Former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist on Monday came out in support of Sachin Tendulkar being conferred the Membership of the Order of Australia, saying that the senior Indian batsman has helped in forging relations between the two countries.
Gilchrist's former opening partner Matthew Hayden was upset at Tendulkar getting the award and had said that the honour should be exclusive to his countrymen. But, Gilchrist felt the honour was a recognition of the respect Tendulkar receives in Australia also.
"The discussion around his award and the variety of opinion shows the amazing profile that Tendulkar has. Credit to Sachin to have the place he has held in both the countries. He has forged 22-years of relation between the two countries," Gilchrist told reporters at the University of Wollongong conference here.
"I was able to send him a quick message and was thrilled to receive one back (from him) saying 'welcome to the club', because it was the same honour that I was very fortunate to receive. It (the award) is a mark of respect to a great man," he added.
Gilchrist also praised Tendulkar for deciding to play in the Ranji Trophy, saying that it showed the senior batsman's commitment to the game.
"I read he is playing a Ranji trophy match this week, his first one in three or four years. The fact that he wants to go and take that as preparation, with a serious Test series coming up is a testament to his professionalism and commitment to the game," he said.
Asked about Tendulkar's recent form, the retired Australian great said, "A few times in 22 years, there's going to be some trough. I am not saying he is in a trough or not. I am not sure, where he places himself well enough. He has been in that 22 years, we were asked has he reached his peak.
"I am sure he himself doesn't feel he is at the peak of his career. I have got no doubt that his desire and appetite for success remains," said Gilchrist.
On the upcoming India-England series, the 40-year-old left-hander said it will be a closely-contested series between two good teams.
"Most people feel comfortable when they are playing at home in familiar conditions. That will be a huge part. Both the teams stack up well against each other, they are in top four teams in world. Both are pretty evenly-matched and they would like to take a match off the other. It will be hard core and entertaining and I am looking forward to that," he said.
On the mind games between the two sides and the home team opting for turning tracks to assist their spinners, Gilchrist played it down and said it has become the norm of the day to have the conditions that suit the home team.
"It is very sad to have standardised playing conditions, but that is the beauty of the game. You have different pitches every game and the conditions change during the Test match. It is crucial that is kept. I don't think when you are playing in India, you go out and see turning wickets and be surprised by it. And nor should England be. And the same is the case in England (with their pitches). You test your skills with what is on offer and that is why it is called Test cricket," he said.
"It is just cat and mouse that goes before the series, little fun and games. England won't go through a shortage of batting time against spin bowling in their preparation, I am sure. Whether it's in the middle or if that is not available, they will get into the nets and have any number of spin bowlers bowling at them, I have got no doubt about that.
"I don't know the Indian selectors' mindset there. Whether they are resting these guys or keeping them fresh, as the case maybe. I am sure England will be prepared to face some spin bowling and will be practising accordingly at this moment," he said.
Asked if the humiliating whitewash India suffered in England will haunt them, he said, "Both teams tend to be aggressive. I don't think the 4-0 will come into it. It is a different ball game here. For England, it is different leadership and variety of issues they have faced. A lot of water has passed under the bridge and it was in different conditions."
India faced a 4-0 drubbing in England followed by a similar result in Australia last year.
Gilchrist said that the English side will have to sort out their differences in the dressing room, with the inclusion of controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen and need to work towards a common goal.
"I think Kevin Pietersen is one of the best cricketers in the world at the moment. He is one of the top 10 batsmen. Any team that has those skills in their set up will be better off. In a team set up you need that all relations are directed at common interest and goal. Kevin and English team will have to address that and make sure internally their relationships are okay to go and get the best out of each other."
The former wicketkeeper, who led the now defunct Deccan Chargers to victory in the second edition of IPL, called for better governance in the Twenty20 format.
"It is difficult for fans. Obviously, to have teams there and then suddenly disappear. I am sure there will be some confusion that the IPL governing body has to ensure to maintain the trust of the fans, to which at this point maybe hasn't been available for fans.
"I just think it is the pace with which the T20 juggernaut, more with the IPL concept, was conceived and then rolled out and presented. It is just five years old and it is a huge industry," he said.
"Because of the pace, it hasn't allowed a foundation or a base to form and work from and grow from. It has been on the run and on the move the whole time. Obviously with that quick decisions have been made whether it's from franchise or governing bodies, whether its from players," Gilchrist said.
"It's all done in such haste that it hasn't allowed a strong foundation to be developed. I am not saying anyone has to be blamed for that, that is just the nature of the beast.
With that there has been some casualties," he said. He added that the players might feel hesitant to sign contracts if the team ceases to exist or they fail to get their payments on time.
"I think it will start to factor in the decision-making of players. It certainly will become a part of the process. Whether a team is going to be in existence or am I going to get paid and players get paid handsomely there is no denying that. If you provide services to a job and then don't receive payment for that, obviously that is going to turn you off from wanting to come back and put yourself in the position again. Obviously, it needs to be governed well," he said.
Wollongong University announced the Bradman Scholarship here and Bradman Foundation said that they will induct former Indian batsman Rahul Dravid as an honouree.
The foundation had also inducted another former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar as an honouree a couple of years ago. Gilchrist pointed out that Bradman never played in India, but has his biggest fan-base here.
"I remember it was at this very hotel that the news of Sir Donald Bradman passing away came at 2.30 in the morning. It was an extraordinary reaction from the people. It is a day I will never forget," he said.