January 27, 2001

Gary Pratt: If you are positive, you will come out on top

Along with captain Ian Bell, Gary Pratt has been the mainstay of the England batting line-up. With the tour opener being washed out at Pune, a makeshift limited overs game was slotted in on what should have been the last day of a three day game. On a wicket that was damp and not necessarily ideal for run getting Pratt top scored with 59. While that in itself doesn't seem like the largest of scores, the fact that Pratt settled into Indian conditions so quickly spoke for his resolve and ability. "I worked very hard in the winter. Most of it was geared towards playing spin bowling. Whether it was using my feet and hitting over the top or sweeping the ball, I worked really hard. It's proved to be very effective here," conceded the Durham left-hander.

Although he showed so much initial promise, Pratt never really went on to make big scores. After getting well set he seemed to lose the plot. Either a rash shot or a lapse in concentration cost him his wicket after he had made fifty odd. "I think today was the hottest it has been in the last three Test matches. It certainly felt a lot hotter than any of the other days. But I'm obviously very pleased at the end of the day to have a hundred against my name. It has been a fault of mine. I seem to get set, make a few runs and throw it all away. Today I though it was different. I think I played really well. I dug in and crossed three figures in the end," said Pratt after cracking an invaluable 110 not out on the first day of the third 'Test' at Hyderabad.

Studded with 13 boundaries and two sixes, Pratt's innings even today was not without blemishes. Dropped more than once, Pratt gave his supporters and admirers enough to be nervous about. The youngster however was happy to ride his luck. "I don't mind that at all. If they can't catch it's their problem!" grinned Pratt.

Playing in Indian conditions is not easy at the best of times. For a young England cricketer on his first tour, it's doubly hard. Pratt however, is happy to enjoy, rather than endure the experience. "We are playing in totally strange conditions. With the heat being what it is, concentration is much harder. The wickets are also so different. That's what makes it such a good experience to play here," he said.

With Pratt getting into a good rhythm early on, the England coach Tim Boon thought it might be wise to move him down the order to bolster a rather brittle middle order. Changes of these kind seldom come off successfully. Moreover, a batsman making runs opening the innings might not want to bat lower in the order. Whether he wanted to or not, Pratt made the move. "At first I wasn't too sure about the move down the order. No one likes to change a winning method really. But our coach said it would strengthen the middle order and I was quite happy with that. It depends on what frame of mind you go out into the middle with. If you go out with a positive frame of mind and not let the bowlers dictate you will come out on top."

Unbeaten with a century on the first day - that's the first hurdle crossed for Pratt. England however are still not in the best of positions. One down with three days to play, they have to do exceptionally well to level the series."We need to get 400 plus on the board and then bowl really well. We have to bowl a very tight line and frustrate the Indians. It's going to be hard work tomorrow," summed up Pratt.

That really is the bottom line. If some of the other England cricketers can take a leaf out of Pratt's book, the visitors might just be in with a chance.