He was a belligerent, brave batsman and a mainstay of the England middle-order throughout the 1980s. Mike Gatting talks batting, beer and how he thinks the Aussies could be up against it in this summer’s Ashes.
Given the state of disarray the Aussies are in, this is surely going to be the most one-sided Ashes series in years?
You can never write the Australians off. The Australians in the last five years have had a huge transformation to make from the side that ran rampant through the world for 10 or 12 years. It’s always difficult to come back from having such a good team. The West Indies had the same issue.
Is there a part of you that wishes you had a chance to play against this mob rather than having to square up to Warne and his gang?
I actually think they’ve got a decent bowling attack. Obviously they haven’t got Mr Warne in their side. They haven’t got a bad seam attack though. [Peter] Siddle’s in there, he’ll be bustling through. They’ve got some talented fast bowlers but fitness always seems to be a problem. They’re untried but they have a lot of ability. If they do get it right they could test England.
Against an England batting line-up that is in transition…
Well, yes and no. Cooky [captain Alastair] has been around for a long time. When you lose someone like Andrew Strauss it is a big thing, but where the Australians have been wondering about who’s going to open, we have given ourselves options with Nick Compton and Joe Root. The big thing for me is how good a series is Ian Bell going to have, because he is a super player yet hasn’t had that consistency or imposed himself on a series - is this his series?
And the bowling?
The bowling interests me because there’s a lot that are just coming back and need a bit of bowling. Hopefully by the time we get to the Aussies we will be getting back to some sort of order.
You famously captained England to Ashes victory. What is the key to good leadership?
When you are playing against Australia or any team – you need everyone to be playing well. It’s not just about the captain. You should have 11 leaders because you should have 11 people being proud to play for their country. Yes, someone has got to make the decisions but you want everyone thinking about it, on the ball and focused, whether you are batting, bowling or fielding.
And does that ethos work in all areas of life, such as business?
Without a doubt. You ask Steve Redgrave about rowing – you need to be going at the same speed and in the same direction. It really is important that you do it together.
It’s the 20th anniversary of the ‘ball of the century’. Ever get tired of seeing that?
I never saw it in the first place! Every time I look at it I keep missing it! 1993, Old Trafford and the young Shane Warne comes on and bowls a ball that pitches a couple of inches outside leg stump and hits the top of the off-stump. You think you have all angles covered and because it just flicked the bail I didn’t hear anything, so that was why I looked a little bemused. A magnificent bowler and without doubt the greatest leg spinner of all time.
Did you have a beer afterwards? We often hear commentators talking about that but does it really happen?
Yeah you do. I’ve actually got Warney’s hat that he wore in the match. He signed it and gave it to me. You always took a beer in the Aussie changing room after a day’s play if you had been batting. The fielders would be gasping and you’d sit down and have a chat. It perhaps doesn’t happen so much these days, because the first thing you’ve got to do is drink a litre of water and get into an ice-bath. I was very happy to play in the era I did because you got to sit down and get to know the players. You talked about the game and got to understand the person you were playing against.
You’re from the era of legendary cricketers and socialisers — who was the first to the bar?
People like Both (Ian Botham) get criticised for lots of things but if someone got a five-for or a hundred he would send a bottle of champagne up to the lad’s room and say well played. People don’t hear about that, but that’s what Beefy used to do. We used to have a team room and have a couple of beers and talk about the day and what we could we have done differently. They have all these computers which log everything these days, but for me if you see it and talk about it you remember it better.
It shows how beer and pubs can bring people together…
Yes and it’s all over the country. There’s the lovely village green stuff where sometimes they don’t have a pavilion and they use the pub to change in. They haven’t got a bar so they go there afterwards, it is quintessential stuff. When I learned my cricket from the age of 13 and started playing with the men, I would sit on a bar stool with half a shandy and would listen to these people talk. You learned so much about the camaraderie of the game, the history of the club and the funny stories.
Are you a pub man?
I’ve spent a lot of time in pubs. If you are driving around there’s nothing better than stopping at a pub for a lunch and pint or two, depending who’s driving. I tend to drive on the way and the missus after the pub so I can have a few pints.
Are you a real ale fan?
Yeah, I was a bit of a lager lout but I got to the stage where I could only drink three pints so I thought I’d better try something else. I find the hand-pump beers less gassy and you can drink more. There’s all sorts of beers around the country and some of the little breweries are really good. When we used to have Sunday lunches during Test matches you would go down the pub and have a couple with a Sunday lunch and have snooze after that.
Finally, what’s your Ashes prediction?
There’s five matches at home then five in the winter. I think Australia might win a Test match out of the 10 and they might win one in each country, so if I said 8-2 that sounds good.
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