Adam Gilchrist has seen Sachin Tendulkar from close quarters, watched with anxiety and admiration as the little Indian flourished in pressure situations against Australia away and home. The fiercely competitive Aussie wicketkeeper/batsman also rates Kevin Pietersen as a class act.
Tendulkar and Pietersen were in the news for developments off the field. The former was awarded the Order of Australia for a distinguished cricket career. The decision evoked mixed reactions in Australia.
The latter rejoined the England squad for the ongoing India tour after a spell on the sidelines in the wake of the text messaging controversy.
Gilchrist, asked for his viewpoint about the significance of the honour conferred by his government on an Indian achiever, explained:
“The award itself has got so much attention since the decision. It shows what an amazing profile Sachin Tendulkar has. In the 23 years so far, he forged a great relationship between two countries.”
He added: “He is a true champion, fantastic for the game and the award indicates his high standing in both countries. I sent him a message welcoming him to the club and got a quick reply. We are fortunate to have him,” said Gilchrist, also an Order of Australia awardee, on the sidelines of a function to launch the Sir Don Bradman scholarship, announced by the University of Wollongong.
Answering a query about age affecting Tendulkar’s reflexes in view of his recent dismissals across formats, the Aussie is emphatic that it is up to the player to take a call regarding career decisions. “If you are up for 23 years, at some point of time there will be troughs. I am sure he is aware that he is not at the peak of his career and it is up to him to decide.”
The Aussie is aware about Tendulkar’s decision to slog it out in domestic cricket for Mumbai as a way to regain form for the Tests against England. “I have read news reports about him playing a Ranji game at the end of this week, his first one in three-four years. The fact that he wanted to go and take that as preparation for the Tests coming up shows how committed he is to the game.”
In the absence of experienced Andrew Strauss, England banks on Kevin Pietersen to show the way to survive on Indian tracks. Gilchrist endorses the fact, saying: “Kevin Pietersen is one of the top batsmen in the world. England will be better off with him in the side,” the Aussie said, turning attention to another dimension over his recall.
Gilchrist reasoned. “Cricket is not only about skill, it is also about relationship in a group and it is up to the team to ensure that all relationships are directed towards a common goal. Kevin and England will have to address that.” Preparing wickets to suit home team strengths is par for the course, said the Aussie.
“It will be a sad day for cricket if playing conditions are standardised. Different wicket for every Test match, at times track changes character within the game, grounds have different dimensions around the world, it is part of the challenge. Test cricket is about assessing skills in varied conditions, playing on different wickets.”
Gilchrist pointed out that England will be prepared to battle on spin-friendly wickets in India. “I don’t know of any foreign cricketer stepping off the plane in India and caught by surprise on finding a turning track. Nor should an Indian be surprised on landing in England and facing different wickets.”