England in India Nov 1976/Feb 1977 - Tour Summary
England in India (from the 1978 Wisden, by Dicky Rutnagur)
After severe and depressing losses to Australia and the West In-
dies in successive home summers, the tide turned for English
cricket during the 1976-77 tour of India and Sri Lanka. For the
first time in five ventures since the Second World War, England
beat India on their own soil.
The margin of England`s victory in the series was decisive -
three-one. And the extent of England`s superiority in achieving
these three wins was no less convincing - an inings and 25 runs,
ten wickets and 200 runs. M.C.C. were undefeated in the eight
other first-class matches on the tour although only one of them
A historic aspect of the English triumph in the Test series was
that no other touring side in India had ever before clinched the
rubber over the first three Tests. As India came back to win the
fourth and strongly contest a highly exciting final Test (the
only one to be drawn) there was no evidence of slackening effort
on the part of the tourists.
In analysing the series, it must be pointed out that India looked
as weak as they have ever done in their 42 years in international
cricket. What slight potential they had as a team they did not
realise until after the series was decided.
India`s shortcomings however, must not be allowed to detract from
England`s achievment. To an equal extent at least, England`s su-
periority came from dedication to the task on hand, zest, deter-
mination, a thoughtful approach and a bond of brotherhood between
the players. They were inspired by their flamboyant and articu-
late captain, Tony Greig, and team management, under Ken Barring-
ton, must also take credit for the excellent spirit and discip-
line that prevailed.
Grieg`s charisma enabled him to extract maximum effort from his
players. In planning and matters of strategy, he was fortunate
enough to have such shrewd and experienced aides as Barrington,
Brearley, Fletcher and Knott. Their contribution to tactics was
As usual, M.C.C. were afflicted with injuries and illnesses, not
a few of which struck on the eve of, or sometimes during, a Test
match. Yet there was only one instance of a doubtful starter not
answering roll call on the morning of a Test. This record
not only spoke volumes for the players` determination to rise
above handicaps but also was testimony to the skill and tireles-
ness of the team`s physiotherapist, Bernard Thomas.
M.C.C.`s major advantage on this tour was that only four years
separated it from the last trip to India. The party therefore in-
cluded a high percentage of players who had gone tehre in 1972-73
with Tony lewis and were therefore familiar with the conditions.
Undoubtedly, the main factor in England`s superiority was the
bowling, supported by fielding of a standard that has not been
touched recently, if ever, by English Test sides. Though Test
pitches, with the exception of Chepauk in Madras, were slow and
tailor-made for spinners, England placed heavy reliance on pace
There was always a case for playing another spinner besides
Underwood and Greig, but the inner council was mindful of India`s
traditional weakness against pace and as much of the fact that in
1972-73 the quicker bowlers captured 48 Test wickets to the
This time, Willis, Lever and Old between them took 56 to 29 by
Underwood and 10 by Greig (most of them when he was functioning
as an off-spinner). Perhaps England got by without another spe-
cialist spinner because of the tremendous effectiveness of Under-
wood, the highest wicket-taker on either side.
No longer could it be said of Underwood that he was principally a
bowler for English conditions and that he had to be taken abroad
"like an umbrella in case it rained". He exploited the conditions
even more than India`s own celebrated spinners. Accurate as
always, he bowled with immense craft and wit - slower than before
and with greater variation. That the Indians never mastered him
is borne out by the fact that he claimed as many as nine wickets
in the last Test.
No less vital to England`s success were Willis and Lever. Trou-
bled by a chest infection in the first fortnight, Willis reached
his peak after the first Test and, carefully nursed thereafter,
always remained an explosive and potent force. Elimination of
the initial curve in his run-up to the wicket seemed to have im-
proved his rhythm and his effectiveness. His 20 wickets in the
series stamped Willis as a bowler of genuine pace and in-
Lever, who had not played for England before this tour, was
picked because of his impresive fitness record and his stamina.
True to expectations, he was always on hand to bowl and he played
in ten matches, more than any other bowler in the party. He
proved more than a willing workhorse. With 44 wickets, he topped
the aggregates on the tour. In Test matches he was second only to
Underwood, with 26 wickets, including ten in the opening Test. To
set the seal on such a brilliant debut. he scored 53 and helped
to raise England`s total to winning proportions. A "rogue" ball
which swung extravagantly gave Lever a haul of seven wickets in
the first innings of the First Test and though he could not have
failed to realise that his success then was brought about by
freak circumstances, he drew tremendous confidence from it and
remained a sharp prong in England`s attack. His left-handedness
provided an important variation.
Lever`s triumphant first tour was marred by the "vaseline" con-
troversy, of which he was the central figure. This was unfor-
tunate. he showed tremendous courage and character in standing up
to the emotional stress which the issue must have placed on him.
Lever`s contributions with the bat too were not insignificant.
