The two-month Australian tour of Ceylon and India, from October to December in 1969, provided keen cricket and stirred tremendous public interest. While big crowds watched every match, those for the five Tests far exceeded the gatherings that turned up to see the West Indies in 1966-67. The daily attendance for the Tests ranged from 35,000 to 50,000, only the limitation on accommodation keeping out many more. The composition of the touring party, which included Chappell, the heavy scoring batsman, and the glamorous Walters and Sheahan, and the fact that the team had beaten West Indies a season earlier in a home series, contributed to their tremendous attraction. India's victory in the third Test at Delhi also added fire to the enthusiasm of the fans. The tour was marred by disturbances--a riot at Bombay, an invasion of the crowd on to the field at Calcutta and stone-throwing at Bangalore--so much so that one heaved a sigh of relief when the programme was concluded.
After four matches in Ceylon, the tourists played ten matches in India; five Tests at Bombay, Kanpur, Delhi, Calcutta and Madras and five other matches against the West, Central, North, East and South Zones at Poona, Jaipur, Jullundur, Gauhati and Bangalore respectively. Australia won the Test series by three matches to one, with victories in the first, fourth and fifth Tests. They were beaten in the third match at Delhi. Besides, they had wins over the Central and East Zones; the other three zonal matches were drawn.
The three-one triumph in the series, however, was not as clear or comfortable as the margin suggested. India had a great opportunity to win the final Test at Madras when their spin attack took a firm grip on the game, but vital fielding lapses in both innings enabled Australia to come out on top. If India had won they would have squared the rubber, which would have been a truer indication of the form of the series.
The Tests resolved into a tremendous battle between the Australian batsmen and the Indian spinners, the left-arm Bedi, and the two off-spinners Prasanna and Venkataraghavan. Bedi and Prasanna, especially, struck as penetrative a combination as Lock and Laker, the Englishmen, or Valentine and Ramadhin, the West Indians. The trio shared 726.3 of the total 929.1 overs delivered in the Tests and claimed 59 of the 70 wickets that fell to bowlers. Their domination of the Test scene (with the off-spinner Mallett's performance of 28 wickets for Australia) really made the series a saga of the spinners. Prasanna (26) and Bedi (21), for both the best figures in a Test series so far, shared 47 of the 59 wickets.
The strength of the Indian spin attack could be gauged from the fact that the highest total of the Australians in the series was only 348 in the second Test at Kanpur on an easy paced pitch. Chappell was the most competent of the Australian batsmen and, with his beautiful footwork, the most comfortable against the spin trio; his century at New Delhi and his 99 at Calcutta were without blemish. Stackpole looked extremely sound and he hit a fluent century in the first Test. Sheahan was in great form in the second Test when he scored his only Test century to date and, at Calcutta, in the fourth Test, before he got himself run out. On a turning pitch he was hardly comfortable against the spin.
Walters and Redpath enjoyed their share of luck in making good scores. Both were at their best at Kanpur; Walters' 53 in that Test was superior to his century at Madras where he was confined by the accuracy of the Indian spinners. Lawry did not live up to his reputation and made his only fifty at Kanpur in the second innings after interest had ceased in the match. His best knock was at New Delhi when he carried his bat for 49 runs in adverse circumstances. There were two centuries outside the Tests--by Chappell against North Zone and by Lawry against South Zone.
The Indian batting lacked depth and failed to match the bowling skill. The drawback was that the established batsmen, Wadekar, Pataudi and Engineer-- Borde, Sardesai and Surti were dropped after their failure in the first Test -- were not certain of making big scores and thus failed to bind the innings together with the support of the young batsmen, who had their baptism in Test cricket. There was only one century for India, by G. R. Viswanath, in the second innings of the second Test at Kanpur in which he made his début. He scored 137 runs. Just twenty years old, Viswanath impressed everybody with his dash and skill. He might be the pivot around which the Indian batting could be built for the future.
The brittle Indian batting in a sense exaggerated the worth of Mallett, the Australian off-spinner, who finished with 28 wickets, the best for a bowler on either side. Mallett seized his chances avidly and was a far better bowler at the end of the tour than at the start. There was no doubt about McKenzie's ability to break through the Indian innings when he had the pitch to his liking, as in Bombay and Calcutta. Connolly bowled effectively except in the final Test at Madras. Gleeson faded out after a fine performance in the first Test.
India's close-in fielding was on a par with that of Australia, viewing the series as a whole. In the outfield, Bedi and Pataudi did very good work and were only a little behind the brilliance of Sheahan and Walters. Engineer's poor wicket-keeping in the Madras Test, when he missed easy chances to stump Walters in the first innings and Redpath in the second, played a vital part in the Indian defeat. His counterpart in the visiting side, Taber, was a competent keeper.
India's performance in the series was a big improvement on that against New Zealand, who came earlier in the year. The Indian selectors, except for recalling Borde and Sardesai for the first Test, stuck to their policy, set afoot in the earlier series, of choosing a young side, despite the strong criticism that this aroused.
Test Matches--Played 5; Won 3, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
First-Class Matches--Played 11; Won 5, Lost 1, Drawn 5.
All Matches--Played 14; Won 6, Lost 1, Drawn 7.
Wins-- India (3), Central Zone, East Zone, Central Province (Ceylon).
Losses-- India (1).
Draws-- India (1), All-Ceylon, West Zone, North Zone, South Zone, Ceylon Board President's XI (2).
Match reports for
Match reports for
West Zone v Australians at Pune, Oct 31-Nov 2, 1969
Central Zone v Australians at Jaipur, Nov 11-13, 1969
North Zone v Australians at Jalandhar, Nov 22-24, 1969
East Zone v Australians at Guwahati, Dec 6-8, 1969
South Zone v Australians at Bangalore, Dec 20-22, 1969