Sportstar archives — We were in the driver's seat: Gavaskar on 1982 England series

In this chat with Sportstar, Sunil Gavaskar weighs in on England's tour of India in 1981/82, the highs, lows and the way forward.

Sunil Gavaskar: Our boys played better than the other side. I am happy with the way they have performed. Their attitude has been very professional.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Whether it be an expert or an average fan there is unanimity in the view that Sunil Gavaskar has matured considerably as a captain. He has been dubbed as one having too defensive an attitude, but his England counterpart Keith Fletcher was no different.

Even before the start of the Kanpur Test, Lala Amarnath quipped this way: “India has won the series, for the wicket is barren and Gavaskar is the captain.” An Englishman was heard saying, “Gavaskar is a much better captain than Fletcher.”

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Gavaskar himself was not much excited about it all. He was happy that his side had won. But he made no secret about what he thought about the series. Like everyone else, his verdict too was a big “dull.”

In this interview with the Indian skipper at Kanpur, Sportstar sums up the series:

How do you look back upon the series?

It has been a series which showed the determination of our team. It has been dull. No doubt about that. The Englishmen are hardly attractive as, say, the West Indians. Our boys played better than the other side. I am happy with the way they have performed. Their attitude has been very professional.

Do you think the pitch had much to do with India’s victory at Bombay?

No. Our bowlers earned the victory there. Kapil (Dev) and Madan (Lal) bowled exceptionally well to take us to victory.

Confident lot

Were you confident of keeping that lead?

Not immediately after that. After we went one up, I was confident. We were in the driver’s seat. But it was only after the second Test that I knew that we would win the series. The Bangalore Test showed how determined our boys were. I was confident about the outcome of the series from that stage.

Much has been said about the pitches. The Englishmen have complained about the slowness of them and the lack of bounce in them. Your comments.

I can’t understand this. The Englishmen don’t have fast pitches in their country. Then why complain about it here? As for bouncy wickets, this is also strange. When the Englishmen come to India or Pakistan, they want bounce; when they go to the West Indies and Australia, they complain about too much bounce. On our pitches, it was just a question of whichever side performing better coming up trumps.

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How much of a say did you have in the preparation of the pitches?

None whatsoever. It is the sole responsibility of the groundsmen and the ground authorities. How do I come into it? Anyway, we were arriving at Test centres about 48 hours before the start of the matches. By that time, the pitches had already been prepared. I had no role to play. I made no suggestions.

What about the stow over rates?

It has been rather unfortunate. I hope some law is brought in to check this. You see, we were always at a disadvantage in losing tosses. Still, we never tried to slow down on the first days. It was only when the English batsmen were going for quick runs in order to make a declaration that we slowed down the over rate. They could have run up big totals in quick time and put us under pressure.

Would you subscribe to Test matches with limited overs?

No. The whole purpose will be lost. You won’t get the right kind of atmosphere, the Test match atmosphere. Of course, we can have more One-Day matches in future.

Your views on the One-Day internationals that India won.

We played exceptionally well in the One-Day games. Previously, we lacked the experience. But even then you would see that most of the matches in Australia and New Zealand were very close. The Australia-New Zealand series have been very good in gaining experience in this type of cricket. Our ground fielding was excellent this time. Our batsmen paced the innings perfectly.

India's Kapil Dev drives a ball during the fifth Test match between India and England at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


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What would you say about your own batting and other major contributors?

I was nervous when I went in in the first Test at Bombay. More than anything else, I was worried about my concentration, not about my technique. I found that the concentration was still there, and I knew that some big scores were just waiting.

(G. R.) Viswanath was outstanding. Yashpal (Sharma) also did very well on his comeback. Dilip (Vengsarkar) was a bit disappointing, in that he did not get a hundred, even though he was close to it at Calcutta and Madras. Sandeep (Patil) not striking form was a bit of a blow. He would have been quite useful as a bowler, with his negative stuff.

Do you think Kapil Dev became a little stale toward the end of the series? Has he been overworked?

In my own case, I could not find the same level of concentration in the last two Tests as I had earlier. I was finding it difficult; the same thing can happen to a bowler, too. He might lose his enthusiasm a little. I always saw to it that Kapil did not bowl more than 20 overs a day so that he is not overburdened.

Where is he?

Did you at any stage feel the necessity to have another bowler?

Of course, it would have been useful. If we had found a batsman at No. 6 who could also bowl, it would have been ideal. We couldn’t find him. We couldn’t take a risk in weakening our batting, for if you look at it closely, our batting was a bit suspect at the beginning of the tour.

How do you rate this English team?

That one outstanding cricketer, lan Botham, makes all the difference to the team. He might not have found the wickets to his liking as far as bowling was concerned. (Graham) Gooch is a very, very fine player and (Bob) Taylor performed efficiently behind the stumps.

As a bowling side?

Not much on our pitches and in our weather conditions. It will be quite different in England. (Bob) Willis bowled better than before. He was a little unlucky. Though he was beating the bat many times, he was not getting those edges. (Derek) Underwood is not the same bowler any more.

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What about Fletcher’s captaincy?

I would not like to comment on that.

Let’s put it this way. If Mike Brearley had been the skipper of this English side, would that have made a difference?

Not with the kind of determination our boys have shown. How much difference it would have made to England, I wouldn’t know.

Tough series ahead

What are the prospects for the tour of England this summer?

It is difficult to say right now. It will be a far tougher series than we had here. We had the advantage of the Indian conditions. It will be much colder there. It all depends on how quickly we adjust to the English conditions.

Do you think (Chetan) Chauhan can still come back as your opening partner?

It is always possible. If Chetan makes some good scores in the Ranji (Trophy) matches, he can stage a comeback. We need one more opener, an extra seamer and a second wicketkeeper. These are musts. All those who have been knocking on the Test door have a chance during the Ranji knockout matches to be considered for the tour.

(This interview was first published in the Sportstar Magazine in 1982)

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