Greg Chappell's Ashes icons: 20-16
Former Australia captain and current national selector Greg Chappell picks the 40 best Ashes players from the past 40 years
5 November 2017, 02:56 PM AEST
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 20-16…
20. David Warner (Australia)
13 Ashes Tests 1,079 runs @ 44.95. HS: 124. 2x100s, 8x50s
The quintessential modern cricketer. Warner has amazing skills, he's very powerful and he's a risk-taker who backs himself. He's a match-winner, plain and simple. I think a lot of people just saw him as a limited-overs player because he liked to take the bowling on before it was fashionable.
People thought you had to play yourself in before you attacked the bowling but David worked on the theory that if it was there to hit from the first ball, he was going to hit it. There have been plenty of occasions where he's put Australia well in front in the first session of a match and that's where they've stayed. He's the sort of batsman that intimidates bowlers, and they bowl bad balls because of it.
He was the top run-scorer in the last series out here and made major contributions in the first three Tests – that's what you want from your gun batsmen and that's what Australia will be hoping he does again this summer. The turning point for him was when he worked out that to be successful he had to practice batting as well as hitting.
He tended to see himself as a dasher and he used to practice hitting the ball in the air and hitting it a long way. But there are times in Test cricket that you can't do that. Since he learned that, he's been a revelation in Test cricket.
19. Mike Hussey (Australia)
15 Ashes Tests 1,304 runs @ 59.27. HS: 195. 4x100s, 9x50s
Hussey could easily have played Test cricket much earlier. When I was coaching South Australia in the early 2000s and Simon Katich was first picked for Australia, Ian Chappell rang me up and asked me what sort of player Katich was.
I said, 'He's a very good player but I think they've missed a better one; Hussey's the bloke I'd be more excited about'. Then when he did play, what a start it was – it was just amazing the amount of runs he scored in those first couple of years in the Test team. He forged a very good career and he was Australia's standout batsman in that 2010-11 series, and has a an outstanding Ashes record overall.
He was very intense as a player, almost too intense; had he been a little bit more relaxed about his cricket he might have been even better, and lasted longer. I think by the end he realised he'd had enough of the constancy of international cricket. It's tough to keep making runs year after year, in all conditions against all comers.
But he was such a bright shining star during his time in the Test team, and it was quite exceptional what he achieved. At his best he had the ability to take bowlers on either side of the wicket, and he could adjust to whatever the situation demanded. He was a very, very fine player – right up in the top echelon.
18. Ian Healy (Australia)
33 Ashes Tests 1,269 runs @ 30.95. HS: 134. 2x100s, 6x50s 123 catches, 12 stumpings
One of the reasons we picked Ian Healy so young was because he was very reminiscent of Rod Marsh in terms of his character, and I rate him pretty close to Rod as a wicketkeeper. He probably wasn't a naturally gifted 'keeper initially but he was a very good athlete who kept wickets and worked hard to make himself into an outstanding wicketkeeper.
Standing up to the stumps to Warney for all that time, he didn't make many mistakes. There's been a lot of very good wicketkeepers for Australia but Heals is right up there with Marsh for me. He played most of his junior cricket as a batsman who kept wickets, so he'd done a lot of batting.
Much like Rod and Alan Knott, he played some important innings, and scored an Ashes hundred both home and away. If they strayed onto his pads at all, he would just pick them off, and he was good on the off side as well.
17. Steve Smith (Australia)
18 Ashes Tests 1,339 runs @ 43.19. HS: 215. 5x100s, 4x50s
Smith played in that ill-fated 2010-11 series as a part leg-spinner, part batsman, which gave him a bit of a taste of Test cricket and played a part in setting him up for what he's been able to achieve since.
People get distracted by his mannerisms and his movement at the crease, but when you see him at the point of release, he's in the same position that all the great players get into – where he can attack the full ball and he's got time to adjust to the short ball. Once he worked out which balls he could attack and which ones he should defend or let go, he's become a prolific player.
His record in the last three or four years is exceptional. He's one of the best of his era, and I think his record by the end of his career will suggest he's one of the best players Australia has had. He's also a brilliant fielder, and he bowls better-than-useful leg-spin, which I'd love to see him bowl more often because history says he's a wicket-taker.
As he allows himself to experiment more as a captain, he'll only become better strategically, but he's still developing at this stage and to have built the batting record he has since taking over from Michael Clarke is quite incredible.
16. Mark Waugh (Australia)
29 Ashes Tests 2,204 runs @ 50.09. HS: 140. 6x100s, 11x50s
One of Mark Waugh's nicknames was 'Afghanistan' as in 'the forgotten Waugh'. And it was unfortunate for him in some ways that he came under the shadow of Steve. He was certainly his own person, and he played cricket his own way. He was a very, very gifted player; a terrific allrounder and one of the great all-round fieldsmen.
I remember watching him at the SCG one day, fielding at short midwicket on what was a dusty, uneven square in those days, and there were a handful of fielding efforts that were just remarkable. He fielded them as if was standing on a pristine outfield. And he made it all look so easy. Some of his catching at slip was just brilliant. His bowling was better than part time.
And his batting was imperious. Some of the innings he played were just a sight to behold. Sometimes he even looked good getting out. There were times when people thought he perhaps didn't prize his wicket enough, which I don't agree with; he perhaps wasn't as conscious of records and statistics as others, but he was just as keen to do well and keen for Australia to win as anyone.
Everybody would have loved to have been able to bat like Mark Waugh. The fact he was prepared to take the bowlers on contributed to Australia winning games. He was the sort of cricketer you wanted to watch play. He reminded me of Doug Walters – they were going to live and die by the sword. He was a match winner in his own right; when he got runs, Australia generally prospered.
He could easily have played as early as Steve did, and funnily enough he replaced Steve when he came in for his first Test match and made a wonderful hundred on debut, and went on to have an amazing record in the Ashes.
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