Timing perfect, programme good

Published : Nov 17, 2001 00:00 IST

IS the threat of terrorism the main cause, or do English cricketers just don't like touring the sub-continent?

Already we have had Alec Stewart and Darren Gough pulling out of the tour, citing the need to rest and expressing concern about being away from their family for too long.

The need for rest didn't ring true for there was about eleven weeks gap between the end of the English season and the Indian tour. And professional full time cricketers being away from home is part of the obligation and commitment.

It isn't always easy, particularly with a young family, but if you accept the invitation to play for your country, you must also accept the responsibility that goes with it.

While I appreciate the fact and danger that terrorism threatens I just can't see that India poses major concern for cricketers.

English cricketers unfortunately have always been negative about touring the sub-continent and seem to still be in a time warp about touring there.

I could understand this if our time machine had dropped us off 30 or 40 years ago, but not now.

It was tough in those days when hotels and food were ordinary and in many towns and cities no hotels were available and we stayed in an assortment of places from army barracks to the hospitality areas of corporate houses.

A large biscuit factory looms clear in my memory, as not the most comfortable accommodation I have ever had. Food, water and hygiene weren't always there and some players made more runs off the field than on it.

These days, where international cricketers go, the places are well served by hotels and dressing rooms are now very comfortable and clean.

In fact most of the hotels used are as good, if not better than any in the world and generally superior than those touring teams stay at in England.

India can still be a demanding country to tour, particularly if you visit out of the traditional cricket season - November to February. Unfortunately due to heavy schedule some countries go at other times and then weather conditions make it very uncomfortable.

England this season is touring at perfect time and the programme looks fine.

My only concern about India at present is that in their desire to spread the game and take advantage of the rich rewards cricket is enjoying in the country, the administrators are moving a little too quickly and are trying to take international cricket to cities that do not have the infrastructure or hotel and ground facilities good enough to host internationals.

The ICC is aware of this and has set up a committee to monitor and inspect all new/proposed venues worldwide before they are accepted for international cricket.

It is not working perfectly at present, but it is a start. I have always believed that the first step in fixing a problem is to accept you have one. Obviously Michael Slater doesn't and he has an unfortunate habit of shooting the messenger.

Three years ago, when he was first dropped from the Australian team, he blasted the Australian selector who had been designated to advise him as to why he had been dropped.

In a recent interview with Phil Wilkins of the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia's best and most respected cricket writer, he was still in denial mood and didn't seem to understand he has a problem with both form and attitude.

"It had nothing to do with form," Slater said of his continued omission from the Test team.

"Unless my papers are marked for things to do with me, the person that they don't like, then I can't control that. I think I've always carried myself in a very professional manner."

These statements to me clearly show a person in denial. Michael Slater has enormous talent and flair. On his first tour in 1993 he made at Lord's, one of the finest centuries I have seen. His overall Test record is good 5,312 runs in 74 Tests at an average of 42.83 and he quotes this as the reason why he shouldn't be dropped.

All very well, but what about his recent form in England, in four Tests? He scored 170 runs at 24.29.

That is of more concern and while Michael doesn't think he should have been dropped on this form, I do, particularly if you study the way he was out.

In many ways his plight reminds me of Dean Jones at the end of his career. Dean had a similar record like Michael Slater and the two are also aggressive batsmen, prone to the unpredictable.

Like Dean it wasn't so much the low scores that caused Slater to be dropped, but the erratic thought and the poor strokes that led to his low scores that caused the most concern.

Every selector will accept some low scores from an experienced batsman, providing the batsman appears to be in-charge of his game and just going through a bad spell and not doing anything silly or with poor concentration.

Unfortunately, Michael was out too easily and to careless wild strokes and rightly dropped. Slater has always been a top personality, very popular with his team-mates. In their view he has changed and this is affecting his cricket.

He can and must control his off-field activities. To deny there is a problem is not facing reality.

Cricket needs the Michael Slaters of the World, but like the rest of us he must earn his position in the team and not rely on past performances.

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