Gatting: England bursting at the seams
Former England captain and batsman Mike Gatting played in an era when West Indies had an embarrassment of fast bowling riches.
The likes of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marshall restricted him to a batting average of 15 in his nine Tests versus the Windies, whom Gatting never beat in the game's premier form.
The 54-year-old now sees a similarly strong stock of seamers at England’s disposal, not least James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
On the eve of the Investec Test series, which began today at Lord’s, Gatting told ecb.co.uk: “There were so many great bowlers they had.”
He added: “It was always a very difficult place to be, against a fabulous side with so many talented cricketers. And you felt there were one or two more that could have been in the side that weren’t.
“Certainly in my day it was probably the biggest challenge of all. It was one of those that unfortunately I didn’t really get through.”
Gatting has high hopes for this three-Test series, particularly in light of West Indies pushing Australia hard in their last rubber - albeit losing 2-0.
However, he expects the likes of Anderson and Broad to overcome a largely inexperienced batting line-up.
“I think it’s going to be a very good series,” the ECB managing director - cricket partnerships said.
“I hope that the West Indies have gained a little bit of confidence from the way they played their cricket in the West Indies against Australia. They perhaps let Australia off the hook if anything. Hopefully they’ve gained a little bit of confidence from that.
“It’s going to be hard for the West Indies here. The [England] guys are bowling really well. We’ve got a very good attack. We haven’t just got one or two, we’ve got three or four actually in total probably eight or nine that you could put in and be very happy whichever four of the nine played. We’re in a very good position at the moment with that.
“And the wickets, obviously the weather’s not going to be good, so it’s going to nip around a bit. It’s going to take some skill to negotiate some of that Mr Anderson or Mr Broad or whoever plays really, to be fair.
“Jimmy’s bowling so well at the moment it’s just a pleasure to watch him. He’s going to be a handful for them so I think they’re going to have their backs up against the wall for a change, which will be nice.”
Gatting’s first Test with the Windies was at Lord’s, in 1980, but it is the other he played against them at the home of cricket, in 1984, that sticks in his mind.
Gatting admits he encouraged captain David Gower to declare England’s second innings, setting the tourists 342 for victory.
It was advice Gatting soon regretted when opening batsman Gordon Greenidge struck a sublime unbeaten double century in a nine-wicket win that doubled the Windies’ series lead en route to a 5-0 whitewash.
“I’m afraid I have to take a little bit of the blame for that because I persuaded David Gower to set them some runs that afternoon. Probably the sort of runs that they perhaps shouldn’t have got in the period of time,” Gatting reflected.
“It was just a question of trying to get a few wickets, put them under a bit of pressure and that didn’t quite work out that way.
“Greenidge and Haynes and co just came in and just smashed it around. Things went their way; it was a lovely day. The crowd enjoyed it I’m sure.
“It wasn’t very good for us though because it was another one of those hard days that you were trying to be positive and all you got out of it was a very negative sort of outcome.”