Stay away from lucre, Gilchrist cautions

Published: Monday, September 27, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Australia''s stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist believes one sure-shot way to win a Test series in India for the first time in 35 years is for team-mates to stay away from the lure of the rupee.

The Australians, one of the most popular international teams in cricket-crazy India, are greatly sought after by local companies and multinationals for sponsorships deals.

Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath have contracts with Indian firms to endorse products or write syndicated columns during the six-week tour that includes four highly-anticipated Test matches.

But Gilchrist, standing in for the injured Ponting, hoped off-field commitments will not hamper team preparations as they bid to win Australia's first series in India since Bill Lawry's side in 1969.

"I think because we are playing a lot more cricket out here, there's obviously been a lot of commercial opportunities for players, given the popularity of cricket in general and Australian players," the flamboyant batsman-wicketkeeper said.

"It's not just commercial opportunities, but it's just that India as a place is very different to what we're used to at home and just adjusting and trying to fit into life over here is a key ingredient to winning.

"Certainly off-field commitments can cloud your preparation and interrupt your preparation and I think from personal experience, I probably took a bit too much on last time."

The undisputed world champions lost their last two Test series in India in 1998 and 2001 by identical 2-1 margins and were also beaten in a one-off Test in New Delhi in 1996.

Sourav Ganguly's Indians held Australia to a 1-1 draw down under earlier this year in what was Steve Waugh's farewell series.

India, with its massive television audiences, is the economic powerhouse that drives world cricket with millions of dollars spent by companies every year on the sport.

Waugh may have described India as the "last frontier" for his world beating team, but Gilchrist, who was part of the magnificent 2001 series, chose to put the current tour in perspective.

"It's not the be-all and end-all of our cricketing lives, but it's a very important series and an exciting one," Gilchrist said.

"This rivalry between Australia and India has really grown and built up into this icon event and that's exciting for all of us."

Gilchrist, however, refused to be drawn into comparing it with the traditional Ashes contests against arch-rivals England.

"From a player's perspective, I don't necessarily think this series takes over from the Ashes. It's grown its own identity, its own excitement.

"I probably don't think it's right to compare it to other series and to say one series is better than the other. What I'm saying is this is a very exciting series in its own right," he said.

Australia open the tour with a three-day match against national champions Mumbai at the Brabourne stadium here from Thursday.

The first Tests opens in Bangalore on October 6 and will be followed by Madras, Nagpur and Bombay.

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