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Glen Chapple – A legend of county cricket

With indefatigable zest, energetic industrious stamina and sheer ingenuity, Lancashire’s premier paceman, Glen Chapple, has done yeoman services for his county. The fast bowling all-rounder made his county debut about two decades ago for Lancashire against Sussex at Hove in ’92. More than twenty years later, he is the captain of Lancashire’s set up, and remarkably is still the cornerstone of their pace attack. Glen Chapple’s longevity embellishes his single-minded dedication and devotion towards cricket.

In the just concluded county game against Worcestershire in division two at Old Trafford, the Lancashire stalwart bowled close to 40 parsimonious overs, and snared 3 wickets to take his wicket-tally to 886 wickets in first class cricket. In an era, where gym-fit promising fast bowlers are heading more towards the knackers yard, the 39 year-old Glen Chapple is a sui generis in every sense.

Even during his younger days, the pace ace was known as a fierce competitor. When he made his second X1 debut back in 1990 against Leicestershire, and played with future county cricketers like Irani, Austin and Yates, there were whispers that Chapple was ahead of rest of the pack in the county circuit.

It was in 94-95, when Indian cricket fans caught a glimpse of the young firebrand fast bowler, as Chapple played for England A against India A in a test series that season. The senior Indian team had thumped an enervated English side in 92-93. Everyone was expecting a repeat performance from the India A side at home. But Chapple and his partner in crime, Cork, snared 39 wickets between them to send the young India A side hurtling towards a 3-0 whitewash.

With an athletic build, and by smearing chapstick on his face, the way the ginger haired Chapple razed India A’s strong batting line-up consisting of Dravid and Muzumdar to the ground at Bangalore was an eye opener. Glen Chapple’s effervescent endeavours on barren tracks of India made one wonder whether he was already pencilled in to play for England in tests.

There was even an inkling that Glen Chapple would have to cut short his tour of India to bolster an injury ravaged English set-up in Australia in 94-95, but that didn’t happen. Those days, by pursuing a haphazard selection policy, English cricket found itself in doldrums. But hope springs eternal, as Chapple continued to bowl incisive spells in county cricket.

The following year in ’95, Chapple came very close to making his much awaited test debut against West Indies, but it was his Lancashire teammate, Peter Martin, who got an opportunity to play his first test.  When India toured the Old Blighty in ’96, it seemed certain that Chapple would play a test or two, but he was dogged by niggling injuries throughout the season. In ’03 against South Africa at Trent Bridge, England’s selectors were forced to make a choice between Kirtley and Chapple, and they plumped for Kirtley.

In spite of being largely ignored by national selectors, and let down by persistent injuries, Chapple was consistent in county cricket. He ripped open a formidable Essex batting line up in the Natwest final in ’96 at Lord’s by taking 6 for 18. As the years ticked by though, his detractors opined that Lancashire should invest more in youth, and put Chapple out to pasture. Those niggling injuries he suffered in the late 90’s had gnawed at his pace. But he refined his craft of seam bowling by using every little trick in a seam bowler’s trade. It also has to be said that Chapple’s repeatable action has helped him to bowl with good control, over the years.

In particular, 2005 was an annus mirabilis for him. During that season, he hunted down 47 batsmen. In ’07, it was yet again a case of being so near, yet so far for Lancashire, as they lost the County Championship by a whisker to Sussex. Just like a true servant of Lancashire’s cricket though, Glen Chapple did his bit by taking a 7-for against their formidable foes Durham.

In ’08, Chapple’s herculean efforts with a ball in hand saved Lancashire the blushes, as without his 42 wickets at the cost of just 20.5, Lancashire could have suffered the ignominy of being relegated to second division. It was his breathtaking spell of 6 for 40 against Kent which assured Lancashire of their place in division one that season. With Lancashire’s management releasing Stuart Law, Chapple had to shoulder the additional responsibility of captaining a young side as well. Glen Chapple as a captain of Lancashire seems to constantly motivate his teammates to do better. He definitely comes across as a popular captain.

In 2011, Lancashire was strapped for cash, and most critics reckoned that they would be relegated to second division. The youngsters in the team though, played out of their skins to bring glory to the county, as they won the County Championship outright for the first time in 77 years. In many ways, county cricket is quintessentially a microcosm of well-established British traditions. So, Glen Chapple, his teammates and Lancashire’s cricket faithfuls must have been over the moon after winning the prestigious County Championship.

Glen Chapple himself played a key role in helping Lancashire to their historic triumph in ’11. He was simply outstanding, as he took 57 wickets at just 19.75. His heroic efforts can be best exemplified by how on the penultimate day of County Championship in 2011, he shrugged off a hamstring injury, and bowled with fire and brimstone to chip away at Somerset’s top-order. In that innings, Chapple showed the exuberance and vigour of a young tearaway quick. Glen Chapple was rightly adjudged as Lancashire’s player of the year in ’11.

In a stark contrast to 2011, the last season didn’t go well for Lancashire, as their batsmen struggled to do well, and eventually they were relegated to second division. The utilitarian Glen Chapple still churned out impressive performances day-in and day-out. The tragedy was that in spite of Chapple’s valiant warrior-like bellicosity, Lancashire played way below par.

Despite being ultra consistent in county cricket, Glen Chapple’s international career was unfortunately restricted to a solitary One-Day international against Ireland in ’06. It is hard to fathom how could have the selectors picked the likes of Martin Bicknell, Mike Smith, Simon Brown, Mike Watkinson, Darren Pattinson and company, but not Chapple.

Glen Chapple may not have been bestowed with god-gifted talent. But with 886 wickets, 7,922 runs, and by nurturing a young side to a County Championship triumph, there is no doubt that he has carved out a niche for himself among the pantheon of great county cricketers.

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