Whitewashed again - 1967

Partab Ramchand

August 20, 2002

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For the second successive tour of England, India lost all the Test matches in 1967. Thankfully however, this being the season of twin tours, the margin of defeat was 3-0 and not 5-0 as it was eight years before.


A storm of protest over giving five-day Tests to India broke through with fury that evening and in the morning newspapers. Given India's disastrous showing in England in 1952, 1959 and on the current tour, the outburst was not unexpected. Godfrey Evans was so indignant that he even advocated that people pay less when India toured! "Cricket fans should not be asked to pay the West Indies-Australian tour minimum price. Charge less, I say, when the weaker sides are touring. And let one of the big guns share the tour with India or Pakistan in 1971."
India embarked on the tour with a certain confidence. Under the dynamic leadership of the Nawab of Pataudi (later Mansur Ali Khan), the Indians in the sixties had improved considerably. There was greater solidity in the batting and vast improvement in the fielding with the captain setting the example. The emergence of the spin quartet, meanwhile, seemed to have made up for the one lacuna in the side - the presence of a decent opening attack.

Just before coming to England, the Indians had done well against the world champion West Indies side at home, even if they had lost the series. And one negative factor in the visitors' favour was also the fact that England were by no means the top team in the world. In fact, in four successive summers at home they had lost to West Indies (twice), Australia and South Africa.

And yet when the tour ended, all three Tests were lost - only one with any degree of honour. In the two other matches, one ended in defeat by an innings and 124 runs in four days and the other by 132 runs in three days. The record in first class matches too was anything but impressive. Out of 15 matches, the tourists won only two, lost four and drew nine.

There were a few silver linings and India's heroic display in the first Test at Leeds was the best of them. The Indians had been handicapped by wet weather throughout May and came into the Test woefully short of practice and without a single win. At Headingley, the sun shone brightly but midway through the opening day, just as the Indians were at last getting their act together, came two swift blows.

Bishan Bedi, one of the leading spin bowlers in the side, and Rusi Surti, the team's No 1 utility man, retired through injuries, and were not in a position to bowl again while they would bat only with the help of a runner. This reduced Pataudi's options to three bowlers - Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Subroto Guha, playing in his first Test. England relentlessly piled on the runs with Geoff Boycott (246 not out) having a ball before Brian Close declared at 550 for four. At the end of the second day, India were a pitiful 86 for six in reply.

A storm of protest over giving five-day Tests to India broke through with fury that evening and in the morning newspapers. Given India's disastrous showing in England in 1952, 1959 and on the current tour, the outburst was not unexpected. Godfrey Evans was so indignant that he even advocated that people pay less when India toured! "Cricket fans should not be asked to pay the West Indies-Australian tour minimum price. Charge less, I say, when the weaker sides are touring. And let one of the big guns share the tour with India or Pakistan in 1971."

Ian Wooldridge wrote in the Daily Mail> that "if it were a heavyweight fight instead of a featherweight Test match, the referee would have shown humanity and stopped the contest to spare the Indians full punishment." The Daily Telegraph in its headline summed it all up aptly: 'India 160 runs behind Boycott'.

And yet a match that looked to be ending in an innings victory for England in three days ended only at 3 pm on the fifth day with the hosts winning by six wickets. Pataudi led by personal example, hitting 64 priceless runs and lifting the total to 164.

Following on, 386 runs behind, Indian batting touched dizzy heights. First, Farokh Engineer (87) and Ajit Wadekar (91) added 168 runs in 153 minutes in a thrilling counter-attack. An out-ofform Chandu Borde chipped in with a valuable 33. And then Pataudi and Hanumant Singh (73) kept England in the field for nearly three hours while adding 134 runs for the fifth wicket. The tail also wagged, helping Pataudi to get 148 before he was finally out on the fifth morning.

This time the papers were lavish in their praise and The Daily Mail went into raptures over the team and over Pataudi in particular with a brilliant banner headline 'His Magnificent Highness the Nawab of Headingley and of Pataudi'.

India ultimately got 510, their highest total against England. England needing 125 for victory, made heavy weather of their task against Chandrasekhar and Prasanna, virtually the only two bowlers Pataudi had, before the winning run had been struck.

The valorous display in the Test whetted the appetite of cricket lovers back home. Unfortunately, the limp effort in the remaining two Tests came as a major disappointment. Wadekar got halfcenturies in each of the two games while the spin trio of Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar did show glimpses of becoming a potent force. But the failure of Borde, the side's most experienced batsman cost them dearly.

In six innings, the vice-captain could put together just 60 runs. In the first-class matches, he did better but that was cold comfort. Wadekar emerged as the most improved batsman and headed the aggregates with 835 runs (average 37.72). Pataudi, Engineer and Hanumant Singh lived up to expectations but the Indians were hit badly by an injury midway through the tour to Dilip Sardesai, who with his impeccable technique, was expected to do well in England.

There was also a constant question mark over the opening batting. Another headache for Pataudi was caused by injuries to his opening bowlers, and in the third Test, it was wicketkeeper Budhi Kunderan who opened with Subramanyam with the skipper cheerfully confessing that he did not know what Kunderan bowled! The onus thus fell almost completely on the spinners and Chandrasekhar (57 wickets), Bedi (34), Prasanna (45 ) and Venkatraghavan (20) cheerfully bore the burden. But the paucity of a decent opening attack in England exposed the weakness of the Indians and Pataudi, for all his personal example and exemplary leadership qualities, had always one hand tied behind his back and there was little he could do better under the circumstances.

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