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'Twenty20 cricket is here to stay'

Last updated on: August 28, 2007 14:13 IST

Graham Thorpe was regarded as one of England 's finest batsman in the modern era and it is not surprising considering what he achieved as a batsman during his highly illustrious international career.

The left-hander started with a bang in international cricket, scoring a century on debut against Australia in 1993, against whom he has enjoyed a lot of success, a feat quite rare for an English batsman.

However, one of his best knocks, which even he acknowledges, was the hardworking century against Pakistan in November 2000. He hit just one boundary in getting to his hundred which gave England a famous victory over the hosts in Karachi in a Test match that ended in complete darkness.

He followed it up with another match-winning century in Sri Lanka, helping England to a Test victory in the island nation.

In 2002, Thorpe had marital difficulties, which saw him pull out of a few tours and also quit one-day cricket. He returned to the team in 2003 and scored a century in his first Test since coming back into the team, against South Africa. He played a major role in England's unbeaten run in 2004, where they finished unbeaten in 13 matches, winning 11 of them.

Not being picked for the Ashes was a major low point in his career and soon after which he announced his retirement from the international game.  He was honoured with a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in June 2006

Special Correspondent Harish Kotian caught with up Graham Thorpe at The Oval in London where he spoke about the India's Test series victory and his cricketing career in an exclusive chat.

You have played all your life at the Oval for Surrey. Were you surprised at the flat wicket that was prepared for the third Test?

If people were thinking that the groundsman at the Oval was going to make a green wicket, specially for a result, then they should think again. Generally here at the Oval the groundsman produce what they consider traditional Oval wickets and I think its been a good cricket wicket. It may have played in favour of the batsmen a little bit but this is a pitch at the Oval which has always rewarded excellence.

The wicket at the Oval has produced good batsmen. Surrey have generally over the years have produced good batsmen in [John] Edrich, [Alec] Stewart, [Mark] Butcher and myself, the players who have come through the system here at the Surrey . So therefore I always felt that this is a good wicket.

And if bowlers bowl well on it, whether a swing bowler or a spin bowler, you can take wickets as well.

But still with the England team 0-1 down, wouldn't there be a temptation to prepare a pitch suited to their strengths?

England management would not be able to the groundsman and say we want this sort of a pitch. I don't know whether it happens in India, but in England you generally good cricket wickets and the best team normally wins.

Of course you got to remember that the Oval has a traditional hardness to it so there is only so much that you could do with the wicket here. And the groundsman certainly would not have taken any notice basically of any influences on how to prepare a wicket.

England's run of home series victories since 2001 has come to an end. You played a big part in it too during your fine run after your comeback in 2003. Are you disappointed that the run has ended?

To be honest I was unaware of it till India went 1-0 up at Trent Bridge. I have always known that England have been playing very good cricket at home and they have been playing good cricket away.

Their Test cricket has really improved from the year 2000 and since then they have become really consistent barring the thrashing England took in Australia [in the 2006 Ashes]. England's Test performances have been very good which I think shows in terms of where they have been placed in the world rankings [in second place] in Test cricket. But it will be a shame to lose a six-year home run like that. But you have to say that India, although, they got out of jail at Lord's have since then played some good cricket and had their noses in front coming into this Test match.

England didn't take their chances. They dropped Sachin [Tendulkar] and [V V S] Laxman so didn't they take their opportunities and maybe bowl out India for below 400.

Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman and Anil Kumble could be playing their last Test on English soil in the third Test at The Oval. How was it playing against these great players ?

They have been fantastic players. I have been lucky to tour India and see the effects the players have on their crowd, which is very, very special.

One of the greatest memories I have is when playing in Mumbai in a one-day international. We get 250 and the crowd is going absolutely mental outside 15 minutes is due to re-start again and I poke my head out of the door to see what is going on. And what I see is that Sachin is having some throw downs.

So that made it clear to me as to how much cricket means to India , how much pressure these Indian players play under as well, but they have been fantastic.

Sachin is simply one of the greatest players to have ever played the game. I always feel privileged to play in the same era as Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar through that period along with Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan. Playing against these people was really special.

They have been wonderful players – Ganguly, Tendulkar, Kumble, Dravid and Laxman – and they have always served their country very well.

If someone would have told you at the start of the series that Anil Kumble would be the only batsman to score a century, would you have believed it?

He is a Surrey man after all..(smiles)

You wouldn't have thought it. The Indian batting line-up tired the English bowlers down and left Kumble there to basically create havoc at the end of the innings.

It is fantastic for him to finally get a century after 118 Test matches.

What is your take on the new Twenty20 format that was beginning to take shape when you were playing active cricket?

I think while it keeps selling around and keeps entertaining spectators with their presence at cricket matches it means Twenty20 is very successful and very popular.

We will see how the Twenty20 World Cup goes in South Africa but I would expect it to be a big hit. The players like it, the spectators like and I think it is here to stay at the moment.

But it is important that we keep it in the box that it's in. It's fun that is what cricket should be and if gets another generation of cricketers, young cricket people through to watch then it has to be a good thing.

