‘England demands a lot more of your footwork and patience,’ says Gavaskar

Sunil Gavaskar concedes nobody can be prepared for English conditions as they were in the first Test in Birmingham and at the Lord’s Test on Day Two.

Sunil Gavaskar..."The ball doesn’t move as much in Australia and the West Indies as it does in England."

Sunil Gavaskar played 16 Test matches in England from 1971 in his long career, faced the new ball with aplomb, became a run scoring machine and was regarded the best in his job by Vijay Merchant and seasoned commentators of the game. At the Sony Pictures Network India studio on Friday, the batting maestro, fielding a few questions from Sportstar, said nobody can be prepared for English conditions as they were in Birmingham and at Lord’s on the second day.

Excerpts from an interaction

Q. What does England demand from an opening pair and batsmen in general?

A. England demands something more special than, say Australia, South Africa or the West Indies, although I have never played in South Africa. The ball doesn’t move as much in Australia and the West Indies as it does in England, in the air as well as off the surface. So England demands a lot more of your footwork, patience to see the early phase of the new ball when it’s really swinging in the air and seaming off the surface.

Like in any grade of cricket, you will get a delivery that can be scored of. One has to capitalise on it by scoring a boundary. But generally in England with conditions that were in Birmingham and is at Lord’s now, one has to be a little bit more watchful. Good old Vasu (Vasu Paranjape) used to say — ‘give the first half an hour to the bowler, then the next five hours are yours’.

India played four years ago. So can it be prepared for circumstances that were in Birmingham and here at Lord’s? And it was said August/September would be ideal for the Indian team? But it has been swing and seam so far...

It’s turning out to be different. June and July were almost like India, hot. Even on Tuesday before this Test, it was really hot. You can never be prepared for these kind of conditions; particularly for the players from the sub-continent, who are used to playing without jumpers, without being encumbered by sweaters and all that, it’s not very easy even if the sweaters are not heavy. That’s why I keep saying that you must keep playing many red-ball matches which gives a little bit of an idea of playing first-class cricket bowlers in England.

They may not be world-class bowlers, but good first-class bowlers, some of them might be striving to catch the eye of the England selectors. There is that element of experience of playing them and so I think that (playing as many red-ball cricket) is necessary.

It must be really challenging for the captain to choose the XI for a Test match?

Generally you pick the guys who are in form, some of whom you know have done well before. It’s obviously trying to keep faith in someone and also weighing his form which is perhaps what led Cheteshwar Pujara being left out of the first Test. His form in England was not great, while K. L. Rahul had done well.

I believe that in the first Test you play in these countries, you go in with six batsmen because it’s your batting which is struggling in the first couple of Test matches. So you give yourself that extra cushion of an additional batsman. There is no guarantee that he’s going to score runs. Then you have [Ravichandran] Ashwin, Dinesh Karthik... MSD used to bat at No. 7. After that, you cannot expect runs from [Nos.] 9, 10, 11. At best, they can hang around... like they did with Virat. He was marvellous the way he farmed the strike in Birmingham.

India is reluctant to play two spinners overseas... do you think another spinner would have changed the outcome of the first Test?

In Birmingham... possibly. Someone like a Ravindra Jadeja, with the ball gripping and turning that little bit. A wrist-spinner may not have been as effective. We saw finger spinner Ashwin getting the ball to turn. So maybe a Jadeja would have come handy. But it’s like 20-20, hindsight way of looking at things. But looking at the balance of the team, if you are going with five bowlers, go with five bowlers, not part-time bowlers like a Hardik Pandya. In this game you have gone with two spinners and with Hardik as the third seamer which makes sense. But Hardik as a fourth seamer? They could have included a batsman (sixth) or a second spinner.

                                     Virat has been brilliant

Virat Kohli’s batting in the first Test at Edgbaston that revealed his skill and temperament to deal with the England’s seamers, especially James Anderson, has evoked encomiums from India’s legendary opening batsman, Sunil Gavaskar.

Let off twice, Kohli proceeded to score 149 in the first innings and 51 in the second.

Gavaskar who has been commenting on the Test series from the SPN India studio in Malad here, said: "I think he has been brilliant... the adjustment he has made in his bat speed.  In 2014, he was feeling for deliveries outside the off stump, now he is waiting for the ball to come to him and not pushing at the ball at the start which everybody does. But the way he has made that adjustment has been brilliant. That’s the reason he was able to get those big runs in the first Test. It’s just that little technical adjustment of playing close to the body and not pushing out.’’

Gavaskar will be in England for the last three Test matches to be played at Trent Bridge, The Ageas Bowl and The Oval.