Gatting: Gower gave me confidence
The turning tracks in India may not have proved particularly fruitful for England batsmen over the years, but it was on those demanding surfaces where Mike Gatting’s international career really took off.
Prior to England’s tour of India in 1984-85, Gatting had yet to record a Test century in the six years which followed his debut as a promising 20-year-old.
It was, as Gatting himself concedes, no surprise that his inclusion in the touring party was far from guaranteed. However, captain David Gower appreciated the Middlesex man’s mastery of spin would be pivotal on the subcontinent, and it was that support which inspired Gatting during a memorable series.
“David Gower had a bit of a battle to get me out there in the first place, I believe, because they didn’t want to take me - probably quite rightly so,” Gatting told ecb.co.uk.
“But he said ‘no, Gatts - he’s one of the best players of spin and we need him out there’ and he fought for that. I got out there and played reasonably well.”
What Gatting defines as “reasonably well” was 575 runs in the series. His long wait for a century in the five-day arena ended in the opening contest in Bombay, now Mumbai, and once that particular monkey was off his back, there was no stopping Gatting.
“Getting the first hundred was hugely important because it then really gave me the confidence to actually carry on,” he admits.
Gatting’s landmark ton was not enough to prevent England slipping to an eight-wicket defeat, but he was at the crease unbeaten when the tourists won by the same margin to level the series in the very next contest in Delhi.
After a drawn third Test, the two sides headed for a pivotal meeting in Madras, now Chennai, where Gatting produced his best-ever knock in an England shirt. He compiled 207, adding 241 in a second-wicket stand with Graeme Fowler, whose 201 was also a career-best knock, as England demolished the hosts by nine wickets.
The final Test finished in a draw, confirming the tourists’ 2-1 triumph - the last Test series victory for an England side on Indian soil. Their achievements are even more remarkable considering the tumultuous circumstances which greeted their arrival in Asia.
Gatting explained: “This was a fascinating tour because, sadly, we had the death of Indira Gandhi, then we went down to Sri Lanka and it rained for 10 days, almost. And a bomb went off in the naval yard because the Tamil (Tigers) were there and that was only half a mile down from our hotel, so we wondered what was going on. We got back up to Bombay, and we went to the deputy high commissioner and, sadly, he was assassinated.
“So before we played the first Test match, there was huge sort of furore about whether we should be staying or going or whatever, and it got quite heated at times.”
Gatting demonstrated an incredible ability to put such distractions to the back of his mind when he occupied the crease, staying cool in conditions which took every “ounce of energy”, according to team-mate Fowler.
Elaborating on the key to scoring runs in India, Gatting said: “I came up and down the wicket a bit, I did sweep a lot and I think just trying to keep the pads out of the way was the big thing.
“For me, it was about occupying the crease, making sure the singles were being taken and trying to keep the bowlers off their length, if you like. Don’t give them a chance to settle, just keep trying to manoeuvre the ball around but in a safe way.”