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‘You’re a f****** idiot’ – When Rod Marsh gave Ian Chappell a valuable lesson

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Ian Chappell, while in conversation with Shane Watson on Lessons Learnt with the Greats podcast, recalled how former teammate Rodney Marsh made him realise that ‘every game isn’t at the Adelaide Oval’ during his first overseas Test as Australia captain.

Playing domestic cricket for South Australia meant Chappell captained most of his matches at the Adelaide Oval, which had historically been good for batting and wasn’t as conducive to fast bowling as the other Australian pitches. The wicket’s nature allowed him to switch to spinners straightaway after his full-time pacers’ respective first spells.

“I learnt a lot from my own players, and a classic example of that was Old Trafford in 1972,” he recalled. “As a bit of history, I captained South Australia five times before I captained Australia. So a lot of my captaincy was done at the Adelaide Oval. We had two quicks, Jeff Hammond and Kevin McCarthy, and we had two very good spinners in Ashley Mallett and Terry Jenner. So a lot of time at the Adelaide Oval, I’d go straight from the quicks to the spinners.”

On what was his first overseas tour as a captain, Chappell went with a similar plan in the 1972 Ashes Test at Old Trafford. To his credit, spinner John Gleeson dismissed then-England opener Geoffrey Boycott in both the innings of the match, but even that didn’t impress Marsh.

“Now we go forward to 1972, probably June, and we’re playing at Old Trafford, my first overseas Test as captain and it’s seaming all over the place,” he said. “So we got [Dennis] Lillee, [David] Colley, Greg [Chappell], [Graeme] Watson and [Doug] Walters as seamers. I’ve got John Gleeson and John Inverarity bowling left-arm spin at the time.

“So Stacky [Keith Stackpole] was at first slip and I was at mid-wicket, and when I was crossing over at the end of the over, and as I walked across, Rodney Marsh comes and says, ‘You’re a f******g idiot.’ And I said, ‘Why? Something I said to you?’ He said, ‘No, this is the greatest seamer’s paradise of all time, and you have a spinner bowling at each end. Get ‘em off, get any seamer on.’

“And I said, ‘Rodney I will remind you that one of those spinners just got Geoffrey Boycott out.’ But it was a very good lesson to me because when I stopped and thought about it afterwards, [I thought], ‘Ian, every game isn’t at the Adelaide Oval. You’re captaining as if every game is at the Adelaide Oval. You got to captain according to what’s there.’ So that was a very good lesson.”

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