An eight-week tour of India containing five Test matches was an interesting M.C.C. experiment in January and February 1964. It is the general wish today to shorten overseas tours. A five-Test series could, obviously, be crammed into a shorter period, but whether such congestion of important fixtures is desirable is very much open to question.
In eight weeks on this project too much travelling at times, which cut into sleeping hours, was necessary to carry out the programme. On two occasions two Tests were played without separation by a minor game. It seemed that a week at least should have been added to the tour. Preferably such ventures should not be shorter than ten weeks, in which seven other games could be played in addition to the five Tests.
A short tour has special problems. It requires the chosen Test players to be almost continually in action, while the reserves are liable to find too little cricket to maintain their interest. Yet the risk of injury and illness is no less at the start of a short than a long tour.
Hence adequate reserves are essential, and in order to exercise them seven minor games to five Tests should be the minimum ratio. An additional hazard in India is the risk of stomach trouble, which, in fact, struck severely at this M.C.C. team. Having learned from experience, M.C.C. arranged for their team -- and the attending writers -- to take tinned food from England for use in the more remote cricketing centres, where European cooking is not understood.
There was some slight criticism of this action from touchy folk in India, but that should not prevent M.C.C. acting similarly on future tours. The tinned food was in some places very necessary.
All five Test matches were left drawn. Of the other games four suffered the same fate, and M.C.C. won the remaining one. That unsatisfactory state of affairs was not surprising to those familiar with Indian playing conditions. And the fact that most matches were doomed to be drawn almost from the outset did not seem to disturb spectators.
More than 1,000,000 watched the ten games, and day after day the Test grounds, whose capacity varied between 30,000 and 45,000, were packed. Financially the tour was a rousing success, though the nature of the play inflicted sore wounds on the game of cricket.
When pitches are made so slow and true that a competent craftsman could bat successfully with a broom handle, incentive is missing. Throughout the series India played as though reconciled to the conditions. In no match did they make a serious attempt to win, even when England were a makeshift collection of players in the Bombay Test. Yet they were led by the Nawab of Pataudi, who was certainly not without aggression and enterprise when he played in English first-class cricket.
India possess splendidly gifted cricketers. M.L. Jaisimha is a glorious strokemaker, a batsman capable of tearing attacks to pieces. B.K. Kunderam is similarly by nature an aggressive batsman, eager to hook and the possessor of a lovely off drive.
Hanumant Singh is perhaps more gifted than either, and his century in the Delhi Test, his first innings in Test cricket, was the finest batting of the series.
Pataudi himself, despite the handicap of a car accident which has impaired the sight of one eye, could still be a fine and vigorous, maker of strokes.
India have, too, several likely googly type bowlers, of whom B. Gupte, the younger of two Test playing brothers, looked the most promising against M.C.C. Such cricketers deserve conditions which encourage and foster aggressive play, conditions which will enable them to employ their talents for the winning of matches.
In this series England alone appeared to have the ambition to win. In the first two Tests, when stricken by illness and injury, they were in no position to strike for victory. In the third their side was still unbalanced. A chance of winning, presented by the fast bowling success of J. S. Price, was missed, because M.C. Cowdrey was understandably slow to gather confidence when playing his first innings since the previous June.
In the fourth and fifth, M. J. K. Smith led England in a way which unmistakably revealed his ambitions. In the result a second slow century by Cowdrey, less understandable and excusable than the first, killed English hopes in the fourth. In the final Test, Smith was able to enforce a follow-on, but the fatigue of three warm days in the field and the pitch, which was still so sluggishly true that another five-day match could have been played on it, defeated his best endeavours.
Smith was an outstanding success as leader of M.C.C. abroad. He and D. G. Clark, the manager, formed an exceptionally good team, and their conduct of this tour should serve as a model for all such ventures. Without over-committing their players to the many invitations which came their way, they made themselves and the team popular visitors wherever they went.
Inside the party they quickly developed a degree of team spirit which is not common among English teams abroad, and that spirit proved its sterling worth when illness laid low several of the leading players. It was proof against the crisis of Bombay, where the second Test was played against a hospital background.
Before that Test K.F. Barrington, the leading batsman who was already in tremendous form broke a finger. On the eve of the match stomach trouble afflicted J.B. Mortimore, J.H. Edrich and P.J. Sharpe. Moreover D. Wilson was nursing an injured back.
He alone emerged from the sick in time to play in the match, though in the early stages of it he had to be used sparingly. By tea-time on the first day M. J. Stewart was also down with stomach trouble, a recurrence of illness which rendered him a passenger for most of the opening Test.
England had only ten fit men left from their original party of 15, and a substitute fielder had to be borrowed from India, who carried several reserves from Test to Test. The remaining ten, among whom were too many quick bowlers and too few batsmen, excelled themselves and fought India to a level draw. For me that was the peak of the tour. Only a side possessing that team spirit which stems from good leadership and wise management could have risen so superior to the depressing difficulties.
Barrington and Stewart were not able to take any further playing part in the tour. Stewart's second illness was more severe than the first, and the risk of him developing a third was sensibly not accepted. The broken finger of Barrington's left hand was so troublesome that eventually, during the fourth Test, he also returned to England.
However, before the end of the second Test P. H. Parfitt and Cowdrey had arrived as replacements. Cowdrey had been out of cricket for seven months since June, when a ball from West Indian Hall had broken a bone in his left wrist during the Test at Lord's.
To resume playing in the heady atmosphere of international cricket and then to score centuries in the next two Tests represented a remarkable feat.
But Cowdrey continues unaware of his vast potential, and, even after the first century had restored his touch, he stood suspiciously aloof in Delhi and left others to attempt the scoring rate his side needed.
