Former England wicketkeeper Richard Blakey reflects on his Indian experiences
Richard Blakey talks to Sky Sports about his memories of touring India with England in 1993.
By Rob Lancaster - Tweet me: @SkySportsLanny
Last Updated: 14/11/12 11:51am
Having been expected to do little more than carry out the drinks in the four-day fixture in Motera last week, Jonny Bairstow was thrust into duty behind the stumps after first-choice Matt Prior fell ill, though only after the Board of Control for Cricket in India had okayed the switch.
Another Yorkshireman knows just how crucial it is to be ready and waiting. Back on the disastrous 1993 trip, Richard Blakey was in Bairstow's shoes. It seemed likely that he wouldn't be required during the three-Test series, with Alec Stewart firmly ensconced as number one gloveman.
However, things can change quickly in India. A bad plate of prawns put paid to Graham Gooch on the eve of the second Test and, having seen little game time on the trip, Blakey was thrown to the lions in Madras (or Chennai, as it is now known). It was all a far cry from Headingley in the middle of an English summer for a man from Huddersfield.
"I can vividly remember the noise," Blakey recalls of his debut in India. "I was keeping and couldn't hear what Graeme Hick was saying at second slip.
"That's what stood out for me - the noise and the pressure. Every single run for India was cheered. I'd only played county cricket where the crowds were few and far between, so to go into those cauldrons was quite an experience."
The lions, in this case India's three spinners, were not kind to the new boy; Blakey managed seven runs in four innings in his two appearances in the series, with Anil Kumble's leg spin accounting for him on three occasions.
"The other thing was having men around the bat," he continued. "You just felt the pressure from all angles. It did feel out there like two against more than just 11, like two against 40 or 50,000.
"Every match the fielders were all around the bat. You did wonder 'how am I going to get a run?' You didn't want to get out playing a silly shot, but then when you did get out you'd think 'bloody hell, I wish I'd have had a go now'.
"Knowing what I know now, I wish I'd have attacked a little more. I guess that's where you learn as you get older. If I went there when I was a little older my mental approach would have been different."
Blakey feels this current England squad are mentally much stronger now and can cope in such circumstances, though at no stage on this tour will they have to quite experience some of the scenes the squad of '93 did.
"A lot of the travel was different then," said Blakey. "The coaches were rickety and I can remember for one game we had to travel on an overnight train. I shared a carriage with 'Tuffers' (Phil Tuffnell) and there were animals running around and all sorts.
"There was then the heat and the smog, plus there was also the umpiring. I'm not saying they were easily influenced, but when you've got 40,000-plus Indians on your back, I guess they could be persuaded at times.
"Now, though, it's a little bit easier; better umpires, better preparation and the travel will be quicker and easier. But then the pressure to perform is even greater these days."
While he may have hoped for another opportunity to impress at the highest level, Blakey never did appear in another Test. The presence of Stewart, and also Jack Russell, meant he never got the chance to make it third time lucky.
So is he bitter? Not in the slightest.
"I knew full well when I came home that I hadn't taken the opportunity that I'd been given," he admits.
"You kept on believing and it was frustrating because I'd had a little taste of it (international cricket). You very much hope that you get another sniff at some stage.
"In a different era I might have got a little bit more of a go, but that's the hand you're dealt.
"But if someone had said to me you're going to play 21 years of county cricket with Yorkshire, then I'd have taken that. It would've been nice to have gotten more of an opportunity with England, but to play professional sport I've been lucky. I wouldn't swap a minute of it."
While he is now busy running his own events management company, Richard Blakey Leisure, as well as watching his two sons play sport, the 45-year-old admits nothing quite matches the highs he experienced in his own playing career.
"I do have a bit of time on my hands. I've two sons - one who plays football, the other who plays cricket - and it's nice to have a bit of time to go along and support them," he said.
"I've been turning my hands to a few things, but it doesn't beat playing. They are the best times of my life.
"I look back now because you've spent 20 years, brilliant times, touring the country and the world with 15 other lads, and you can never replace that really. There's also the competition element, the getting up and trying to perform to the best of your abilities. You do miss that."