Mike Gatting: Getting cricket into Olympics is important

Former England captain Mike Gatting opened up in a chat with Sportstar during the inauguration of the Tendulkar Middlesex Academy-DY Patil Sports Centre.

"T20 is a fabulous game for the young kids to get them involved," said Mike Gatting (L) during the inauguration of the (Sachin) Tendulkar-Middlesex Academy in Navi Mumbai on Tuesday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

In his long and illustrious career, Mike Gatting has donned multiple hats. He has been one of the most successful batsmen for England; has captained the side with elan and has also been the World Cricket Committee chairman at the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

In the city to be part of the inauguration of the Tendulkar Middlesex Academy-DY Patil Sports Centre, Gatting bats for the traditional five-day Test cricket.

In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, he talks about Test cricket, England’s future and more.

As one of the iconic counties, Middlesex has taken various initiatives to popularise the game among the youngsters. Now as it has come up with the Tendulkar Middlesex Academy in India, what are your thoughts?

It is hugely important when you have somebody as iconic as Sachin (Tendulkar), here in India. Middlesex has been going on for 156 years. And we have had some really good players over the years and, and I think we are all very much like-minded, certainly the cricket as I speak of Middlesex is about making sure the kids get their opportunity, making sure people are healthy.

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But for me, the main thing is the kids and the lessons they can learn. Sachin said earlier and I fully support him in the fact that you know, you learn a lot of life skills whilst you're learning and playing a sport. You learn to mix with others, you learn different cultures, you know. I remember it was a huge culture shock for me in my first trip to Pakistan.

You know, for me the knowledge that is in Sachin and Indian cricket, and the knowledge at Middlesex would have been wasted if it wasn't used. And I think the coaching drills are a positive because it's the thoughts and views of other talented cricketers. It will be hugely helpful to have a lot of these around the world because you're talking about trying to make sure the game continues to grow around the world. I mean, we're the second biggest sport in the world. But you know, there are large areas of the world where we don't play.

What’s the way forward to make the game more popular?

I hope something like the Olympics will help that. I feel getting cricket into the Olympics is important. But the more of these (academies), we can put in different parts of the world. With that, the real adage of being a better person as well comes true. It's not just about being a great sportsman, it’s about being a better person. And you know that to me is as important as anything.

At a time when every youngster aspires to play the IPL, do you think that it is important to ensure that they play enough cricket in the longer format?

You only have to listen to your Indian captain, Virat Kohli, who's been fantastic. Virat is a wonderful player, but he sounds like he's a nice man as well. And he appreciates that Test cricket is a unique form of the game, and it always will be. It is a longer form but it is worth keeping because you do learn so much about yourself as a cricketer, and as a person when you are playing over five days. T20s is fun, it’s a great game of cricket. It's lovely. It's great for the spectators. But you look at all the very best players in T20. They're all Test players, who know the highs and lows, who know about playing in front of large crowds, who do understand the whole game, and they've got much more to give. And I think that's important, but the uniqueness of Test cricket is far beyond the T20s.

But I do admit, totally the T20 is a fabulous game for the young kids to get them involved. And then hopefully once they get big, you know, they might feel the inclination to learn the longer game. It is a wonderful thing because then you hone your skills regularly like trying to bat for a whole day or even bat for two hours. You don't get that in T20s. So you learn different things about your fitness, your mental strength, your determination, your ability to bounce back when you haven't had a good set. So, there are so many things it teaches you.

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There are proposals for reducing Test cricket to a four-day affair. What are your thoughts?

I sincerely believe they should listen to the players. They will give you an honest opinion about that. And you know, there is no harm in listening but I have my views which I'd like to keep to myself at the moment. I do believe yes, we will talk about it, but if we're going to change it for making the game better, then it’s fine, but I'm not sure. As we've seen over this Test series against South Africa -- where matches have gone on till the fifth day. You do need five days. If it rains and you lose a day, but if you didn't have the fifth day, the match would be a draw. So there are lots of things.

It has been a great couple of years for England. What are your thoughts?

Yes, it has been. You know the nice thing is we have found some iconic players. I mean, we've lost one sadly in Jimmy Anderson. He's probably coming to a close. We all knew that would be, but he's been iconic for England. Broad is still being good and looks like he's listening in his old age as well. But yeah, the likes of (Mark) Wood has come back stronger.

I think time will tell, but I think Mr Pope (Ollie Pope) is going to be a very talented cricketer. Of course, Stokesy (Ben Stokes) has been fabulous for England. Joe (Root) has been battling a little bit but he's still a fantastic player. He’s gonna possibly be one of our longest-serving (captains) and is probably a challenger for Sir Alistair Cook for the amount of time he's sort of been the captain. He's a fantastic cricketer and his captaincy is coming on nicely.

Would you say, the current lineup has the possibility of being the best England side ever?

It could become that. (Jonny) Bairstow is not playing. I think youngsters have done a great job and are one of the reasons why we won the series 3-1 against South Africa. You know when you look at what we used to have, and no disrespect to these young guys because they could still become great players. England’s top three have always been quite strong. And it's probably one of our weaker areas at the moment. So if any of these two or three young players become stronger, then we will have a seriously good side.

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