Greg Chappell's Ashes icons: 15-11

06 November 2017
Our voices

Former Australia captain and current national selector Greg Chappell picks the 40 best Ashes players from the past 40 years

About the Writer:

Greg Chappell is a legend of Australian cricket who amassed 7,110 Test runs at the incredible average of 53.86. He is an  Australian selector and the National Talent Manager at the Bupa National Cricket Centre

As a player, captain, selector and commentator at varying times between 1977 and 2017, legendary Australia batsman Greg Chappell is among those most qualified to judge the finest players to have taken the field in an Ashes Test across the past four decades. Here Chappell has delved into the memory bank and listed his 40 Ashes Icons from the past 40 years; men who have left indelible impressions on his memory through their deeds in Ashes cricket. Today we’re looking at numbers 15-11… 

15. Mark Taylor (Australia)

Ashes Tests: 33
2,496 runs @ 42.30. HS: 219. 6x100s, 15x50s

From the Ashes: Mark Taylor - Sydney 1994/95

Taylor was a terrific captain with a great cricket brain, and an adventurous and positive attitude. Winning the toss and electing to bat was almost like a badge of honour for him, as both an opening batsman and a captain; he backed himself and his team to win games by batting first, even in difficult situations.

He used his bowlers intelligently and maintained that attacking vein through his captaincy. He was at his best when he was batting in the same manner, particularly in that 1989 series – his first Ashes – when he scored a truckload of runs.

There were times with the bat where he was maybe caught between being positive and careful, and that probably caused him the lean spell that he went on to break in the '97 Ashes, but at his best he was an excellent stroke-player who hit bad balls into the gaps consistently, and led the team with his batting as much as his captaincy.

From a young age he showed the capacity to be a strong personality in the team, and he went on to become one of our finest latter-day captains. He also had a great pair of hands; he made difficult slips catches look easy. 

14. Alan Knott (England)

7 Ashes Tests (1977 onwards)
433 runs @ 43.30. HS: 135. 1x100s, 3x50s
18 catches

An unbelievable wicketkeeper. He developed his skills standing up to Derek Underwood in county cricket with Kent, on pitches where some would run along the ground and others would come through at shoulder height.

I survived a stumping chance off him at the SCG one day in my first Test series, when admittedly he was unsighted, and that's the only time I can remember him ever missing a ball. The ball used to disappear soundlessly into his gloves. For his ability up to the stumps, I give him the nod slightly over Rodney Marsh. He was a very annoying batsman, too.

He would sweep fast bowlers, and hit balls in areas that were different to other batsmen. I remember him getting some runs against us at The Oval one day, when he frustrated us for a long time, and even in the Centenary Test, he held us up for quite a while. He had a good eye, and like Derek Randall, he was a pretty eccentric character.  

13. Kevin Pietersen (England)

27 Ashes Tests
2,158 runs @ 44.95. HS: 227. 4x100s, 13x50s

From the Ashes: Kevin Pietersen - Adelaide 2010

I put Kevin Pietersen in a very high echelon of batsmen – as good as any England batsman I've seen and his record will stand alongside England's best-ever batsmen. To make the runs he did in that 2005 Ashes – his first-ever Test series – against the quality of bowlers he was up against, you've got to have more than just ability; you need self-belief and real commitment.

KP had those things from the outset of his career. He was a bit like Matthew Hayden in that he was an imposing figure who intimidated the opposition. He was strong off front foot and back, preferred to drive and was technically good everywhere. He scored runs on both sides of the wicket and scored them at a good clip.

His brashness made him a target but he revelled in that; it fired him up and made him more acutely aware of the contest and the need to do well. His personality probably overrode his cricket somewhat. It was part of what made him the player he was but it also distracted people from how good he was. Best of all, he was a match-winner – he changed games regularly. 

12. Ian Botham (England)

32 Ashes Tests
128 wickets @ 28.04. BBM: 10-253. 1x10WM, 7x5WI
1,486 runs @ 29.13. HS: 149no. 3x100s, 6x50s

From the Ashes: Ian Botham - Melbourne 1986/87

He didn't oversleep and he didn't under-imbibe, so to turn up the next day and put in some of the physical efforts Ian Botham did was monumental. He had the constitution of an elephant. He was much under-rated as a bowler and generally got it up in the high 130s, and I think because he got a lot of wickets with seemingly ordinary balls, people considered him a lucky bowler.

But having batted against him a lot, while he bowled a lot of good balls, he was prepared to give you some bad balls to make you play shots. I was his first Test wicket, at Trent Bridge; he bowled a big wide half-volley and I tried to drive it and dragged it on. I'm certain he did it on purpose.

He would do that to loosen you up and get you excited, but he could seriously bowl. And he was such a strong bugger. Like Flintoff, his batting was explosive and damaging when it came off, but – '81 Headingley aside – if you look at his record with the bat against Australia, when Dennis Lillee played, it was nowhere near as good. Credit to him for that Headingley performance though.

I've never asked him about it but I know 'Both' reasonably well and I reckon he was thinking, 'If we're going to lose this, we might as well lose it quickly'. Everything just came off. I'm always amused by the fact that England keep going back to it. I guess there's not a hell of a lot else to talk about, so they keep using that as their rainy-day interlude. 

11. Rod Marsh (Australia)

15 Ashes Tests (1977 onwards)
506 runs @ 19.46. HS: 63. 4x50s
60 catches

caught Marsh, bowled Lillee

I didn't like Marshy much as an opponent. I played against him in a schoolboy carnival and took an instant dislike to him. He was always quite a yappy character. He didn't talk to you, but he'd talk about you to his teammates as he went past you.

But then when I shared a dressing room with him I quickly recognised why he was so well regarded by his teammates. He was a great competitor, a wonderful wicketkeeper and a very talented batsman. Throwing balls at him in the nets, the ball used to come back to me much too quickly – he was such a good timer of the ball.

He was the first Australian wicketkeeper to make a Test hundred – a fantastic innings in the Centenary Test – and while he wasn't quite Gilchrist, I don't believe he was far behind him. Of all the 'keepers I remember – and we've been blessed in Australia – Rodney is in the very top bracket. Standing back to the quicks, I don't think he had a peer.

And by the end of his career, he was as good standing up as he was standing back. He was tactically a great support for both Ian Chappell and myself as a vice-captain. He was insightful, he wasn't afraid to speak his mind, and he had a superb cricket brain.

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

Gillette T20 INTL Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21