England-India Encouter Whets Appetite For
International Summer At Trent Bridge

Comment and Analysis | 28th February 2011

Surely Sunday’s epic  tie between India and England in the ICC World Cup will go down as one of the finest ODIs of all time.

Andrew Strauss, captain, noble centurion and deserved Man of the Match, claimed it was a ‘privilege’ to play in a game like that. Well Andrew, it was also a privilege to watch it.

Yet again the Indian top order fired spectacularly on a day when cricket was the winner and the players couldn’t have done anything more to whet our appetites ahead of the forthcoming Test series here in England.

The Ashes apart, I’ve always looked forward to India’s Test trips to this country with rather more relish than I’ve generally mustered towards any of the other leading nations and this year is sure to be no exception.

Everything about Indian cricket has intrigued me from an early age and it’s one of my biggest sporting regrets that I’ve not yet visited that great country and been able to experience their passion for the game first hand.

"Listening to Sunil commentate during this current tournament he comes across as a mild-mannered, thoughtful, highly intelligent and very knowledgeable observer of the game – contrasting sharply to the vision I remember on that Saturday morning 37 years ago."

You only have to glance at the ICC World Cup matches on our television screens at the moment to pick up on the enthusiasm and sheer exuberance of the crowd.

Not only are they witnessing one of the best tournaments of all time but the home side features some of the greatest names ever to have graced the international stage.

There’s no wonder that they watch their cricket with a smile on their faces and display a genuine show of warmth and affection towards the players.

Additionally, no sooner does the competition end but the razzmatazz and big-hitting of the IPL begins – allowing the fans to enjoy a further six weeks of high-quality fare.

My fascination with Indian cricket is now into its 40th year.

The 1971 Indian touring side to this country were one of the first that I can remember seeing at Trent Bridge and I recall the excitement of seeing Sunil Gavaskar play for the first time.

The previous year Gavaskar had burst upon the international scene with four centuries against the West Indies in his first four Test matches and I was desperate to see this prodigious new talent.

Led by the left-handed Ajit Wadeker, the tourists included a handful of well-known names in their starting eleven that day.

The patka-wearing  Bishen Bedi sat out that game but it was ‘Sunny’ I’d gone to see and I must admit to feeling a little short-changed when he went cheaply.  The opener – 22 years old at the time – made just 7 before being  caught by our current President Mike Smedley, off Bill Taylor’s bowling.

Over the course of the next 3 years Gavaskar scored masses of Test runs all around the globe to assert himself as one of the best around and I looked forward to having the chance to see ‘The Liittle Master’ at his imperious best on his next visit.

It was 3 long summers before India next returned and again there was a county match against them to look forward to at Trent Bridge. Come the first morning of the game I was excited to see that not only was ‘Sunny’ listed on the scorecard but that the tourists would have first knock.

As a young Notts member – seated in front of the pavilion – I settled to enjoy the day. Normally I would be in raptures whenever the county took a championship wicket but I recall clearly the disappointment as Barry Stead skittled one through Gavaskar’s defences early on to trap him lbw for 4.

Listening to Sunil commentate during this current tournament he comes across as a mild-mannered, thoughtful, highly intelligent and very knowledgeable observer of the game – contrasting sharply to the vision I remember on that Saturday morning 37 years ago.

Understandably frustrated at missing out on a days batting practice at one of the loveliest grounds around, Sunny burst back through the pavilion gate and in a fit of pique he slammed his bat down hard onto the concrete path. His temper tantrum not only ruined one perfectly good piece of willow but also meant he had to suffer the embarrassment of having to bend down and pick up a good seven or eight inch portion that had flown off.

(I remember this clearly as the damaged fragment landed beside me!)

Regrettably I never did see Gavaskar make many runs ‘live’ but I have continued to enjoy watching many of his countrymen in action at Trent Bridge. Over the years their touring sides have been filled with some great players and great characters and I’ve enjoyed watching the likes of Viswanath, Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev and Shastri.

In more recent times newer Indian super-stars have emerged and most of them seem to have done well at Trent Bridge.  Sachin Tendulkar continues to amass his runs in huge quantities and has his name on the Trent Bridge honours board for his splendid 177 in the 1996 Test.

In 2002 he almost added another century before being bowled through the gate by the occasional off-spin of Michael Vaughan. In the same game Saurav Ganguly fell for 99 but Virender Sehwag and Raul Dravid did each pass three figures and I was fortunate to see every run scored.

In 2007 Zaheer Khan took the spoils with the ball – claiming a five-for – whilst Sachin again fell in the nineties.

The Indians have enjoyed great success at Trent Bridge over the years that I’ve been watching them – but above all else they’ve provided great memories and played some outstanding cricket.

No doubt many of the side that played in Sunday’s tie in Bengalaru will feature in the 2011 tour party and I’m sure that once again they’ll make their own impressions on the Nottingham public.

India are coming to Trent Bridge – and I can’t wait!

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