When I was growing up I noticed my walls had a different look to them than other family homes. Sometimes there were tasteful awnings, feature walls drowned in colour, even red bricks peering through the paintwork.
But no other home had a cricket book wall.
So it was like smelling my mother’s cookies in the oven when Ian Chappell’s new book Chappelli: Life, Larrikins and Cricket was flung onto my desk by The Booktopia Book Guru. Nostalgia slapped me in the face and I was taken into a world where men wore moustaches, lapels and chips on their shoulders.
Ian Chappell has been compiling cricketing anecdotes for a few decades now, and their success lies in not only the quality of his tales but also the down to earth manner in which they are told. He rarely eases out of second gear for most of them, which translates to an accessible and thoroughly entertaining journey.
So easily these books could turn into an exercise in name-dropping but interactions with stars are given the same reverence as nameless characters littering his experiences throughout his life and sporting career. It’s also worth noting that despite his cricketing pedigree (his Uncle Vic captained Don Bradman, his brother Greg captained Australia and is largely regarded the batsman of his generation), Chappell is also increasingly recognised as a commentator on the game first, a past player second. This new dimension gives a different side to the wild, salt of the earth skipper we know from earlier books. Chappell is now a man of the world, traveling extensively throughout the UK, Europe, the Sub-Continent, and even the America’s where he was a reporter for Australian TV on the Baseball World Series in the early 90’s.
The book also expands further on World Series Cricket and Chappell’s experiences with Kerry Packer. An interesting side note that Packer rarely attempted to hide was how much he looked up to Chappell, one of the few people whose opinion he valued above his own. This brings a new side to Kerry Packer rarely explored and makes for interesting reading even if Chappell, as is his way, tries to downplay Packer’s infatuation with him.
Chappell rarely misses a beat with the rest of his stories, the obligatory priceless Doug Walters tour story appears in this edition as with the rest. One senses a more measured, open man than that which sprouted so many imitators many years ago. Chappell remains the yardstick for cricketing stories and while this book explores more territory than just the willow and leather, there’s little doubt that it could be his best book yet.
Chappelli: Life, Larrikins and Cricket is not just for fans of cricket. Nor is it for fans of the cricketer. More than anything it is the stories of a boy from Adelaide whose views on labour and life have rarely erred from the values we all try and instil in the world today. The boy’s done pretty well and why don’t you, like me, let him tell you how.
Review by Andrew Cattanach