Parfitt also scored heavily and bowled more than usefully. It was clear that, if given his head, Parfitt could become an off spinner of note both for his county and country.
An off-break bowler was the outstanding player of the tour, for F.J. Titmus even increased the reputation he established a year earlier in Australia. In the series he bowled almost 400 overs, and every single one of them tidy. He took more than twice as many wickets as any other spinner on either side. Titmus earned them by his craft and fine control on pitches which gave no encouragement to any type of bowler.
There was a time during the fourth Test when he appeared to be going stale, but he was as perkily on top of his job as ever in the fifth, when his six for 73 in 60 overs was superb bowling. It was too much to expect him to repeat such a performance under ridiculously easy batting conditions, and the resolute batting of R.G. Nadkarni, India's best all-rounder, who was usually wasted as number nine batsman, saw his side to safety.
The other bowling success of the tour was Price, who might not have played in any Test if there had been more than eleven men fit at the start of the second Test. Price was Hobson's choice on that occasion. He was everyone's choice from that day onwards. He alone of all the bowlers who strove for pace during that Indian season ever looked really speedy. He had the little extra something which not even drugged pitches could entirely conceal.
Having played a great part with Titmus in the Bombay epic, he finished the series as a wicket-taker second only to that bowler. Moreover, he batted surprisingly fluently during a vitally important seventh-wicket stand of 68 in that second Test. Titmus, his partner, made his highest Test score with 84 not out, but subsequently he was kept low in the order and left to concentrate his energies on bowling.
Without ever being completely on top of his game -- except in the fourth Test when he suffered an unfortunate umpiring decision -- Bolus scored with splendid consistency. Like others on this tour he fully proved his temperament and fighting spirit, a good ally in time of adversity. Another proving himself was Wilson, an admirably keen and cheerful touring cricketer.
Mortimore, who is a more skilful all-round player than the paucity of his appearances for England suggests, was perseverance itself. Probably every bowler, with the possible exception of J.D.F. Larter, who was disappointing, made progress during this intensive tour.
For I.J. Jones the venture was valuable experience. He showed the will to improve and had the run-up and action necessary for success as a fast bowler. At the last, however, he lacked the bit of devil that went into Price's final delivery and so lifted him out of the ruck. That was clearly what, Jones had to develop.
For B.R. Knight the tour was a disappointment until the final Test. For the first half of the trip he was the most dependable quick bowler, and, if some of the borderline lbw decisions early in each of the first three Tests had gone his way, his final record would have been very different.
With the bat, Knight was away to a bad start, and on a tour of this character subsequent practice chances are apt to be restricted. Hence Knight was in danger of losing his Test place, but Smith and his selectors were mindful of his past scoring potential. Though out of form he was chosen for the Kanpur Test more as batsman than bowler, and he repaid them with a handsome century.
Bowling of his pace on the deadbeat pitches of Delhi and Kanpur was of no account. India, having nobody above his pace, recognised that fact at Kanpur by going into the match without a single bowler quicker than slow medium.
J.M. Parks suffered also as a batsman from lack of opportunities for match practice on occasions when he was free to play his natural game. Yet, at times, he played good cricket and on the slow Indian pitches he kept wicket as well as J.G. Binks.
The latter was another Bombay hero, for he was converted into an opening batsman and made 55 of an opening stand of 125 with Bolus. Smith himself batted consistently well and set the right example of aggression, when his side was in a position justifying enterprise.
The unlucky batsman was Sharpe. The illness which hit him after the first Test cost him his place in the side. When he recovered, there was a batting place only for an opener, and that was taken by Edrich.
However, Sharpe batted well enough during the tour to keep himself prominently in the running for future selections. To lose a Test place in those circumstances was no reflection on his cricket.
Edrich did not score heavily in his two Test innings, but he played well on both occasions. Indeed, no batsman in the team damaged his further prospects.
The cricket was disappointing and on occasions tediously boring, particularly the final days at Delhi and Kanpur. It was not surprising that, when all interest had gone from those games, Smith used bowling that enabled India's batsmen to treat the spectators to a lighthearted exhibition of hitting.
Unfortunately those spectators, and even some officials, continued to take the proceedings seriously and imagined that the batsmen were proving their superiority to England's best.
At Delhi, Pataudi hit 203 not out, the highest score by an Indian against England, but the second hundred was made very easy for him. Similarly, Durani slammed 61 in the wink of an eye at Kanpur, where, however, Nadkarni's century was well and truly earned. The bowling pressure was not eased until he was 100, and then he stood aside and left the lighthearted biffing to Sardesai and Durani.
Since England gained the first innings lead in each of the three matches when they were not upset by illness, they might fairly claim to have had the better of the series. Overall, five drawn matches portray a drab picture on the cricketing side.
Yet, it would be wrong to regard the tour as a failure. As a tactical exercise by English cricketers overseas it was made highly successful by Smith's leadership, Clark's management and the admirable co-operation of all their players. This was an excellently conducted operation.
All First-class Matches: Played 10, Won 1, Drawn 9
Test Matches: Played 5, Drawn 5
Match reports for
1st Test: India v England at Chennai, Jan 10-15, 1964
Report | Scorecard
2nd Test: India v England at Brabourne, Jan 21-26, 1964
Report | Scorecard
3rd Test: India v England at Eden Gardens, Jan 29-Feb 3, 1964
Report | Scorecard
4th Test: India v England at Delhi, Feb 8-13, 1964
Report | Scorecard
5th Test: India v England at Kanpur, Feb 15-20, 1964
Report | Scorecard