Team India found themselves in a similar kind of situation in the T20I series as well. They lost the opening T20I by 8 wickets, but made a remarkable comeback to trounce England by 7 wickets in the second match to level the series 1-1. Captain Virat Kohli once again anchored a chase to perfection and became the first player to cross 3000 T20I runs in the process.
Will India go on and beat England to clinch the T20I series from here?
Timesofindia.com caught up with former England captain and batting legend David Gower, who played 117 Tests and 114 ODIs, scoring over 11,000 international runs, for a special chat.
Gower spoke about India’s recent win against England at home, England’s weakness against spin, the ongoing T20I series vs the English and the impact it can have on the T20 World Cup later this year, the captaincy debate in Indian cricket, his best cricketing memory of playing against India and much more.
(Virat Kohli, right, and Ishan Kishan led India to a series-levelling victory in the second T20I against England – BCCI Photo)
What have you been up to recently?
Well, I am doing really good. I am healthy, which is good. I’ve just come back from Pakistan’s PSL, which was nice to be involved in again in the commentary box. And I’m just looking around for other things to do.
What according to you went wrong for England in the Test series vs India and how would you rate India’s dominance at home?
For a foreign team to win in India is very hard. When England won the first Test match, that was a welcome surprise. They played very well and Joe Root led them brilliantly. And what happened next, confirms its previous patterns in history. The Indian team showed its versatility. And in the end, the difference, for instance, in terms of finishing off the series in the fourth Test, the difference in the end was the sheer exuberance of Rishabh Pant and of course the talented Washington Sundar. That partnership is what killed England there (fourth Test).
(England lost the Test series against India 3-1 – PTI Photo)
India have played brilliantly over the last six months. Of course, winning in Australia was extraordinary. Getting people, getting the sort of the next generation through as part of that process was very handy, very useful for India to establish that they have strength in depth.
Of course, now whatever they pick, whenever they pick a side now, they realise there are plenty of options available to them. And if anyone’s ever injured or out of form, they realize they have plenty of other good options available to them as well. So, from India’s point of view I think that was all very encouraging.
There was a lot of talk about the pitches during the India vs England Test series. But in the fourth Test, which was a good track to bat on, India managed to dominate with the bat, but England failed to put runs on the board. Was that because of a mental block of some sort for England?
England were short on confidence. The way the previous two Test matches went, especially the third Test match, I’m afraid it does put things into people and batsmen’s minds. And if you’re not playing well, and not getting runs, it’s a tough thing wherever you are in the world. I think the fourth Test pitch was better than the third Test pitch.
The overall attitude was problematic for England. When you lose confidence, the game becomes 10 times as hard. It was an interesting game until that partnership between Pant and Sundar changed the whole pattern of the game. That’s what happens in cricket. If someone is able to do that, then you deserve the benefits of it.
(The ICC has given an ‘average’ rating to the Motera pitch used for the Pink-Ball Test – BCCI Photo)
The problem was batting in that fourth Test match. There were batsmen out of form. The way both Ashwin and Axar Patel were bowling, they had the superior confidence, they had the advantage. And that’s what happens in the game of cricket.
You, Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen were some of the England cricketers who played the spinners well. The current England team has been struggling against spinners and on subcontinental pitches of late. What according to you is the reason for that and how can things improve for them?
Joe Root is the exception. He knows what he’s doing against spin. Someone like Stokes has also done it before. I think the problem is exaggeration by the pitches. The problem is this. If you come to unfamiliar conditions, for instance, if you’re Crawley or Sibley, or Burns or even Lawrence and you come to India for the first time, we English players do not play on that sort of pitch.
So it has to be a very quick learning curve, whereby you either learn or you don’t in a hurry. I think that when there are lots of players from all around the world, not just England, who would struggle to play in those conditions, because they don’t see them elsewhere. You don’t get those conditions in Australia, you don’t get pitches like that in South Africa, you don’t get pitches like that in England.
