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England got more than they bargained for on their tour of India, and it was much to their credit that they became the first team from any country to win a series there coming from behind. Within a few hours of their arrival in New Delhi, in the early morning of Wednesday, October 31, they were awoken with the news of the assassination of Mrs Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister. The memory of this was still fresh when, on the eve of the first Test, less than four weeks later, the British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr Percy Norris, a cricket-lover who had entertained the touring party at a reception in his home the previous evening, was shot dead as he was being driven to his Bombay office. Both outrages took place within a mile or two of where the team were staying.
In political and world terms, Mrs Gandhi's assassination of course had the greater impact, and for 72 hours India's capital city, while safe for those content to obey High Commission advice to stay close to their hotel, was an uneasy place to be. Happily, thanks to a generous gesture from the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, and the sympathetic co-operation of that country's President, who had flown to New Delhi for the funeral and invited the team to share his plane on the return journey, they found sanctuary in Colombo. There, for the next nine days, they found opportunities for play and practice which would have been impossible in India during the period of official mourning.
Mr Norris's murder affected them more personally, and with a Test due to start next day they felt under threat themselves. Had the decision been left to the team, or more particularly to a majority of the representatives of the British press, there is little doubt they would have taken the first available flight home. But as in Delhi, Tony Brown, the England manager, retained his sense of perspective, took advice from all relevant bodies, including the Foreign Office, and after consultation with the Test and County Cricket Board at Lord's, decided the best course was to stay and play. The decision had its dangers, based as it was on an educated guess that there was no connection between the timing of the murder and the team's presence in Bombay, but in the event there were no alarms during the Test; nor indeed any further political troubles on the tour.
Nevertheless, to safeguard the team, the itinerary was revised to postpone until near the end their appearance in the north of India, where because of the large Sikh population there was continuing unrest. Armed guards and escorts also became such a feature of the tour that before long they were hardly noticed. The fixture against North Zone, which was due to have been played at Jammu, was switched to the Wankhede Stadium, Bombay, between the first and second Tests. With Kapil Dev resting from the North Zone team, it was predictable that spectators for that game would be numbered in hundreds; but the smallness of the crowds was generally a disappointing feature of the tour. Only for the one-day internationals, and an abortive Test in Calcutta, were Ground Full signs in use.
England had already been badly beaten by India's Under-25 XI - their first sight of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and Mohammad Azharuddin - when they started the series disastrously, losing the first Test by eight wickets despite Mike Gatting's long-awaited maiden Test hundred. Siva, still eighteen at that stage and playing his first home Test, took twelve for 181 with leg-breaks and googlies and, in what was to prove his last Test, Swaroop Kishen had an unsatisfactory match as umpire. It all looked depressingly familiar to those who had been on Fletcher's tour three years before, and it was tempting to write off England's chances there and then. However, the expected sequence of dull draws on soul-destroying pitches did not follow. The second Test, in Delhi, where Tim Robinson scored 160 impressively in eight and three-quarter hours, was snatched by England's spinners, Phil Edmonds and Pat Pocock, when India succumbed to the pressure of relentless accuracy on the final afternoon; and a month later the series was decided by an exceptional display in the fourth Test in Madras.
England, losing the toss, were in charge within an hour of the start of the Madras match when Neil Foster and Norman Cowans shared three wickets. Foster, playing his first Test of the series, took six for 104 (his match figures were eleven for 163) to bowl India out for 272, and then Graeme Fowler and Gatting thrust home the advantage by becoming the first pair of England batsmen to score 200 in the same Test. It was necessary to go back to the sixth Test at Sydney in 1978-79 to find the last occasion when England controlled a Test abroad so surely. They won by nine wickets in the final session, a splendid and uplifting match for Peter May to watch on his first overseas trip as the chairman of selectors.
When the Kanpur Test was drawn, England had won a winter series for the first time for six years, and also, by four-one, the one-day internationals. Creditably as they performed, however, they owed a lot to India's short-comings. Sunil Gavaskar's lack of form - 140 runs compared to 500 against Fletcher's team - was probably the biggest factor in the turnabout: having got his 30th Test hundred behind him, against West Indies twelve months before, and so passed Sir Donald Bradman's record, he seemed short of motivation. Following a quarrel about division of prizemoney, there were signs, too, of disharmony within his team, of which a foolhardy stroke by Kapil Dev, helping England win the Delhi Test, and his subsequent dropping were symptomatic. The minimum 80-overs-a-day playing condition cut out the petty time-wasting that had marred Fletcher's tour, while the emergence of a top-class umpire in V. K. Ramaswamy in the last two Tests was a relief to all concerned.
Leadership did not seem to come naturally to David Gower. However, he developed a good team spirit and it was an advantage for him that Gatting, his vice-captain, and Edmonds, another forceful character, had the self-confidence and drive to influence matters on the field, their stature bolstered by personal success. Gatting, coming into his own at last, fell only 19 runs short of K. F. Barrington's record Test aggregate for England in India, while Edmonds bowled well throughout the tour, despite being at sixes and sevens with his run-up. (His Test average 41.71 was a travesty of justice.) Robinson, Fowler and Foster were the other main successes, and it was not until the team reached Australia and went badly off the boil, losing all three matches in the so-called World Championship of Cricket, that Ian Botham's absence was an obvious disadvantage.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Indian Board President's XI v England XI at Jaipur, Nov 13-15, 1984
Tour Match: India Under-25s v England XI at Ahmedabad, Nov 17-19, 1984
Tour Match: West Zone v England XI at Rajkot, Nov 21-24, 1984
Tour Match: North Zone v England XI at Mumbai, Dec 7-9, 1984
Tour Match: East Zone v England XI at Guwahati, Dec 19-21, 1984
Tour Match: South Zone v England XI at Secunderabad, Jan 7-10, 1985