Australia 4 India 0, New Zealand 1 India 3

India in Australasia, 1967-68

T.L. Goodman

The Indian team led by the Nawab of Pataudi failed to win a first-class match and were beaten by Australia in all four Tests.

They arrived with obvious shortcomings for Australian conditions, primarily the complete absence of fast bowling. The insipid nature of the opening attack, some instability in the batting, and a good deal of untidy fielding in the first half of the tour combined to suggest a sub-standard Test series.

But Pataudi's gallant batting under physical difficulties inspired an uplift; moreover, the teamwork, and especially the fielding, improved so that India made a splendid fight of the third Test, in Brisbane, where for a time they seemed to have a good chance of victory. Again in the fourth Test, in Sydney, they threw out a challenge, but failed to sustain it.

Much of their batting was aggressive and flavoured by neat stroke-making; thus the team provided some entertaining days and there were some outstanding personal successes. The tour was of considerable value to the visitors; it also assisted the Australian selectors in picking a team for England.

The tourists had some wretched periods in their first few weeks. At that stage they suffered severely from the absence of Pataudi, who pulled a hamstring muscle when fielding in the opening first-class match, against Western Australia.

He missed the first Test in Adelaide, and how serious was the effect of his absence was shown by his resourceful and courageous batting in the subsequent Tests: he had successive Test scores of 75, 85, 7, 48 and 51.

His vice-captain, Borde, took part in two Test stands but failed too often for a man who had already hit five Test hundreds. Another setback was the breakdown of the experienced googly bowler, Chandrasekhar, who missed two Tests; it must be said, however, that before his foot injury Chandrasekhar had shown only glimpses of his best form.

Besides Pataudi, highly successful performers were Jaisimha, the tall replacement batsman who had flown out as the seventeenth player when the team leaders were unhappy with the overall batting and worried by physical unfitness, Surti a versatile all-rounder, and the persistent and highly efficient little off-spin bowler, Prasanna.

The Nawab of Pataudi's pugnacious batting was the most memorable of the tour - it had a touch of genius. India's captain had long since had to rearrange his technique because of the almost total loss of vision from his damaged right eye, and in Melbourne and thereafter he was handicapped by his leg strain. He could not move down the pitch and had to play mostly off the back foot. Yet he still hit the loose ball hard; sometimes he lifted the bowlers, including the speed men, McKenzie and Renneberg, to the outfield. He played the hook shot daringly.

Australian crowds, happy to see Pataudi having an occasional slice of luck, fully appreciated the class and character of his batting. He usually batted when his team were in difficulties, and with the peak of his cap pulled down to shade that blurred right eye, he often looked an heroic figure.

Jaisimha arrived only a few days before the Brisbane Test; going in without any match practice and very little at the nets, he performed extraordinarily well to score 74 and 101. He showed intense concentration and admirable judgment; there was a certain elegance of style, as when he steered the ball through the on-side field, so that people wondered how he had missed selection in the first place.

Jaisimha was India's sole Test century-maker; the left-handed Wadekar scored 99 in Melbourne.

Surti shared in three of the team's four Test century stands; he was a staunch partner for Pataudi when India had to battle in Melbourne, and again in Brisbane. Early in the Brisbane match Surti retired from the field after being hit in the stomach by a fast ball from Renneberg, but he soon returned and he stayed with his captain for two hours.

Surti was such a capable player, one who applied himself wholeheartedly to the job in hand, that the Queensland Cricket Association were happy to engage him as a coach and to play in the inter-State competition in the following few seasons. This left-hander proved a versatile bowler, beginning at medium pace (sometimes he shared the new ball) and changing to leg-spin, usually with good control.

Surti and Prasanna each took 34 wickets in first-class matches and Surti scored most runs, 557. Surti was one of the best fieldsmen.

The lightweight Prasanna, after being let down by fieldsman in early games, took six wickets in an innings of the Melbourne Test and repeated that feat in Brisbane. He claimed 25 wickets in the four Tests.

His off-spin bowling contained the basic principles of length, direction, spin and flight. He frequently deceived batsmen in the air. He spun the ball more decisively than an Australian bowler, indeed, on some days he spun it when no home player could spin at all. Prasanna was rated among the most impressive off-spinners to tour Australia since the war - in the class of Tayfield, Laker, Titmus and Gibbs. In the Brisbane Test, Bedi, the left-handed leg-spinner who had bowled tidily against New South Wales, proved a good foil for Prasanna.

Despite generally firm pitches, Kulkarni and Desai were innocuous opening bowlers. Abid Ali, a medium-pacer of short build, caused a big surprise by taking six wickets in an innings in his first Test match in Adelaide. The figures were flattering; never again did he look likely to be destructive. His subsequent value was as a plucky batsman, keen to force the pace.

Used as opening partner to Engineer in the fourth Test, Abid Ali rushed up scores of 78 and 81 and aroused the crowd's enthusiasm. Engineer always looked an exciting, if venturesome, opener; he scored a fine century against Western Australia and he played other good innings, but too often he fell to a rash stroke. Wadekar was a stylist who did not quite perform up to his obvious ability.

Australia played without McKenzie in the last two Tests and Simpson in the third. Simpson, who had announced his retirement from first-class cricket, was succeeded by Lawry as captain in Brisbane; but Simpson was brought back for the Sydney Test, playing under Lawry in his farewell to the Test arena. Simpson and Lawry compiled 191 runs for the first wicket in Melbourne, this being one of six Australian three-figure partnerships. Simpson and Cowper each contributed two individual centuries to Australia's total of six.

Mr. Ghulam Ahmed managed the Indian team and Mr. A.N. Ghose was treasurer.

Test matches in Australia - Played Lost 4.

First-class matches in Australia - Played 9, Lost 6, Drawn 3, Abandoned 1.

Match reports for

1st Test: New Zealand v India at Dunedin, Feb 15-20, 1968
Scorecard

2nd Test: New Zealand v India at Christchurch, Feb 22-27, 1968
Scorecard

3rd Test: New Zealand v India at Wellington, Feb 29-Mar 4, 1968
Scorecard

4th Test: New Zealand v India at Auckland, Mar 7-12, 1968
Scorecard

Match reports for

1st Test: Australia v India at Adelaide, Dec 23-28, 1967
Scorecard

2nd Test: Australia v India at Melbourne, Dec 30, 1967 - Jan 3, 1968
Scorecard

3rd Test: Australia v India at Brisbane, Jan 19-24, 1968
Scorecard

4th Test: Australia v India at Sydney, Jan 26-31, 1968
Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co