Before we start with the part 2 of the series, lets have a look at a very interesting video:
West Indies, the only country India had not so far beaten, were mastered in the second Test. This win decided the series in India’s favour. Only once before had they won a rubber away from home, 3-1 against New Zealand, in 1968.
Test cricket was played for the first time on Sundays in the West Indies. The one exception, however, was the first Test, at Kingston. The Indians’ number of tests won on that tour, would have been much better, had Wadekar, their new captain adopted a more positive approach. His bowlers always looked match-winners, but the batsmen were not encouraged to give them the opportunity to go for the kill.
While victory in the series opened a new chapter in the history of Indian cricket, West Indies suffered the disappointment of losing their fourth successive rubber and their second at home. It was ironic that West Indies should have failed to win even a single match in a series which saw Sobers bat in supreme form for 597 runs (av. 74.62). Charlie Davis, of Trinidad, playing one Test and two innings less, also totalled over 500 runs and finished at the top of the averages (132.25). If my memory serves me correctly, Charlie Davis was the last white cricketer to represent the West Indies for nearly a quarter of a century, before Brendan Nash played for them in 2008.
The consistency of Sobers, who failed only in the second Test, and Davis was more than matched by Gavaskar and Sardesai. Before the team departed for the West Indies, the chairman of the Indian selection committee Vijay Merchant, had told the batsmen in the Indian tem, to emulate Gavaskar’s technique in spite of him being the youngest member of the side. And how prophetic did Mr. Merchant’s words prove to be! For the next 17 years, every batsman in world cricket was trying to do just the same!!!
Gavaskar’s arrival on the Test scene, at 21, was phenomenal. Despite missing the first Test through a finger injury, which he aggravated by nail-biting, Gavaskar amassed 774 runs at an average of 154.80. Gavaskar’s achievements equaled, surpassed or approached several important records. No Indian batsman had hitherto made 700 runs or more in a single series. Only Aussie Doug Walters before him had scored a century and a double-century in the same Test. Gavaskar fell only five runs short of Everton Weekes’ aggregate of 779, the highest in a series between the West Indies and India. Gavaskar also established a new record for the highest aggregate in a maiden Test series (703 by G. A. Headley in 1929-30 was the previous highest). Only one other batsman can pride himself on a higher average for a series than Gavaskar – Sir Donald Bradman (201.50 v. South Africa, in 1931-32 and 178.75 v. India, in 1947-48).
It was after this dazzling performance by Gavaskar on debut, Lord Relator composed and sung a calypso for him. You’d probably love to hear this.
Sardesai, far from assured of a regular Test place at the start of the tour, also performed admirably in scoring 642 runs. He held the batting together and gave it all its personality till Gavaskar recovered from his injury. Sardesai came to India’s rescue in every crisis they faced and it was significant that the only game they lost was one in which he was rested.
Both Viswanath, who went on the tour with a high reputation, and Wadekar batted well below their best, but in the left-handed Solkar India discovered a batsman not likely to stumble in the dark alleys of adversity. But for his partnerships with Sardesai, India could well have lost the first, second and fourth Tests. Still young and inexperienced, Solkar betrayed one or two palpable deficiencies in technique, but his resources of courage and determination were endless. As an all-round fieldsman, Solkar was invaluable and as a bowler in two styles he always tried hard. He did not get the due for his talent in his career, has been my humble opinion always.
Considering the quality of the bowling they faced, India did not realise the full potential of their batting strength. India led on the first innings in three of the five Tests, but actually batting success was more evenly spread by the West Indies than the Indians.
Lewis, the Jamaica wicket-keeper, who came in after the first two Tests and opened the innings in the fourth and fifth, proved an obdurate customer, averaging 86.33 over five innings. Kanhai made 433 runs in the series, his match-saving 158 not out in the first Test being his outstanding effort. Foster’s 177 runs in the last two Test s and the manner in which he made them suggested that he should have won a place earlier in the series.
The Indian tactics of attacking their leg stump made life difficult for the left-handers. Only Sobers flourished. Carew, troubled by recurring muscle injuries, and Fredericks were severely restricted. By his own standards, Lloyd had an indifferent series but he was very unlucky in that in his ten innings, together worth 295 runs, he was three times run out and once was bowled by a cruel shooter. He passed fifty three times and on each occasion he looked more than formidable.
The oft-repeated criticism that West Indies would be better off with Sobers batting higher up the order was again applicable. It did not help the West Indies that, generally speaking, their pitches had lost their former pace. The pitches for the two Tests in Trinidad were certainly sub-standard. The new one at Sabina Park, Kingston was also appreciably slower than on the last Indian tour. It took spin quite early and put the gifted Indian bowlers in their element.
