MUMBAI: IN modern sport, which is often influenced by changing political situations and diplomatic ties, the security of athletes is paramount. The uncertainty that hangs over the India-Pakistan Davis Cup tie, scheduled for September 14-15 in Islamabad, is just another manifestation of it.
But Mike Gatting, who was in Mumbai for the launch of the book Fortune Turners, spoke of a tour that went on defiantly.
“We toured India in 1984-85,” the former England cricket captain, 62, recalled on Thursday. “During our time here, Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, was assassinated (October 31, 1984). The British Deputy High Commissioner Percy Norris (for western India) was assassinated here (in Bombay on November 28, 1984). And still completed the series. So I don’t understand when sportsmen nowadays go on about security.”
The British envoy, in fact, was shot at close range in Bombay, about half a mile from the team hotel and just a day after he hosted a reception dinner for the touring English cricket team. Though the tour was in serious jeopardy after that, the England cricket board advised players to carry on.
Despite all his batting efforts for England, Gatting has gone down in history for two spectacular dismissals. One, for being at the receiving end of the ‘ball of the century’ by Shane Warne, in 1993, and second for a mistimed reverse sweep in the 1987 World Cup finals.
“Any shot that you get out to is a bad shot,” says Gatting, who was dismissed at 41 even as England attempted to chase down 253 by Australia in the final.
“I was told if I ever play that shot again I won’t be selected for England. Nowadays, you can’t get into a team if you don’t know how to reverse sweep. That’s how much the game has changed. Batsmen try to whack every ball out of the ground.
“I was worried about the game when the boundaries got shorter and bats got heavier. But in the past couple of years, it has gotten slightly better.”
In the city to launch a book about India’s famous spin quartet — Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan — the irony of England’s fading touch with spin bowling wasn’t lost on the former captain.
“There’s been a lack of respect for spin bowling in the past 10-15 years in England,” he said. Just how inept England is at handling spin, especially in the longest form, was exposed during their first Ashes Test against Australia. While Moeen Ali took a total of three wickets in the match, which Australia won by 251 runs, Nathan Lyon finished with nine wickets, including six in the second innings.