(England captain Joe Root scored a double century in the first Test played in Chennai – Twitter Photo)
Now, what you can only do is try and learn from your mistakes. There is always a next time. Crawley is a very talented batsman and I’m sure he’ll be around for a long time. Maybe, he will come back to India in maybe three- or four-years’ time and maybe be a more confident player, he maybe has a better game plan.
The problem that we have in the UK is that first-class cricket now is played at the start or the end of the season, neither of which are perfect times for spinners. So, in the middle of the summer, we do have some hot days and dry pitches. In the middle of the English summer, no one is playing four-day cricket.
When I first started playing, that generation was playing 20 plus three-day games during the course of summer. They weren’t necessarily turning pitches everywhere by any stretch of the imagination, but there were spinners everywhere.
I remember making one of my early appearances against Bishan Singh Bedi. It was a revelation because Bishan was a supremely skilled left-arm spinner. And the first time I saw him, I didn’t last long. A couple of years later, I was hitting him over midwicket at Lord’s in a Test match. Because you learn quickly. You either learn quickly or you don’t learn.
(David Gower – Getty Images)
I just think it’s very hard for English players to experience anything like what they had in India in those last few weeks.
Do you think that the result of the ongoing T20I series between India and England will have an impact on how the World T20 shapes up, considering India and England will be among the big favourites to win the title? The result is sure to be a confidence booster for the winning team…
It is, which is one reason that England are very happy to be in India and experiencing the conditions that they will probably see or most likely see in a few months’ time when they come back for the World T20. That’s very good to have.
It would be very good for England to overturn the result of the Test series. They will be more confident when they come back again. But we all know about World Cups, whether they be T20 or ODI World Cups. However good your team is in front of you, it only takes a couple of mistakes at the wrong time and you can still lose or you’re still not winning.
(The T20 World Cup will be played in India later this year – Getty Images)
If you look back to where it was, it was the most extraordinary day that 2019 at Lord’s in the World Cup. England won it as they were expected to, but by the slimmest possible margin, nearby a matter of inches. As simple as that. And the world competition is difficult and a different thing altogether.
India won a Test series in Australia recently under Ajinkya Rahane. That started some talk again about split captaincy in Indian cricket, like what England is doing. Your take on that…
I don’t really think I’m qualified to speak (about that) because I think you have to look into the dynamics of the dressing room. Rahane, for instance, has always said that he doesn’t want to take over from Virat. He said this in public anyway that he’s very happy to stand in if he’s needed. But he doesn’t want to take over. And if that is the feeling in the dressing room as a whole, maybe the best man to ask is someone like my old friend Ravi Shastri.
With Ravi, who is keeping a senior eye on events as head coach, he will know what the feeling is. A captain knows his days are numbered but at the moment Virat has a pretty firm handle on the dressing room.
There is a lot of competition for the Indian opening slots. Which Indian pair has impressed you the most – in Tests and ODIs – and why?
Rohit Sharma is obviously playing very well as a Test match opener, and Shubman Gill didn’t have a good series at all. He did well in Australia. I would say that just in terms of the current planning, you should stick with the investment you’ve made in him. I wouldn’t sort of single out anyone as being a failure. But if you’ve got someone like Shubman Gill, who is obviously very talented, the worst is to say you should try someone else. If you’ve identified him as good, which I think he is, then you spend a bit more time investing in his future.
In terms of one-day games or limited overs, I wouldn’t say much about the current series or the current partnership until we’ve had a few more games. Because these things can change. The value of IPL is being shown in the way players are emerging. Washington Sundar is the best example.
Your best cricketing memory against India…
Winning the 1984 series. As I said many times that winning in India, for an overseas team, is tough. It was the most extraordinary tour in 1984, both on and off the field. That was my proudest moment. That’s my proudest moment as a captain.
I made my first double hundred against India (215 vs India in Chennai Test, 1982) and then scored 200 not out against India in Birmingham. I was just 22 at that time. So, those were the two special moments.