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Hitting Out by Ian Chappell with Ashley Mallett

Release date: 01st August, 2006
Publisher: Orion Books

List Price: 7.99
Our Price: 6.39
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Hitting Out
The Ian Chappell Story
By Ian Chappell with Ashley Mallett
Orion Publishing price: £6.39 (saving 20% on rrp)

If Ricky Ponting is looking for inspiration in his attempt to regain the Ashes for Australia, he could do worse than read the memoirs of former skipper Ian Chappell.

Appointed captain for the final Test of the 1970/71 Ashes series in Sydney following the axing of the popular Bill Lawry, Chappell saw his team beaten by 62 runs. England won the series 2-0 and took the Ashes for the first time in 13 years, but it was to be his last taste of series defeat as a captain as he succeeded in turning an inexperienced team into the best in the world.

An attacking cricketer renowned for his fighting qualities and staunch advocacy of the team ethic, Chappell's Australia was a side built in his own image. With Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and brother Greg as his lieutenants, Australia followed a drawn series in England with convincing victories over Pakistan, West Indies and New Zealand before destroying England in the 1974/75 series in Australia.

The Ashes were easily retained in England the following summer but Chappell surprisingly resigned the captaincy, citing mental exhaustion, handing over the reins to his brother Greg. He played under Greg in the annihilation of the West Indies that followed before calling it a day having scored more than 5,000 test runs.

'Hitting Out' is an appropriate title for his autobiography. Never a lover of authority, and never afraid of spotting a sporting icon and blasting it, his targets include Don Bradman, Steve Waugh and Ian Botham.

Bradman is partially blamed for the development of World Series Cricket. Chappell is stunned that as a top administrator, the great man had forgotten the battles he had had in the 1930s over player payments and lambastes the notoriously thrifty Bradman for treating the funds of the Australian Cricket Board 'as though it were almost his own'.

Steve Waugh is described as 'selfish', an ultra defensive captain and damned with faint praise: 'If you've seen one (Steve Waugh innings), you've seen the lot', while Chappell's version of his feud with Botham is markedly different from the one that appears in Botham's autobiography.

It was no surprise that Chappell was a leading advocate of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket and he made a comeback as an international cricketer in the competition. The series created a schism in the game that took many years to heal, but he justifies this with the assertion that finally, professional cricketers began to receive the rewards that their labours deserved.

Among other subjects on which he voices his trenchant opinions are the Australian state's attitude towards refugees and aborigines, not notably populist causes but causes close to his heart.

He concludes with a number of suggestions for the game's improvement, including some on the behaviour of players, a thinly-veiled dig at Waugh's teams, whom he obviously felt had over-stepped the mark regarding the intimidation of opponents. The irony of this suggestion is that it is widely accepted that the corrosive 'art' of sledging was actually introduced (and subsequently fine-tuned) by teams under his captaincy.

Now a popular and thoughtful commentator with a deep understanding of the game, Chappell's autobiography was co-written with former international cricketer Ashley Mallett, a collaboration that makes for an intimate and uncompromising portrait of one of Australia's greatest captains.

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