Weekes proves the difference - 1948-49

Partab Ramchand

October 8, 2002

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The first West Indian side that visited India in 1948-49 was largely an unknown quantity. The Caribbean cricketers familiar to Indians were Learie Constantine and George Headley. Constantine had long since retired and Headley, almost 40 when he landed in India, was in the evening of an illustrious career.


Weekes, in particular, turned out to be the nemesis of the Indian bowlers. Before coming to India, he had already scored 141 in the final Test against England. He continued from where he left off and successive scores of 128, 194, 162 and 101 followed in the first three Tests against India to complete a feat of five hundreds in consecutive innings, a record that stands to this day.
But the victorious series at home against England the previous season had helped unearth the burgeoning talent of the three W's - Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott. The three greats were to be the main pillars of the West Indies batting for the next decade and more, and two of them, Walcott and Weekes came to India.

Headley had a minimal role to play in the series. In the first Test at New Delhi, he was out for two and did not play again. But the contributions of the two W's, opening batsmen Allan Rae and Jeff Stollmeyer, middle-order batsmen Robert Christiani and allrounder Gerry Gomez saw to it that the West Indies not only scored a packet of runs but also made them at a pretty nifty rate.

Weekes, in particular, turned out to be the nemesis of the Indian bowlers. Before coming to India, he had already scored 141 in the final Test against England. He continued from where he left off and successive scores of 128, 194, 162 and 101 followed in the first three Tests against India to complete a feat of five hundreds in consecutive innings, a record that stands to this day.

He scored a century in each innings in the third Test at Calcutta and seemed headed for a sixth hundred before he was rather controversially run out for 90 in the next game at Madras. In the final Test at Bombay, Weekes was restricted to scores of 56 and 48 and yet finished the series with 779 runs at an average of 111.28, still the highest aggregate by any batsman against India.

Predictably, the other batsmen were in the shadow of Weekes' outstanding performance but the West Indies batted in depth. Walcott got two hundreds while Gomez, Christiani, Rae and Stollmeyer all got one each.

At New Delhi, the batsmen notched up four hundreds in the same innings, a rare feat. The relentless run machine was responsible for successive totals of 631, 629 for six declared, 366, 336 for nine declared and 582. The Indian bowlers chalked up the kind of figures they would see in their bad dreams and Vinoo Mankad had the mortification of conceding 176 runs and 202 runs in successive innings. The only two spells of lion-hearted bowling were by CR Rangachari, who took five for 107 at New Delhi, and Dattu Phadkar, who finished with seven for 159 at Madras.

Rangachari in fact had reduced West Indies to 27 for three on the first morning of the series but so great was the batting depth that they recovered to score over 600.

The strength of the West Indies revolved around their batting. The bowling was pretty ordinary, something driven home by the fact that not until the last innings of the series did a bowler register a five-wicket haul. In Prior Jones, John Trim and Gomez they had three honest purveyors of seam and swing and in addition they had FJ Cameron, D Atkinson and skipper John Goddard to bowl medium paced off-breaks. But they could make little headway against the Indian batting in which Vijay Hazare and Rusi Modi were outstanding.

Hazare battled his way to 543 runs with two hundreds and Modi set up an Indian record by scoring 560 runs with one century and five fifties. In addition, Hemu Adhikari and Mushtaq Ali came up with three-figure knocks.

Indeed, in batting depth and bowling weakness the sides were evenly matched and this resulted in four of the five Tests being drawn. The West Indies notched up the lone and decisive victory of the rubber at Madras where they had an unexpected bonus in the form of a rest day. Matches were played without a rest day in the series but January 30th being the first death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, public opinion decreed that it be declared a holiday.

India were 225 for six in reply to West Indies' 582 at the end of the third day and when they resumed after a day's break, the West Indian seam trio of Jones, Gomez and Trim were fresh enough to bowl out the Indians for 245 and 144, giving West Indies victory by an innings and 193 runs.

However, India fell just short of leveling the series in the final Test at Bombay. The bowlers, for once, did well in restricting West Indies to 286 and 267 and this left India with 395 minutes to get 361. The scores tell us that India finished with 355 for eight but history has recorded that there were still two minutes to go and one ball still to be bowled in Jones' penultimate over when umpire Joshi, probably affected by the tremendous tension and excitement all round the Brabourne stadium, called over and lifted the bails signaling the end of the match and the series.

The West Indies had also resorted to negative tactics towards the end of the game and the team left the field to booing and jeering from the packed crowd. It certainly remains one of the most exciting Test matches played in India, notwithstanding the dramatically frustrating denouement.

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