Chappell’s Last Stand

Published: 2017
Pages: 232
Author: Sexton, Michael
Publisher: Affirm
Rating: 4 stars

For a long time the most neglected area of cricket literature was the Australian domestic game. Perhaps it was felt that due to the shortness of the seasons there simply wasn’t enough material for a book. This changed last year with the quality offering Against All Odds by Ken Piesse and Mark Browning about Victoria’s Sheffield Shield win in 1966-67.

If Against All Odds, which ran to just 83 pages, was the ground breaker than Chappelli’s last Stand, is the sealer. The quality of this book should inspire a plethora of titles on Australian domestic cricket and if they’re half as good as Michael Sexton’s then I will eagerly read them all.

Chappelli’s Last Stand is about the 1975-76 season and the South Australians’ efforts to win the Sheffield Shield. Well that is the quick summary. It’s also about arguably Australia’s greatest ever captain, Ian Chappell and his ability to inspire cricketers.

The author managed to secure interviews with all the main protagonists from the 1975-76 season. The talks were gathered over many years and include interviews with the now deceased Terry Jenner and David Hookes. These discussions are at the heart of the book and provide much fascinating new information on the cricketers and their travails in that period.

The information garnished from the interviews combined with Sexton’s narrative help to produce an exciting read. He tells us early that South Australia were long odds to win the Shield that summer, with their mixture of unseasoned youngsters and blow-ins from other States. Their trump card is Chappelli and his hegemony skills.

The excitement builds after the SA team records some early wins and set out after ladder leader Queensland.  The Queensland team also has some recruits from other states, but unlike SA they are not players looking for opportunities. Instead they are lured to the Sunshine State for more pecuniary reasons.

Queensland boasted Jeff Thomson, the fastest bowler in the World, and captain Greg Chappell who was in sublime batting form that summer. As Queensland had never won the Shield, 1975-76 looks destined to be their season after close to 50 years of disappointment.

Before reading this book, I was not sure who had won the Shield in 1975-76 (I resisted the temptation to look it up) this certainly added to the enjoyment of the read. However, the book is so well written I’m sure that knowing the Shield winner will not detract from the reader’s pleasure.

One of the more interesting factors was the discipline issues of the players and especially those from SA throughout the summer. The whole season was controversial and sees players regularly reported by the umpires, none more so than Chappelli.

It seems that if Ian Chappell wasn’t showing dissent to the umpires, he was clashing with the opposition or rebelling against the SACA (South Australian Cricket Association). The most powerful man in SA cricket at the time was Sir Donald Bradman, and there is no love lost between him and Chappell. The comments by Chappelli on Bradman confirm his dislike for the greatest ever batsmen.

Just as it seems SA will win the Sheffield Shield, Chappelli resigns the captaincy after yet another clash with officialdom. In support of their captain the rest of the SA team refuse to travel to Sydney for the next match without their leader. I will leave the review there so as not to spoil the ending.

Chappell’s Last Stand should really have received 4.5 stars however it lost marks for three reasons: no photos, no index and no stats section. Really though these are tiny bugbears and should not stop anyone from reading this quality book.

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