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England in India Nov 1976/Feb 1977 - Tour Summary

England in India (from the 1978 Wisden, by Dicky Rutnagur)
Tour Summary

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
was won.

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
and seam.

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
spinners` 32.

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-
disputable class.

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
shoulder responsibility.

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  (

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