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West Indies in Australia, 1975-76 Arranged as a substitute for a scheduled tour by South Africa, there was the expectation of a rich cricketing feast for the West Indies' fifth visit to Australia. The ingredients were perfect. Each team contained a number of aggressive batsmen of high repute, each possessed bowlers of rare speed and hostility, and the two most successful off-spinners in contemporary internation- al cricket were on opposite sides. Above all, they appeared even- ly matched. The aperitif, served up in England the previous summer in the form of the first World Cup competition, provided a mouth water- ing prelude, being the most entertaining, and competitive cricket witnessed for years. The West Indies' captain, Clive Lloyd, had enjoyed an immensely successful initiation to the job. His basically young team had triumphed 3-2 in India in 1974-75, and had been the first World Cup champions, beating Australia on the two occasions the coun- tries met, including the final at Lord's. Lloyd himself wrote before the start of the series: "There is ba- sically not much between the two teams where talents and skills are concerned, and you don't need a crystal ball to predict the outcome could hang on a slender thread." It was a widely shared opinion. Yet, after a wonderful start, the contest deteriorated in to a one-sided anti-climax. Australia comfortably winning the last four of the six Tests for a 5-1 ad- vantage. Disappointment was no stranger to the West Indian teams in Aus- tralia. All those before - even, to a certain extent, that of 1960-61 - had endured it but not quite so sharply as Lloyd's. The team lost the first Test by eight wickets, but the margin of de- feat did not accurately indicate the closeness of the struggle. The Windies then won the second Test by an innings and 87 with a magnificient performance in which all that is best about West In- dian cricket was shown to advantage. From that point onwards, little went right for them, and their spirit was irreparably bro- ken by a combination of Australia's fast bowling, injury, lack of form of leading players, faulty catching and questionable umpir- ing. They were factors familiar to West Indian teams in Australia and, as had been the case before, the situation degenerated from bad to worse. In the end, the West Indian players, dejected by their own performances, were merely going through the motions, none more so than the captain, who found it impossible to hide his bitter disappointment. The Australians, never ones to show mercy in such circumstances, had appeared psychologically shaken after their massive defeat at Perth in the second Test. The West Indian fast bowling, spear- headed by Andy Roberts and the 21 year-old Holding, devastated theri batting, and the West Indian strokemakers were equally severe on the Australian bowling. At this stage, the visitors held a distinct advantage. The West Indies appeared to become complacent after their suc- cess, a grave misjudgement. Immediately following their victory, they allowed themselves to slip into an embarassing tangle against a sub-standard South Australian team purely and simply because of a lethargic attitude to the match. The Australians saw this as a sign of weakness, which they themselves would never al- low, regrouped their forces and put the debacle of Perth behind them. The contest was not the same thereafter. Australia's dominance from that match was built around the con- sistency of their batting, with their new captain, Greg Chappell outstanding, and the havoc created by the pace of Thomson and Lillee, but more especially the former, admirably supported by the left arm swing of the talented and youthful Gilmour. Between them, they claimed 76 of the 110 West Indian wickets that fell, and subjected the batsmen to the constant threat of physical in- jury which was never far from their minds. Almost all the major West Indian batsmen were hit about the face and body at one time or another, Kallicharan had his nose broken by Lillee at Perth, Julien's thumb was cracked when he was used as an opener, and Lloyd and Holding were forced to retire hurt at Sydney, as was Ali at Brisbane. The West Indians generally chose to counter attack against such bowling, but the result was that 14 wickets were lost to the hook shot, while numerous others went to catches behind the wicket and in the slips area. Marsh claiming a record-equalling 26 catches as wicketkeeper. Roberts and Holding suggested that they were capable of replying in kind by their display in the second Test by a pulled muscle sustained by the young Jamaican then separated them for the cru- cial third Test, and, subsequently, Roberts' flame dwindled under the strain of overwork. He was unable to play at all in the final Test, by which time Holding, again, and Boyce were also well below the fitness required for five-day cricket. No less of a handicap to Lloyd was the failure of the recognised opening pair. Greenidge completely lost form and confidence, and Fredericks found himself carrying Julien, Kallicharan, and final- ly, Vivian Richards to the middle as partners. Fredericks him- self, usually so reliable, had one unforgettable innings of 169 at Perth but achieved little else of note and it was no surprise that there was only one first-wicket partnership in excess of 50.
Contributed by Venky (sridh002@*.tc.umn.edu)