Mumbai: Former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson considers the forthcoming short visit by his country’s cricket team to India as a very important tour in the background of the ‘spot-fixing’ scandal that has engulfed the game.
“This Australia-India series is very important. People in Australia are looking forward to the Ashes. A good, tough and hard series before the Ashes will do a lot to retain people’s faith in the game. We will start to think about the current cricket, not the one which has gone before,” said the 52-year-old New South Welshman in an interaction with a few reporters on Tuesday, during his brief visit to Mumbai.
“If the players play good cricket and the public see good cricket, they will forget what’s gone before. The people want their heroes to play well. There wasn’t a hero in this (controversy),” he said.
The former cricketer, who was the coach of the Pakistan team for two years and has seen from close quarters the spot-fixing tainted trio of Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Aamir, was confident the game would come out of the latest scandal as it has done several times in the past.
“Cricket is such a resilient game. People in Australia are looking forward to the Ashes. The more, better and competitive cricket is played, the game will just move on,” said the gangling Lawson when asked whether the game can bounce back in style.
Lawson, who captured 180 wickets in 46 Tests from 1980-89, also felt it was the right time for Australia to tour India to play a mix of Tests and ODIs – and not only ODIs as was the original schedule – ahead of the important Ashes rubber against England.
“I think it’s a very good time because it’s (going to be) tough cricket. If they had played as per the original schedule of seven one-dayers it would not have been very good. But playing two Test matches and three one-dayers, it would be tough cricket.
“India are playing well and would be a tough challenge and they (Australia) would be a tough team when they get home. It’s really good (tune-up) for Australia,” said Lawson who took 88 wickets from 79 ODIs in his career.
Australia are set to reach India on September 21 to play two Tests at Mohali (Oct 1-5) and Bangalore (Oct 9-13) and three one-day internationals at Kochi (Oct 17), Visakhapatnam (Oct 20) and Goa (Oct 24).
Lawson brushed aside Australia skipper Ricky Ponting’s prediction of a 5-0 home side sweep in the Ashes series.
“I think he feels he just has to say that. His objective is to win by one Test match. England do hold the Ashes and Australia have to win the series, not draw the series,” he pointed out.
Referring to the spot-fixing scandal that allegedly involved top young talent like Aamir, Lawson said it was very saddening to see it happen to a player whose talents had impressed him when the left-arm pacer was just 15 years old.
“If Mohammad Aamir gets suspended, he won’t know what to do with himself. He comes from a poor village on the edge of the Swat valley. He comes from nothing. I am sad about it. If he got a five-year or longer ban, what will he be in five year’s time. How will he exist in five years? What will he do,” he wondered.
“He’s a natural talent. You don’t revile or stone him. He’s received fair bit of sympathy from a lot of people. He is an 18 year old and comes from a village that does not have electricity. There’s going to be some human empathy and sympathy. But a lot more may come out of this incident,” said the former Pakistan team coach.
“There are so many cricketers in the sub-continent who are like that. They come from the villages and play a great game of cricket and he is one of those. He’s a shining star of Pakistan and world cricket. It’s quite sad what’s happened,” he added.