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Gower struck by Kohli’s ‘immense energy’ & Morgan’s ‘piercing eyes’

‘A captain needs to have the confidence to back his decisions’

By Lokendra Pratap Sahi in Calcutta
  • Published 12.05.19, 2:33 AM
  • Updated 12.05.19, 2:33 AM
  • 5 mins read
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David Ivon Gower Telegraph picture

David Ivon Gower, an Ashes-winning captain, spoke to The Telegraph on the upcoming World Cup and on Eoin Morgan and Virat Kohli, captains of England and India, respectively — the most highly-regarded teams going into the tournament.

Gower is currently busy with his theatre show, On The Front Foot, being staged across the UK. It began last month and will (for now) continue till May 31. The next show, by the way, is in Bury St Edmunds on Monday.

Excerpts...

Q Hosts England and India are almost universally acknowledged as the two most-fancied teams in the forthcoming World Cup. That England have become so formidable under Morgan must be cause for much delight...

A I’m happy that the No.1-ranked England remain favourites and have all the right cards to play. Playing at home this, indeed, is England’s best chance. However, one bad day could spell the end of the tournament for you. Also, every other team will be trying to win the World Cup too... The Kohli-captained India are right up there as well and Australia have got their confidence back.

Q The period from the last World Cup, in Australia-New Zealand, till now has seen England play a refreshingly different brand of cricket in ODIs. Morgan’s men have been outstanding...

A England have played their most exciting cricket in the last four years, in complete contrast to what they played in the 2015 World Cup. They were appalling, following old trends... Now, England have set new heights in scoring. They understand the one-day game and have the mentality to do well. But we have seen days when England have collectively failed. It hasn’t happened often, but the thing about the knockout stage is one bad day and your chances get ruined.

Q Would you pick Afghanistan as the dark horse?

A The Afghanistan cricket story is brilliant. They have come from nowhere in a very short time to be ranked No.10 in ODIs and No.7 in T20Is... The game is established in Afghanistan and to get to this stage is simply tremendous... They have got talented players, but not enough. England and India, for example, have talented players right down the XI. Afghanistan have a couple of big stars, who will have their moments. But will they reach the semi-finals? Probably not.

Q You’ve talked of England, India and Australia. Others you’d tip to make the semi-finals?

A South Africa, the West Indies, Pakistan... New Zealand’s there as well... They would all be (strong) contenders. It’s a shame that the International Cricket Council have reduced the teams to 10. Some of the other teams have lost a special opportunity.

Q But limiting the number of teams has, on paper, surely made the World Cup more competitive...

A It is more compact, but takes years to complete. Even with 10 teams, the upcoming edition will run from May 30 to July 14, covering three months either in part or full. It appears they want every match live on TV somewhere. My take is that the value of a tournament is not necessarily about every match being beamed live on TV.

Q Your thoughts on Virat?

A Kohli has immense energy as captain and is learning all the time. Just look at his eyes... Yes, Kohli does get a little overexcited now and again, but it is better to be overexcited than be laidback. I know that, by reputation, he works as hard off the field as he does on it and has set the standard for fitness. I’ve been watching Indian cricket with interest and, while there was huge talent in the past, it was a little disorganised. On aspects like fitness, there would be a question mark not an exclamation mark. So, there, standards have risen.

Q And you’d like to compliment Virat for that...

A Kohli sets the example... Nowadays, more talent which is ready to play is coming through in India. In the past, it used to be talent that needed a bit of work still to be done in order to get established at the International level. Of course, the IPL has helped in the development of the players, who learn to thrive under pressure. Fitness helps them... Besides a much-fit team, Kohli has (India’s) best bowling attack.

Q At times, there has been much criticism of the tactics employed by Virat. Your take?

A You will always have a difference of opinion on what’s the right thing, the right move. Now, one of the things you get to learn as captain is that it’s your decision which counts, not anyone else’s... A captain needs to have the confidence to back his decisions... It’s easy to point out mistakes from a distance. I can empathise with that, as I’ve been through it myself. I vividly remember making decisions which I thought were okay at the time and, hours later, taking questions on why they were wrong! As I’ve said, Kohli is learning all the time.

Q Just how good is Morgan as England’s white-ball captain?

A Morgan is a very good captain and I’ve been mightily impressed with him in the ODIs. He has a strong mind and has the confidence to take the odd gamble. I’d say Morgan has got everything you’d want in a limited-overs captain. Morgan plays the game well as a batsman and understands it well as a captain. He is a fantastic fielder too... There’s something about Morgan’s piercing eyes.

Q Besides what you’ve mentioned, what has struck you about Morgan?

A Morgan is an impressive man to meet. The first time I shook hands with him was at the end of last summer... Morgan is one of those personalities who looks you in the eye and you immediately notice he is a serious man... As a person, he is very good and has strong character.

Q Some words on Joe Root, England’s Test captain...

A Root is getting better. As you spend more time in the job, you do acquire your own knowledge, your own instinct. By batting time after time, you build up that instinct and your natural responses. Likewise, by captaining more, you build up an instinct for situations. Through captaincy, you are learning all the time... Root, who has captained in 27 Tests, had an interesting winter... For the first time, England won 3-0 in Sri Lanka, but lost 1-2 in the West Indies, when they were expected to win. It was a rude awakening, but that’s the nature of sport. The result doesn’t always go your way... Did Root captain any differently in the West Indies? No. A couple of decisions might have gone wrong, which is always so when you lose. Learning and improving as captain is a constant process. It tests your mind and it’s about how long you can do the job. A lot depends on whether you have enough results going your way.

Q Good captains are...

A A good captain will always take the lead on the field and in the dressing room... When a new captain comes in, there are times when change is immediately visible... Like when Michael Vaughan took over from Nasser Hussain... At other times, it takes time... It took Alastair Cook two years to come into his own as captain and not be like predecessor Andrew Strauss.

Q The last one... What could make the difference in the World Cup?

A Initial part is the consistency to make sure you get through to the important stage of the tournament. Then, it’s about the right temperament, the right self-belief and the right skills to come through the knockout phase and to win the final.