Talking about your great comeback in 2003, you really seemed determined and formed the cornerstone of England's fine run in Test cricket in 2004 when they were unbeaten, winning 11 of 13 matches. What makes a cricketer so focused when he makes a comeback?

Well, it is funny looking at Sourav Ganguly. He seems to be playing with a great deal of enjoyment in his cricket. I would imagine that he has worked hard to get back in.

I think what happens is that you start to play as if every game is going to be your last for sure. So you just try to go out and enjoy every last Test match because you never know when it is going to end. You don't know when it is going to end, but what you do know is what could happen at the end of the five days.

Talk us through your innings against Pakistan in Karachi in 2000-01 when you single-handedly took them to victory with a fighting century. It was almost completely dark when you hit the winnings runs, isn't it?

That win is pretty special because Pakistan had not lost a Test series against England for about 35 years in Pakistan . They had not lost a Test match in Karachi so from that perspective it was very special to go to other countries and try to break some records. That was always the thing about me.

If I knew someone was not beaten on their home ground for God knows how many years or whatever then it was always a challenge to try and do that. So batting at Karachi was a real highlight of my career. To be out there in such ridiculous circumstances as well because within 10 minutes it was very dark and Pakistan had slowed down the over rate down so much to around eight an over.

And Steve Bucknor was the umpire at that time and I was constantly speaking to him and said as long as I could see the ball we would stay out there.

And that hundred in Sri Lanka, even that was a match-winning knock. How special was it considering that conditions in Sri Lanka are so difficult and on top that you have so many spinners to contend?

To me winning both those matches in the sub-continent were pretty special because for an England team who generally historically have been poor players of spin bowling. Before that winter pretty much people thought we would lose 3-0 in Pakistan and in Sri Lanka. And to go there and be strong enough to prepare and practice properly and then to play against [Muttiah] Muralitharan on his own backyard and to win in Colombo when the temperatures were extremely high and to play a major part, scoring a hundred in that Test match was special. When we were scored the winning runs, it felt extremely special.

To win in Pakistan and Sri Lanka consecutively is probably behind England winning the Ashes as the great things that the England cricket team has achieved.

You played 100 Test matches for England , but were you disappointed not to have played more. You openly commented that missing the 2005 Ashes was very disappointing. How do you look back on it?

It would have been nice but I am realist as well. I have been around and I had a lot of things happen to me off the field as well on the field to know that a sportsman's career will always finish and you have to be happy with your life.

When I was not selected I was of course disappointed for a small period of time but that disappointment didn't last very long. I moved on very quickly with my life because I knew that I had a wonderful time. I played in every Test playing country I could play cricket in so what more can you ask for. I had some very wonderful memories, achieved some fantastic things myself so I always walk away with my head held high and a smile on my face.

How important a role did coach Duncan Fletcher play in your career during your comeback to the England team in 2003?

I learned a lot about man management and how he handled himself as a coach and how he handled situations. He treated me very well as a coach and I have a lot of respect for him. He was not a demonstrative character, wasn't over the top, didn't wave or flap his arms around but he had an idea of what he wanted.

It wasn't always everybody else's idea in management and the England cricket board. He was very good for English cricket. He instilled confidence and consistently in selection which is important for the players at the highest level.

You have played under both captains – Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan. How would you compare these two captains?

Well Nasser was very much I would say blooded, passionate and really wanted to drive his team on and he was doing it with an English team, who were ranked second from bottom in the world. So he had to really push and drive his players. But he got players whom he believed and trusted in and get them to work for him. Tactically, he was very good.

And what he handed over to Michael Vaughan was a captain who could take over a very good team. What Michael Vaughan brought was different to Nasser.

Vaughan allowed his players to express themselves and play with a little bit more freedom which maybe sometimes Nasser's style cramped a little bit. I wouldn't say Nasser was fearful of losing but like any captain he didn't want to lose.

But Vaughan was sometimes prepared to gamble because he had a better team. So both captains to me, I have enjoyed playing under both of them immensely. I think both were very good leaders of the teams they had.

You played a lot with Ben Hollioake during your days at Surrey . How big a loss was his death in 2002 for the club, English cricket and you personally?

When you lose a mate it always humbles you and puts you and your life in perspective of what you are doing and why you are here. That's why when we play cricket it is a game essentially. We all get wrapped up in and we get a bit excited about it and sometimes we lose sight. And we do occasionally take sport too seriously. But when you look at the bigger picture of life and what can happen to friends and mates around you that's the sort of stuff which keeps me in check in sport. I always try and remind myself that sports stays here and it will always be here.

But along the way we have lost some close friends. Graeme Kersey, who was a player here at Surrey , was a room mate of mine and also Ben, who was a room mate of mine and a close friend. Ben was a good man. For such young blokes to lose their life at that stage was very sad.

Can you give more details on the coaching assignment at New South Wales in Australia you've taken up?

My flight for Australia is at the end of the week and I start my post as the assistant coach at New South Wales. I am looking to move forward on the coaching front which I am enjoying since I finished playing. It is more to do with man management skills and combining that with knowledge of the game. I am still learning but hopefully I am learning fast in Australia as well. And keeping your own individuality as a coach is very important.