England will hope history repeats itself as Cook leads his men in India
00:25 GMT, 15 November 2012
Not since 1984-85, the winter of Alastair Cook’s birth, have England won a Test series in India.
In a parallel with the modern day, the tour followed a chastening home defeat to the world’s No 1 team the previous summer, while Indira Gandhi’s assassination took place within three hours of arrival.
Even though preparation was switched to Sri Lanka, and the itinerary revised, doubt was cast on whether the five-match campaign would actually take place at all when a second assassination, that of Percy Norris, the British Deputy High Commissioner, occurred on the eve of the opening contest in Mumbai.
Up for grabs: India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his England counterpart Alastair Cook
But out of the chaos – star turn Sir Ian Botham had opted out of the trip, other high-quality players such as Graham Gooch and John Emburey were serving rebel South Africa tour bans and captain David Gower had not won any of his previous nine Tests in charge – developed one of England’s landmark away successes.
Here, Gower, Mike Gatting and Neil Foster, three of the protagonists of that 2-1 victory, relive their memories and offer their thoughts on how the 2012-13 vintage can forge a repeat:
Gower (first series win as captain): It was very satisfying because we had had a traumatic summer against the West Indies. It is never a straightforward process to win in India and defeat in the first Test was a mixture of surprise, some interesting umpiring and us not really being in the right frame of mind. Half the team had wanted to go home three days before it, so getting an XI on the field was an achievement.
We could cite various excuses for our poor start, a prime one being that we had not previously had a look at the leg-spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. He took a dozen wickets but people got used to him as the series went on.
Main man: Mike Gatting batting during his century against India
The Indians then gave us half a chance at Delhi, which we took, thanks to getting Kapil Dev out in the nick of time in the final session, and even though we were missing people that you might otherwise have expected to be there, the ones that came in responded to being given responsibility. Graeme Fowler loved it out there, Gatt responded to the fillip of being made vice-captain, and I really liked having Philippe Edmonds and Percy Pocock around – two very good, experienced spin bowlers. As captain, they gave me control at good times. Everything and everyone came together. It was a happy bunch and that is no bad thing when you are away together for four months.
There is a new regime for this current England team, and new regimes tend to wipe the slates clean. You normally get a good response to a new captain, and when you look at India, yes, they always start favourites at home but they have their own niggles. It is certainly not all sweetness and light in their camp, and they have just picked an off-spinner (Harbhajan Singh) who’s been bloody ordinary for the past two years. So I reckon it’s not a bad time to play them.
Double century: Graeme Fowler
Gatting (575 runs at an average of 95.83): It was a huge period in my career. David stuck his neck out just to get me on the tour, and then made me his vice-captain. I made my first hundred, trying to save the first Test match. It was a long time coming in my international career but the right things happened for me as opposed to the wrong ones for a change and the challenge of securing a draw put meaning on it for me
We might not have been one of the better England sides from that era but there was a deep-rooted desire to do well, we didn’t have the worst attack in the world and we went out on the field believing we had a decent chance.
There were some incredible efforts from the bowlers: Phil Edmonds completely lost his run-up in Delhi and ended up bowling off one pace, and Neil Foster came into the penultimate match of the series and took 11 wickets at Madras. Then, having gone in front, the whole team battled it out to seal things in Kanpur.
The fact that people are so fanatical about the game out there can work in your favour. They expect their own players to perform like superstars but they also appreciate the opposition doing well, so you know when you hear light applause or it goes deathly silent that you have done a good job. The othet thing that you learn about cricket in India is that batting and bowling well in pairs gives you a better chance of success.
Foster (took 11 for 163 in penultimate Test to send England into 2-1 lead): I have got a picture on the wall at home that is my favourite from my playing days. It is after that win in Madras and there are three faces – myself, Gatt and Foxy Fowler, those two sporting beards – all looking rather pleased with ourselves. We appear to have been sprayed with champagne, only it wasn’t champagne, it was water. We were rather wet but rather happy.
That performance was always likely to be my best one for England statistically but, unfortunately, it didn’t do me any favours because two Tests later, the first of the next summer, I wasn’t selected. I felt it was an opportunity missed on a personal level and also poor from the selectors not to give a 22-year-old, who had just helped win a game, a run in the side.
In hot countries, as a fast bowler, you have to keep plugging away and hope to finish the day somewhere close to where you started it in terms of your pace. It is not just a case of bowling flat out, taking opponents on, you have to bowl in tight areas to expose their limitations, because if you don’t then people like Virender Sehwag will take the game away from you. Stamina and patience are the key factors for me.