The West Indies tried various combinations of bowlers, of whom Sobers, when roused, looked the most dangerous. For one who had always to be prepared to play a long innings, Sobers did a considerable amount of bowling. His quicker style left its mark on more than one Indian innings and he also bowled a couple of dangerous spells of wrist spin. Perhaps he should have bowled more of this variety, particularly at Solkar.
It won’t be out of place or of immodest pride to mention here, that the Indians had made the genius of Sobers too toil hard to remain in the play, for the entire series.
West Indies’ leading wicket-taker was Jack Noriega, a 35-year-old off-spinner from Trinidad who, when he began the season, had not played first-class cricket for eight years. He captured 17 wickets (av. 29.00) in the series but to put his performance in proper perspective it must be mentioned that 15 of them were obtained in the two Tests played on the dubious pitches at the Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad. Nine of them were claimed in the first innings of the second Test, this being the first instance of a West Indies bowler taking more than eight wickets in one innings of a Test match.
Although Chandrasekhar, later the scourge of England, was left at home, the Indian bowlers excelled themselves, the three main spinners, Prasanna, Bedi and Venkataraghavan, between them taking 48 of the 68 Test wickets that fell to the bowlers. All of them were remarkably accurate and even if the pitches tended to aid them, there is no doubt that their mastery in flighting the ball gave them a great advantage.
Prasanna, one of the world’s leading off-spinners, missed two Tests through finger injuries, but the rapid advance of Venkataraghavan during the tour enabled India to make light of Prasanna’ s absence. Venkataraghavan captured 22 Test wickets. Using his height, he got a surprising amount of bounce from even the slower pitches. Only Subhash Gupte, who took 27 wickets in 1952-53, has taken more wickets on an Indian tour of the West Indies.
The Indian close fieldsmen took some spectacular catches, yet a lot of simpler ones did not stick. However, the percentage of catches dropped by the West Indies was higher and this factor, more than any other, tipped the scales in India’s favour. Gavaskar, often early in his innings, and Solkar were major beneficiaries of West Indies’ fielding errors. Most of these dropped catches went down in the slips and even Sobers, on occasions, was found wanting.
The inclusion of Lewis solved part of West Indies’ batting problems, but one felt that Findlay was unlucky to be dropped after his patchy performance in Trinidad, for the pitch was not exactly the easiest one to keep wicket on.
It was after the series, Dickie Rutnagar had said,
“Their long-awaited win over the West Indies will prove a source of inspiration and confidence to the Indians in future engagements. Although rudely shocked by the result, West Indies are not likely to be dispirited, because enthusiasm for the game has never been higher in any of the West Indies territories. Its development is receiving much dedication from administrators and ex-cricketers, and there is ample promise of West Indies cricket coming back to the forefront in the near future.”
It was to come true six years later, when a highly stung Clive Lloyd’s side took on India in 1975-76.
As at the end of the tour, the Indian team trudged towards their home-bound airplane they were battle-weary and a lot of them were enveloped in plasters and bandages. Indian team was down and out, both physically and mentally.
The bandages were the war decorations of a controversial and somewhat violent final Test which the West Indies won to prevail 2-1 in a four-Test series.
Following an overwhelming win for the West Indies in the opening contest in Barbados, the second in Trinidad was drawn, with India very much on top. At the same venue, India won the third in a blaze of glory, their triumph being achieved by scoring over 400 runs in the final innings — a feat that had only one precedent in the history of Test cricket, by Bradman’s invincibles in 1948. And it took efforts of none other than the Great Don himself, alongwith Arthur Morris, to achieve this feat.
Both sides went into the series suffering from a common disadvantage. Only a month earlier, the West Indies had finished a long and exciting tour of Australia during which they had lost the Test series by a humiliating margin. India undertook the West Indies tour directly after a visit to New Zealand. The humiliation in Australia, turned this band of pleasant, cavalier cricketers into a pack of wounded lions, ready to kill whatever comes into their way, with ruthless cruelty.
Obviously this was not a vintage Indian side but it is equally true that because of thoughtless planning of the tour, the team was given less scope to do itself justice early on. Such was the intensity of West Indian attack. Both, with bat and ball !
They just managed to keep their heads above water in the first two tour matches. Then they were trounced by Barbados and beaten just as severely in the first Test.
It was to the credit of Bedi’s leadership that his team came out of the depression and acquitted themselves so well thereafter. It must be said that even during the early days of struggle, Bedi’s tactics were constructive and positive. The batting and bowling performances show that.
Indeed the Indians proved very resilient. But it has to be said that three factors helped them to draw level in the series after their rout in Barbados.
