Spinwash ’93: Michael Atherton presents his documentary on the crazy tour of England in India | Cricket News
Using behind-the-scenes footage captured by Dermot Reeve, Michael Atherton takes a look at the very eventful 1993 tour of England to India in our summer documentary Spinwash …
The game has changed a lot since our trip in 1993. India too. We wanted to do a show to reflect this.
Dermot, who was one of the players on the tour, had taken a camcorder with him for the entire three months, and for a long time I had wanted to do something with the footage. We came to an agreement and I spent the winter doing this program.
What you get are completely unsupervised players. Modern documentaries can be of much higher spec than this hour-long show, but there’s no actor or on-camera game here. This is all very natural – guys didn’t expect this to be shown. His behind-the-scenes footage of the camp, exactly as it was.
There’s a lovely moment, for example, where Chris Lewis walks in and says a prayer in the corner of the locker room after scoring his first 100 test in Chennai, with everyone there congratulating him.
For the most part, however, it was a memorable tour for reasons that cannot be remembered. England were ‘wrung out’ or whitewashed, as you want to call it, losing 3-0 in the Test Series.
It was the kind of tour where anything that could go wrong, went wrong. There was a pilots’ strike the first month, we had to travel everywhere by train; the first ODI was abandoned in Ahmedabad because of the violence; a lot of people got sick – we had a virus in the rounds – which meant we had to change the team every game, and we let ourselves go on the pitch.
And yet, despite all of this, it is a tour that everyone who took part in it remembers with a little affection. It was just an amazing experience. Any tour in India is, but given the exceptional circumstances, this one even more so.
When you travel the country on these trains – 6 p.m. for some, sleeping at night – you are almost bound to get together as a team.
The type of entertainment we provide will be very different from today, where you have cell phones and connections that allow you to talk at home, play any game. At the time, he read books, played cards, played charades.
I remember those trips so well. Bob bennett [then England tour manager] having to compose hundreds of corned beef naans to feed us along the way.
After the pilots’ strike was over, we also did a scary flight or two. One where we flew in a flock of birds, and another where we had a hydraulic failure.
Phil Tufnell, in many ways the star of our show, is and always has been a truly shocking aviator. We have some footage from one of those flights where Tuffers looks particularly ashy.
In the series, Tuffers discusses his issues and struggles on the court so brilliantly, as well as how he ended up in a scrape or two. We’ve got a crisp movie of him, in places you wouldn’t exactly expect to see him, like a Rajasthani hotel gym – with a lit cigarette.
As for the action on the pitch, the result was not much different from last winter’s English tour of India. In the first test, we made a mistake in our selection, choosing four seamstresses and a roulette wheel, while India chose three. And these three spinners – Anil Kumble, Rajesh Chauhan and Venkatapathy Raju – represented 46 wickets between them.
The one that didn’t fall to shoot was an Alec Stewart outing in Mumbai. I was sick for the first two tests but had one try in the third and had this disastrous run with Stewie.
A completely comedic run – the keeper actually let it go when the pitch came in, but we were both at the same end. He maintains it was my fault and I let him have the final say on the documentary but, privately, I’m not sure there was a run there.
This is what adds to the show. Combined with this behind-the-scenes content, we have the archive footage from the tour. It was the first Sky covered in the subcontinent and, in fact, the first game of this tour, in Jaipur, was the very first game to be broadcast on satellite TV in India.
It was the start of a radical change in cricket in the subcontinent, with more money going into the game. It was the start of what you are seeing now, the end of the IPL game and the players. winning millions of pounds.
And a Sachin Tendulkar has come to the fore just at the perfect moment of this transition. He’s another star of the series as we see him scoring his first Test 100 in India, in Chennai. He looks so young! As we have all done.
There’s a lovely moment where we have young Sachin talking about his excellent record-breaking partnership with Vinod Kambli – who makes him a double-cent in the third test – at a school game, where they put in over 600. together.
There are many key moments in Indian cricket. There is obviously their World Cup victory in 1983; the 2007 T20 World Cup which paved the way for the IPL. This tour was meaningful in a minor, but major way.
It’s not a project that people will necessarily think of as revolutionary, but it was the start of a journey. It was the first tour in which Doordarshan, the state broadcaster, did not have a monopoly on television rights.
I think this tour was sold to the BCCI for £ 600,000. In the span of three years the World Cup was here, for £ 10million, and now you watch the TV rights being sold for billions.
It was also the only test tour in India that I did as a player. Nowadays, England goes to India every two minutes these days, whether for the IPL, the test or day tours.
The documentary shows how life and cricket have changed. And a pretty quick change to that.
Watch Spinwash ’93 on Sky Sports Cricket Wednesday at 7pm. The show will then be available to watch on demand from 9 p.m. on the same day.