Greg Chappell, speaking in Kolkata on Wednesday (February 27) evening at the annual Tiger Pataudi Lecture, backed MS Dhoni to continue as India's captain in all formats of the game, while saying that he was excited about Indian cricket but the future of Test match cricket was bleak.
Chappell, who coached the Indian team between 2005 and 2007, said, "I think the future of Indian cricket is very strong. I am excited to think where Indian cricket can go and lead the game."
Chappell, whose lecture was titled 'Can India be the Brazil of Cricket?', lavished praise on Dhoni, whose 224 in the Chennai Test against Australia earlier this week Chappell called "the best I have seen him play in a Test match".
"Only MS could have played such a knock," said Chappell. "It is true that the Indian team under Dhoni looked below-par during their tour Down Under, but he has answered his critics in the best possible way. In my book he remains the best man to lead India in all forms of the game."
Chappell also praised Dhoni's fitness and expressed awe at the workload he manages. "He not only leads India in all forms of the game, but also keeps wickets. And let us not forget the energy-sapping IPL," pointed out Chappell. "At a time when players all over the world are struggling to cope with their workload, it is amazing how Dhoni manages to play every game with the same intensity.
"That he has done it successfully now for five years speaks volumes about Dhoni's fitness, mental strength as well as his commitment. India are lucky to have him."
On the subject of Test cricket, however, Chappell was not as positive. "If we allow Tests to lose, cricket will lose its soul. Cricket will be poorer," said Chappell, adding that concerted efforts must be made to ensure Test cricket survives. "T20 cricket has taken the game to a different level. It is here to stay, no doubt about that. We don't need to change that."
On the future of Indian cricket, Chappell stressed on the importance of Indian cricketers performing well in all conditions and not only at home and said the key lay in preparing sporting pitches across India. "That is where you develop players who can play all over the world," said Chappell. "I think once your cricket embraces this, there will be no stopping what Indian cricket can achieve. Not every pitch needs to be the same; each region has its own nuances.
"The reason why it (India becoming the best in the world) has not happened is that plans have not been put in place. India should be the next cricket superpower, it should dominate cricket in the long-term. For that, changes are needed but not ad-hoc strategies.
"The step, which is equally important, is to provide facilities for everybody to play cricket. It is the environment rather than the academies that produce good players."