He distinguished himself on every occasion when the tail was
required to contribute or to resist. Batting at number nine,
he played sensibly and very straight, always proving a firm obs-
tacle to the Indian bowlers.
Old, whose fitness was in considerable doubt when he was picked
for the tour, often snatched an important wicket. The Second Test
was his most outstanding. Selvey, who played in only the final
Test as a last-minute replacement for the injured Old, was pushed
into the background once Lever staked his claim and it was for
this reason alone that he did not make a mark.
Left even further in the background was Miller, who played as the
front-line off-spinner in teh last Test of the previous summer
and not without success. Greig now did the off-spinning in Test
matches and even in the subsidiary games, Cope always seemed to
get greater scope. Miller had less than his fair share of oppor-
tunities in a country where a spin bowler of so much promise
could have advanced his skill.
The neglect of Miller, who was always prepared to experiment with
variations in flight and pace in the manner of a classical
spinner, must be one major criticism of M.C.C.`s policy on this
trip. Without menaing any slight on Cope, they seemed to show him
preference because of his greater accuracy, even though his mode
of attack was more stereotyped. To Miller`s consolation, however,
his batting ability gained some recognition during the tour. He
scored two 50`s and passed 40 on one other occasion in seven in-
Where batting was concerned, Englnd finished the tour with almost
as many problems and question marks as when they began it.
Although Amiss was at the top of the Test averages and Brearley
fourth, the highest opening partnership after four Tests was only
39. Almost every innings got off to a bad start. Then Amiss or
Greig usually put England on course with dogged batting. When
momentum was required, it was invariably provided by Knott, with
his own brand of unorthodox batsmanship.
The promise of secure batting strength raised by an enormous to-
tal of 585 for 5 declared on the tour`s opening match was not
fulfilled. Brearley, who made a double century on that occasion,
was late making an impression in Test matches, Fletcher, who
started with a century, did not shine again until he played a
masterly innings in the second innings of the final Test. To be
fair to him, Fletcher`s fortunes were Affected by a sprained an-
kle which took considerable time to mend.
Woolmer never came to terms with the slow, turning pitches. The
two new recruits, Barlow and Randall, were also disappointing. In
a week`s net practice before the proper tour commenced, Barlow
batted as if he had played on Indian pitches all his life. Furth-
ermore, he scored centuries in the first two innings of the tour;
but he was not equal to the demands of Test matches, lost his
place after the first two and faded into the background.
Randall made his Test debut in the electric and awe-inspiring at-
mosphere of Calcutta`s Eden Gardens. He came in with England in
trouble on a pitch of dubious quality. He proceded to make 37
with an assurance not equalled hitherto by another English bats-
man. Obviously he had the technique to build a major Test in-
nings, but finished the series without improving on his maiden
effort. Although nowhere near as accomplished a player, Tolchard
acquitted himself creditably in the middle order and contributed
to victories in the second and third Tests. he was all grit and
determination and Indian bowlers found him as hard to dislodge as
on the previous tour.
The quality of England`s fielding cannot possibly be exaggerated.
Spectacular cataches were taken in the slips by Brearley, Greig
and Old and it was hard to recall a dropped catch in this region
during the first four Tests. Willis took brilliant catches both
close to the wicket and in the deep. Barlow and Randall made
a tremendous impact with their speed and athleticism in fielding
at cover and mid-wicket. If a jaded Knott had disappointed on
the last Indian tour, he reached supreme heights this time. He
was consistently brilliant.
To look to the other side of the coin, the Indian batting seemed
desperately short of Test-class material and the shortage was em-
phasised because Viswanath, who had a very successful series
aginst New Zealand just before, sufferes almost total loss of
form. The other leading batsman, Gavaskar, played three notable
innings, including the only Indian century of the series, but
there were other occasions when he showed a marked reluctance to
Patel played memorable innings at Calcutta and Bombay, but lacked
consistency. The inclusion of left-haded Surinder Armanath for
the last two Tests was an advantage, particularly as a counter to
Lever and Underwood.
Although Bedi and Chandrsekhar finished above him in the table of
wicket-takers, Prasanna, brought in after the first Test, was the
outstanding Indian bowler. At 36, his control and skill were
unimpaired and he was still capable of bowling for long periods.
His extra edge compared with the other bowlers could possibly be
attributed to the fact that he was fresher, having missed the
series against New Zealand, which finished only a fortnight be-
fore the First Test.
Bedi took 25 wickets in the series and during the Third Test, his
own 51st, he became the first Indian to reach the landmark of 200
Test wickets. For sustained control, however, Bedi was not up to
his old mark. After unsettling England on the first morning of
the series, Chandrasekhar lost form and confidence and he could
not have been far from losing his place when he rediscovered his
powers in the second innings of the Third Test.
The Indian spinners as a combination suffered from the failure of
the batsmen to give them totals big enough to bowl at, at least
in the first three Tests. Fielding support was also inadequate,
certainly not up to Test standards.
Contributed by cp (email@example.com)