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Sunil Gavaskar  |  Photo Credits: PTI
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New Delhi: 50 summers ago India won their first Test series in England under the leadership of Ajit Wadekar, at that time young guns Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Eknath Solkar, Ashok Mankad and Abid Ali also played a key role in it. England were a very balanced team led by Roy Illingworth who beat Australia 2-0 in the Ashes. India was not considered a contender for victory against an English team that had a fast bowler like Jon Snow. Apart from these, there were players like Geoff Boycott and John Edrich, who scored big for England.
Former Indian team captain Sunil Gavaskar has also given the prediction in an interview with IANS editor Sandeep Bamzai. He has told who is going to win this time in the ongoing Test series between India and England.
Recalling fond memories, India’s greatest batsman Gavaskar who is now in the role of commentator shared these experiences with Sandeep Bamzai.
The excerpts of the interview are as follows
Question : How were the memories of the 1971 tour where many young players like you went and what was your first tour of the English summer.
answer : I had my first tour of England 50 years ago and we beat West Indies recently, which gave us a boost. There was a good mix of young and experienced players in that fun tour. There were also a few matches against county teams during that time. We also toured England and visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, The London Zoo, The University of Oxford and Cambridge, among others. With a tight budget of a pound a day, we couldn’t enjoy the fine dining experience, but we had to be content with fast-food outlets.
Question : You have often said that your best Test innings against England fast bowlers in adverse conditions at that time is a half-century. Describe the circumstances and the face-to-face encounter with Jon Snow on that tour.
answer : Yes, that fifty was my best effort in Test cricket. We were playing on the green wicket for the first time. We could not separate the pitch from the rest of the outfield with our changing room on the upper floor. The overcast environment meant that the grass was not too dry and was largely diesel and the umpires did not take the players off the field. It was raining lightly and the ball was swinging and bouncing, so it was my best innings in Test cricket.
Question : A hitherto unknown aspect of that tour, something that told you about the background of the English team or the English system?
answer : The thing that shocked me the most was the biased umpiring. We had heard that English umpires are the best but we saw in that three-match Test series that the umpiring call was always going in favor of the home team. When we played against county sides, the English umpires, all former first-class players, were the very best and most encouraging. You could learn a lot from him if you went to him for any advice after the day’s play.
Question : Why did it go so wrong on the next tour in 1974?
answer : In 1974 we played in the first half of the English summer when the pitches and bowlers were fresh and our batting could not contribute much, while our spinners struggled to catch the ball in cold conditions.
Question : What do you think about the current team and the team’s prospects for the ongoing five-match Test series against England?
answer : The current team is the best team in the history of Indian cricket. Only the teams from 1983 to 1986 had a similar depth and balance. This team however is better as they defeated Australia recently in their environment and they have many game changers in the bat and bowling department. If the sun comes out then the team can easily win the series and even if there are few overcast days, they can win but they may lose in one test.
Question : What went wrong with the WTC final, playing without a seam bowler, playing two spinners or getting the team structure wrong in bad conditions?
answer : New Zealand were well aware of the atmosphere in the WTC final, so they knew the situation very well according to the Indians.
Question : Why do Indian batsmen not play the moving ball on the English wicket?
answer : It is not easy for anyone to play fast bowling in England, not even the English batsmen. Getting close to the body and playing the ball as late as possible creates variations on the score.
Question : This team caught the pies fast as they showed for Australia but England is tricky.
answer : The England team does not yet have the dominant players like Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes and their batting line-up is a bit weak except captain Joe Root, so India have a better chance this time.
Question : What kind of team combination would you recommend?
answer : Team composition largely depends on the pitch and the weather, especially in England, so it is difficult to say what the playing XI will be like. Having Rishabh Pant will strengthen the batting and boost confidence.
Question : Does the team have the ability to beat England in England? What is your opinion?
answer : This team can beat England. I think it will be 4-0 if the sun comes out. If the overcast continues, the team will win 3-1.
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