India-England ODI series so soon not ideal, says Gower

Mumbai: Former stylish English batsman David Gower feels that the ongoing five-match ODI series between India and visiting England in less than a month after the former`s dismal tour was not ideal for the game. "Its not ideal. I would rather see them (India and England) playing different oppositions. I saw a piece by Mr (Sunil) Gavaskar saying the same thing. I would have liked the teams playing in different countries," said the 54-year-old on Friday.

"But the whole schedule is congested. England next play Australia in the one-dayers. There`s a bit of imbalance. We have to see how the next element in the FTP goes about," added Gower, who is here as a patron for the "Emeralds for Elephants", an initiative for protection of India`s wildlife.

After a nearly two-month tour, which saw India losing the lone T20, the four Test rubber 4-0, and the five-match ODI series 3-0 to England, they are hosting the same opponents for a five-match limited overs tourney, with the first match being held in Hyderabad on Friday.

Gower said India were outplayed on their visit to England, which had sullied the image of the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team.

"India`s image is a bit tarnished but you can`t change the fact that they are world champions and would continue to be for the next three and half years. At the moment, whatever the criticism you level at them they were short of their best players with injuries. When you lose 4-5 of your best players, its difficult," the former England skipper said.

"We were (surprised). We were disappointed. It was billed as a heavyweight contest but turned out to be nothing of that kind. In short, they (India) were not prepared for it. England was by far the better team. Whatever the criticism about India, England made life as hard as they could for them. I will give England a lot of credit for the way they prepared, organised themselves and played."

The graceful left-handed batsman, who made 8231 runs in 117 Tests and 3,170 in 114 ODIs, felt that young Indian players will have to rise to the occasion if the world champions want to redeem their battered reputation.

"Its important either they get fit again and play again, or you bring about some new people like (Suresh) Raina who can learn. He is excellent in one-day cricket and ready for Test cricket. But unless he knows how to play the short-ball he won`t make it in Test cricket," he said.

"They had a good coach in (Gary) Kirsten and experienced coach in Duncan Fletcher. But Fletcher is getting older and it has to be seen whether he can inspire the next generation of talented inexperienced players to do well in Test cricket. Its going to be interesting to watch."

"You have to work with the talent that is there. If the talent around the world is stronger, your talent is going to come second-best. In the meantime, all you can do is identify them and help them to become better," Gower said.

"Let`s face it, a lot of players take time to become good Test players. You haven`t got much time to learn because of the schedule, demands on the players etc. But the simple thing is you can work only with the players that you have. There is no magic trick that will allow you to get another Sachin (Tendulkar). You have to get players through the system."

"If you want to call yourself a good player, you have to succeed in Test cricket. Whatever opportunities there are these days, you should do well in Test cricket to be recognised as a good player irrespective of whatever you do elsewhere," he added.

On former Pakistani pacer Shoaib Akhtar's reported remarks about Sachin Tendulkar in his autobiography 'Controversially Yours', Gower said the Indian batting great's ability was beyond questioning.

"Its all talk, hot air. Wouldn't want to get stuck in the argument. Shoaib had the talent. He was one of the quicks in his generation. He had the pace to trouble the best. Even (Vivian) Richards was troubled by pace. There was nothing new about that. But look at Sachin's record, his thousands of runs in Test and one-day cricket...Its all hot air, irrelevant!."

To a query on the pacer's suggestion that ball-tampering be legalised to ensure proper balance between the bat and ball, Gower said it would only encourage further cheating.

"I understand what they are saying but there has to be a line somewhere. Its like legalising good ivory. It will increase poaching anyway. If you say its okay to do tampering, you will get a lot of tamperers. It will encourage cheating."

Despite the match-fixing controversy surrounding cricket, Gower felt the game as a whole could still be respected.

"Its still good to be a player. The scale (of match- fixing) is unknown. Absolutely unknown. But I still believe... spot-fixing or whatever things you may say, the game as a whole is played in the fair way. Because I believe that, I'm able to enjoy the game."

On the new ICC rules, Gower said while introduction of two new balls and making it mandatory to choose the optional powerplay between 16-40 overs were good moves, banning runners was unnecessary.

"Two new balls is good. Looking to see how it (the powerplay) works. Captains will have to think about it, I don't think captains have used it well anyway in the past 2-3 years. They used to leave it till the end mostly when it was useless. (ICC) They might have actually done them (teams) a favour forcing them to think about it.

About banning runners, he said "Its quite funny when a runner comes around, there can be actually a run-out. I know there are interruptions, it slows the game but I think that was irrelevant."


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