The Observer?s Gregor Mactaggart with former Australian cricket captain Ian Cha Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell.
The Observer?s Gregor Mactaggart with former Australian cricket captain Ian Cha Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell.

Chappell fears for Aussies? Ashes hopes


AS my Observer colleague Craig Chap- man said, it is not every day of the week a former Australian test cricket captain is in Gladstone.

Well, I was lucky enough on Wednesday to have a chat to Ian Chappell, the man who wore the baggy green with pride on 75 occasions and captained his country from 1970 to 1975.

The 61-year-old who was in the harbour city to have a look at his diverse business interests was kind enough to give me some of his valuable time.

Like most Australians, he has been on the edge of his seat watching the current series and believes the Poms are evenmoney to win their first Ashes series since 1986/87.

'I have been very impressed with the England team at the moment, coming into this series I thought they would struggle to draw a test, let alone win one,' Chappell said.

'But they are playing the better cricket by far and currently have the edge over Australia mentally.'

Chappell, who skippered Australia to an Ashes series win in England in 1975, has been surprised with the performance of a couple of England's players, especially Simon Jones and Ashley Giles.

'Jones has been the big surprise for me. I saw him in Australia and thought he was straight up and down, but his ability to swing the ball both ways has pinpointed him as a bowler of the future,' he said.

'Giles has been going okay as well and is beginning to believe in his own ability against Australia.'

But Chappell believes the biggest key to England's improvement their mental approach to the game and in some way attributed that to big-hitting duo Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen.

'Flintoff is a super player, his ability with both the bat and ball is exceptional and he is certainly one thing Australia haven't got.

'While Pietersen has been a revelation, some people say he doesn't have a good technique, but in my mind technique is all about stopping the good ones.

'He does that and certainly makes sure he hits the right ones,' he said.

Chappell also pinpointed some reasons why Australia are struggling and added they knew that the series is definitely on the line.

'Australia's batting has been the big problem for them so far, England have prepared themselves well and executed their plans fantastically,'' he said.

'The Aussies have been getting it their own way for so long it is taking them some time to get adjusted to good bowling and are paying the price.'

A couple of those who are 'paying the price' are Queensland's Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich.

'Matthew when he was at his best was bullying attacks, but he can't do that against a good, thoughtful bowling attack that England are at the moment,' he said.

'Katich on the other hand is struggling to adjust to that reverse swing before he is getting in,' he said.

Chappell offered Western Australian Mike Hussey as a possible replacement for Hayden down the track.

'Hussey is a very good batsman, his biggest problem is that he has been too nice.

He was a fantastic opener in four-day cricket, but went down the order when Langer started to open for Australia.

As a result Hussey is the first bloke to get moved around the order and instead of being thought of as just an opener, is thought more so as a middle-order batsman.

"I believe he could open or bat down the order at test level and I would have him in before Hodge.

As for the bowling attack, Chappell is one of a number of people who thinks the end is nigh for Jason Gillespie.

'Dizzy (Gillespie) is really struggling at the moment, but I think he is starting to feel the effects of bad injuries early in his career,' he said.

'He has been a wonderful bowler for Australia, but from afar it seems he has lost the confidence of Ricky Ponting and I think will be dropped.

'I would pick Kasper (Michael Kasprowicz) for Trent Bridge (next test venue) ? he has never let Australia down.'

Whatever happens, one thing for sure is Chappell will be watching with the rest of us supporters.

'This series will come down to the last test alright, England have got the sniff now and are right in the hunt," he said.

'Australia are going to have to play their best cricket if they want to win the series.'

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