Brownwashing the Brits

Partab Ramchand

December 20, 2001

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Hardly anybody would have wagered on England losing all three Tests in a series against India, but the 1992-93 side under Graham Gooch had to endure this humiliation. This at a time when the Indian team itself was not doing very well. The captain, Mohammed Azharuddin, was under terrific pressure, as the team had returned in January 1993 after losing yet another away series, this time to South Africa. But in a contest in which everything went right for the home team and nothing did for the visitors, India won the series with ridiculous ease, even managing to square the six-match one-day international contest after winning the last two games.


To an extent, the England team was not helped by off-field events. Communal violence in the wake of the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya had not yet simmered down, and the visitors' fears were heightened when the first one-day international at Ahmedabad was cancelled because the safety of the players could not be guaranteed.
On the face of it, there was nothing to indicate that the Test series would be so lopsided. For one thing, as already mentioned, the Indian team was going through a tough time, even if they had won four of the last five Tests played at home in the 1988-1990 period. Secondly, the England team had players of proven ability in Gooch, vice-captain Alec Stewart, Mike Gatting, John Emburey, Graeme Hick, Michael Atherton, Robin Smith, Philip DeFreitas, Devon Malcolm, Chis Lewis and Phil Tufnell. There was not even the remotest suggestion that such a formidable side would go down so tamely.

To an extent, the England team was not helped by off-field events. Communal violence in the wake of the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya had not yet simmered down, and the visitors' fears were heightened when the first one-day international at Ahmedabad was cancelled because the safety of the players could not be guaranteed. For the second first-class fixture of the tour, against the Board President's XI, the venue, Lucknow, was only 80 miles from Ayodhya. The players were advised not to leave their hotel without a police escort, and among the crowd of 20,000 each day were 5000 armed guards.

Also, England were almost never at full strength in any of the Tests in the series. An indisposed Atherton had to miss the first Test at Calcutta, was inexplicably not chosen for the second Test at Madras, and played only the final game of the series at Bombay. Gooch himself was unwell throughout the first game, his 100th Test. He had to miss the second Test through an upset stomach, courtesy a plate of prawns consumed during dinner on the eve of the game. Many members of the team in fact had stomach problems at some stage or the other, and they also suffered from a flu virus.

That said, it must be admitted that England played badly and were outplayed by a side that had suddenly discovered a winning formula. The batting was a major problem; in six innings the highest total was 347. None of the batsmen could play the new Indian spin trio - Rajesh Chauhan, Venkatapathy Raju and Anil Kumble - confidence. Hick got a mighty 178 in the final Test at Bombay, but in the five remaining innings, his tally was 137. The only other player to get a hundred was Lewis, whose 117 at Madras was a courageous knock. Gatting, with his vast experience and skill at negotiating the turning ball, could get no more than 219 runs at an average of 36.50. The failures of Stewart and Smith, as well as the dismal form of Gooch ­ 47 runs at 11.75 ­ meant that only the greatest of bowling attacks could cover for the deficiencies with the bat.

But England had problems aplenty in this department too. That India ran up totals of 371, 560/6 declared and 591 illustrates this best. The bowlers captured only 28 wickets in all, and Hick with eight finished at the top of the list, another tell-tale sign of how bare the visitors' bowling cupboard was.

India, scarcely believing their good fortune, had a whale of a time. Two of the Tests were won by an innings and the other by eight wickets. The batsmen made a packet of runs and got them handsomely. Vinod Kambli, who made his debut in the first Test, did not take much time in proving that he was a prodigiously gifted young cricketer. Starting off with 16 and 18 not out on debut, the dashing left-hander improved to 59 in the next Test.

Then, before an adoring home crowd, Kambli smashed 224 at Bombay, coming very close to overhauling Sunil Gavaskar's 236 not out, then the highest score by an Indian in Tests. Bringing back memories of their school days, he and Sachin Tendulkar (78) added 194 runs for the third wicket. Kambli batted 10 hours, faced 411 balls, and hit 23 fours. Only 11 batsmen had scored more in notching up their maiden Test hundred. Kambli headed the Test figures with 317 runs at an average of 105.66, marginally ahead of Tendulkar's 100.66.

Tendulkar himself got his customary hundred, and his six-hour 165 at Madras, which included 24 fours and a six, was a commanding knock. Azharuddin's reaction to being under pressure at the start of the series was to get a handsome 182 at his favourite venue, the Eden Gardens. Navjot Singh Sidhu was another century maker, making 106 at Madras.

The Indian bowling centered around the spin trio, and Kumble (21 wickets), Raju (16) and Chauhan (9) did their job admirably. Kapil Dev had to play a secondary role, but he still headed the Test averages with seven wickets at 19.00 apiece. He also crossed an important personal landmark at Madras; playing in his 122nd Test, he became the first cricketer to score 5000 runs and take 400 wickets.

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