Widely recalled as one of the finest wicketkeepers in history, Bob Taylor played in 57 Tests for England in a 13-year international career. In that time he made two contrasting trips to India, in 1979-80 and in 1981-82. He recounted his memories to Cricinfo.



Bob Taylor: a world record-breaker at Bombay © Getty Images
"My first tour to India should have been with Tony Lewis's team in 1973, but unfortunately I'd had to have an operation and I failed a fitness test. The doctor wouldn't allow me to go because I had an ear infection, so Roger Tolchard took my place instead. Ironically, that decision was made at the 11th hour, by which time I'd received all my kit from the Test & County Cricket Board, including my blazer, all my clothes and a Slazenger cricket bag.

These items were always emblazoned with the England touring team's initials. And remarkably my initials - RWT for Robert William Taylor - are exactly the same as those of the man who replaced me - Roger William Tolchard. He was also the same fitting as me, so I had to hand the blazer over to him as well.

My first Test in India eventually came at Bombay during the Jubilee celebrations in 1979-80, and it was particularly memorable for me for two reasons. Firstly I got a record at that time of ten catches in the match, mostly off Ian Botham, and secondly I was given out only for the umpire to retract his decision.

I had been given out caught behind and I went to walk, but it was Gundappa Viswanath who was the captain then, not Sunil Gavaskar, and he said to me: "Stand there Bob, I'll talk to the umpire". I thought I was going to get into trouble if I did, so I said: "No, I'll go," but he insisted. So I was in the middle of the wicket with Botham and Kapil Dev the bowler, chatting away, while Viswanath persuaded the umpire to change his mind.

I went on to get 40-odd, and Ian Botham got a hundred, and together we got ourselves into a decent position from which to win the match, so it was an extraordinary gesture. My ten catches, on the other hand, had all been pretty straightforward. Subsequently Jack Russell broke that record at Johannesburg in 1995-96, and I just happened to be there, working for a travel company, so I was proud to present Jack with a magnum of champagne on behalf of Test Match Special.

My second tour of India came two years after the Bombay Test, on Keith Fletcher's tour in 1981-82, but unfortunately the wickets were so flat that it was a nothing tour really. It lasted for a couple of months, but all I remember was that we were all told to get the over-rate going, and so were running between the wickets to speed things up, but India's batsmen would be taking an age to get to their marks and slowing things right down again.



Ian Botham attends the team Christmas party as ... Geoffrey Boycott, who had just broken the world Test runs record © Getty Images

We lost the first Test and that was crucial. India were able to slow the game right down, whether they were fielding or batting. We complained to the umpires, but we simply couldn't bowl enough overs to force a result. It was so futile that even I had a bowl at one stage, at Bangalore. That was when Viswanath got 200 and the wicket was particularly flat. The game was meandering to a draw, so Graham Gooch put the pads on and I had a bowl for a couple of overs. It was the only time I did so in Test cricket.

One of the memorable moments of the tour came when Geoffrey Boycott broke Garry Sobers' world record for the most runs in Test cricket. Boycott was phenomenal - he had powers of concentration way beyond most people. He was self-motivating, and that was what he needed to become one of the top batsmen in the world.

On the night he broke the record, we went to a reception held by the Indian cricket board. Gavaskar was the captain, and in front of all the England and India players, he turned to Boycott and said: "I would like to congratulate Geoff Boycott on breaking Sobers' record - enjoy it while you can ..." And sure enough, Gavaskar himself broke it not long afterwards.

When I'm coaching young wicketkeepers now, I tell them it's not the bowlers in the subcontinent that you have to brace yourself for, it's the conditions. Whether it's India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, the wickets can be so flat and dead that when you've got world-class batsmen like Gavaskar or Tendulkar, it doesn't matter who's bowling.

They try to score off every ball and invariably they can. In addition, you might not be feeling very well either, a touch of Delhi belly or suchlike. At times, the wicketkeeper becomes redundant because the ball never beats the bat. But, when you've been fielding in those conditions for five hours 55 minutes, and in the last over of the day, a player suddenly dashes down the wicket, that's when you've got to be ready to take the stumping or pick up the nick. It's so easy to doze off, when you haven't done anything all day but that's what wicketkeeping is all about at Test level - concentrating all day long.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.