires could do: Greg Chappell’s action was perfectly legal as per the rules (though it was illegal to bowl underarm in the domestic matches in England).
Greg received a lot of flak. Even Richie Benaud’s temper was tested: “I think it was a disgraceful performance by the captain who got his sums wrong. It should never be permitted again,” added the commentary legend. He dismissed the incident as “one of the worst things I have seen on a cricket field.”
Ian Chappell, never willing to digest a single word, spoke out as well: “Fair dinkum, Greg, how much pride do you sacrifice to win $35,000? Because, brother, you sacrificed a lot in front of a huge TV audience and 52,825 people.” “One-Day cricket died yesterday. Greg Chappell should be buried with it,” said Keith Miller.
The matter was escalated to the highest levels. The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser called the incident “contrary to the laws of the game,” while the New Zealand Prime Minister said it was “the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket… an act of true cowardice.”
All that was probably expected. The incident that really affected Greg Chappell came just when he was about to leave the field. A little girl ran beside him, tugged on his sleeve, and said “You cheated.”
Tony Greig was disappointed as well, but for a completely different reason: “He [McKechnie] didn’t even try to hit the thing for six. We practised for years in England because we knew at some stage someone would bowl an underarm. For him to not run down and let it hit his toe and pop up and try and smash it for six was a gross miscalculation. Bloody atrocious.”
Greg later said that Trevor should be given some credit for bowling the ball straight. He recalled that Richard Hadlee had tried to bowl underarm to him in charity matches twice, and had ended up bowling wides on both occasion.
The laws were changed at the earliest. As for the tournament, Australia clinched it by winning the fourth final at SCG by six wickets. Ironically, both the Man of the Match and the Man of the Finals awards went to Greg Chappell. Trevor picked up the wicket of Wright and did not bowl.
Many years later the delivery triggered an Instant Kiwi commercial as well.
The on-ground replication happened 24 years after the incident in what was the first ever T20I. New Zealand needed 45 off the last ball hen the same teams clashed at Eden Park on that evening at Eden Park. Glenn McGrath gave the audience a taste of history when he bowled underarm to Kyle Mills, only to be shown a red card by Billy Bowden. However, everything was taken in good humour and McGrath completed the match ‘normally’.
Trevor made it to the Ashes tour of 1981 as well, playing in all three ODIs. He failed in the first two at Lord’s and Edgbaston before the teams headed for Headingley with the series levelled 1-1. Australia batted first and scored 236 for eight in 55 overs with Trevor scoring 14.
After Rodney Hogg’s early breakthroughs Chappell picked up the wickets of Jim Love, Ian Botham, and Robin Jackman. He finished with figures of 9-0-31-3, and Australia claimed the series. Perhaps based on this performance Chappell was drafted into the side for the first Test at Trent Bridge.
He did not get a bowl as Dennis Lillee and Terry Alderman bowled out England for 185 and 125; Chappell batted at five (above Border) and scored an 80-ball 17 with a single boundary, and scored the winning run: he scored 20 in 65 balls without a boundary.
The second Test at Lord’s was drawn: Chappell scored a 13-ball two, and proved that he could provide competition to Chris Tavaré when he fell for a 69-ball five. His ‘brilliance’ continued in the historic Test at Headingley as well. He batted at three in both innings.
He scored his career-best of 27 (from 135 balls, two fours), and after Botham’s famous blitz, he held up an end chasing as Australia had started their chase of 130. After Graeme Wood’s early departure he helped John Dyson add 43; his 56-ball eight lasted 68 minutes. Bob Willis then ran through the Australians as they lost their last nine wickets for 55. Chappell never played another Test.
Chappell was picked for the 1983 World Cup and was brought into the side only after Australia had lost to Zimbabwe and West Indies in their first two matches. Playing his first World Cup match against India at Trent Bridge he lost Kepler Wessels early, but dominated a 144-run partnership with Kim Hughes.
He eventually fell for 110 — the only hundred by an Australian in the World Cup. It also remains the only World Cup hundred by a Chappell. Strangely, it remained his only international score above 27 (which he had scored in the first innings of the above mentioned Test at Headingley).
He played the other matches in the World Cup before Australia was eliminated. He helped avenge the defeat against Zimbabwe at Southampton by scoring a 29-ball 22 and picking up three for 47, but did little else of note. He never played another international match.
Chappell played for NSW for two more seasons without much success: he scored 215 runs at 16.53 and picked up seven wickets at 54.29 from eight matches. He scored 12 and went wicket-less in his last match against Queensland at The Gabba before returning to grade cricket for North Sydney.
Trevor Chappell began his coaching career with a stretch at the Gordon Women’s Cricket Club. He was then appointed as fielding coach by Sri Lanka on two separate six-month stints. He subsequently became the coach of Bangladesh (he carried on as fielding coach even after Dav Whatmore replaced him as coach).
Chappell also took up the role of the Singapore cricket coach in 2009 for the ICC World Cricket League Division Six tournament. He currently coaches the First XI at The King’s School in Parramatta.
In 2003, South Australian Cricket Association named their two eastern grandstands as The Chappell Stands after the brothers. At the backdrop of these stands is, rather fittingly, the Victor Richardson Gate.
A new ODI contest was announced in 2004 which would take place annually between Australia and New Zealand called the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)