Even more significant, it was to India’s advantage that the third Test was switched because of adverse weather from Georgetown’s Bourda to the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad, where the Indians both bat and bowl as well as on any of their own grounds. Had the match been played at Bourda, as scheduled, the most likely result would have been a draw.
The whole of the Guyana leg of the tour was washed out.
Another sad aspect of the cancellation of this match was that it was meant to be Lance Gibbs’s final appearance in a first-class match at home and he had, in fact, been honored with the captaincy.
The third factor that influenced India’s comeback was the decision of the West Indies selectors not to include Lance Gibbs, despite his successes in Australia. The policy was part of a long term plan to bring on a successor. Had Gibbs played in either or both of the two Tests in Trinidad, there might have been a different story to tell. The Indians certainly would have found the going harder in chasing a total of 400-plus in the third Test. Gibbs was a top class spinner, and a force to reckon with. But even cousin Clive Lloyd being the captain, couldn’t save his place in the team.
Vivian Richards was the outstanding batsman on either side. He scored 556 runs (av. 92.66). The rich form he had struck in Australia stayed with him and apart from his consistency, Richards batted with the authority of a truly great player. The fourth Test was the only one in which he failed to make a century.
Lloyd was the next most consistent, but he could not reproduce the versatility of his batting against the Indians in the previous series, played only a year before in India.
Clearly, the West Indies batting on the whole was still trying to rise from the disasters in Australia. Although he played two innings of substance, both of them most valuable, Kallicharran’s performance suffered by his own lofty standards. There was no doubt that his powers were limited by the shoulder injury which first manifested itself in Australia and which, later in the year, was to cut short his English tour while he underwent an operation.
With Roberts left tired by his toils in Australia, the whole burden fell on Holding, who carried it with ease, all credit to his smooth flowing action. He took 19 wickets conceding a paltry 19.83 per wicket.
Although his crowning glory came in the final Test, the result of which he so strongly influenced, Holding’s true worth was even more apparent when in the Third Test, he took six wickets in the first innings on a sluggish pitch in Trinidad. This performance stamped him as a great fast bowler.
Inevitably, Gavaskar and Viswanath were the pillars of the Indian batting. Gavaskar, who sustained a bad facial injury in New Zealand, missed the first two matches but found his touch straight away, looking every bit himself. Didn’t he love the West Indian Bowlers ! But he could not get himself to concentrate and build a long innings till the Second Test.
Viswanath, having discovered his form in New Zealand, batted effortlessly from the start in the West Indies, although got out to balls that kept unplayably low. Men of short stature both, Gavaskar and Viswanath were happiest batting in Trinidad. Gavaskar, as in 1971, made centuries in both the Test matches there while Viswanath played the match-winning innings in the Third Test.
Brijesh Patel’s talent also furnished in the two Tests in Trinidad but even while making runs, he looked suspect against fast bowling. After repeated early collapses, the Indians experimented with Anshuman Gaekwad as an opening batsman and Mohinder Amarnath as number three. Gaekwad’s height, his dogged determination and sound judgement of direction fitted him for his new role. Both became known as extremely gutsy players of genuine fast bowling.
In the bloody Kingston Test, Gaekwad batted a day and a half in the teeth of hostile fast bowling and seemed to have established himself as an opening batsman for a long time to come. But eventually he ducked into a ball that did not rise to the expected height and took a blow which put him in hospital and might well have killed his taste for the assignment. It is a part of folklore now, how he insisted to come back and play, even when he was being carried out of the ground with blood pouring out of his left ear.
Amarnath fulfilled India’s immediate requirement and even distinguished himself by playing a supporting role over a long period to Gavaskar, Viswanath and Patel while India were shaping their famous win in the Third Test. It was sheer raw guts which he put to practice, while scoring that pivotal 85. India won the test with Gavaskar making 102, VIshwanath 112, and Brijesh Patel 49, but it was Amarnath’s 85 which held the innings together.
More batsmen failed than succeeded on this tour and among those who statistically left no impression was Dilip Vengsarkar then merely19-year-old, who was picked before he had played even one whole season of first-class cricket at home, basis his Irani trophy century against Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna and Venkat.He obviously lacked the experience to be a force but from the manner in which he coped with the heavy fire during the Jamaica Test, there was evidence of class. He had a safe method of taking evasive action against the bumper and fearlessly drove anything that was pitched up to him.
The last series between the two sides having been played only a year before, the West Indies batsmen were familiar with the Indian spin attack. Still, Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan asked searching questions of them.
Chandrasekhar and Bedi were the leading wicket-takers, with 21 and 18 victims. Venkataraghavan had only seven, a figure that conceals the fact that he suffered most of all in the matter of dropped catches and that he was close to bowling India to victory in the Second Test. That was when Prasanna’s downslide began….
To be continued…..
Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe , who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.