West Indies 0 Australia 2

Australia in West Indies, 1972-73

Henry Blofeld

It hardly seemed possible for Australia to win a series in the West Indies without any contribution from Lillee and Massie who had developed into such a formidable combination against England a few months earlier, and without the services of Mallett, their off spinner, who was unavailable for the tour. In spite of all this Ian Chappell's side won impressively, beating the West Indies in the third and fourth Test matches at Port of Spain and Georgetown respectively.

Australia won as much as anything because of the strength and the nature of their temperament which both collectively and individually refuses to accept defeat until it has become a fact. On the other hand it was the temperamental deficiencies of the West Indies players which contributed more to their defeat than any technical inadequacies.

This series represented the end of an era for the West Indies in that Sobers, who had been their captain in every Test match since Frank Worrell's retirement, was not playing. He had not of late had a particularly happy record as captain which had culminated the previous winter when the West Indies failed to beat New Zealand in any of the five Tests in the West Indies. In addition, Sobers had since had a cartilage operation from which he had not fully recovered. The choice of Rohan Kanhai as his successor was logical in that he was a vastly experienced player and also that he alone was an automatic choice for the Test side.

In the West Indies, inter-territorial rivalries often work to defeat the objective of producing the best available West Indies side. For all his genius as a player Sobers as a captain often seemed to be tactically unaware and all too often he would allow a game to slip from his grasp and also under his captaincy these old rivalries which Frank Worrell had done so much to suppress were again appearing.

Kanhai became the first Guyanese to captain the West Indies and he began his new job well. At the start of the series one felt that the West Indies side was a tighter, more cohesive unit with a captain who was leading in all aspects of the game and that he produced a good team spirit in his side based on the common objective of victory. He batted only for the needs of his team and several times had to pull them out of awkward situations; in the field he consulted frequently with his bowlers and as a fielder he kept himself in the thick of things.

The first two Tests, in Kingston and Bridgetown, were played on easy-paced wickets where it would have needed a miracle for two strong batting sides with weakish bowling to have produced a definite result. The one doubt over Kanhai's captaincy appeared quite early on. He revealed himself as an unnecessarily defensive captain and in the field when things began to go wrong his immediate reaction was to fall back on tight defence rather than to use his imagination to try and dismiss his opponents. This was underlined by Chappell who, by nature an aggressive captain, would always try to dismiss his opponents rather than just contain them.

By the time the third Test in Port of Spain came round there was nothing to choose between the two sides. Even without Lillee and Massie the Australian fast bowling was superior while the West Indies had the more formidable spin attack. In one of the most exciting of modern Test matches Australia gained an important advantage by winning the toss on a pitch which always favours spin. Their own lack of top-class spin bowling prevented them from making full use of this, but even so the West Indies were left to score 334 to win in the final innings, a huge score for the fourth innings of a Test on an awkward wicket, particularly as the West Indies were without Rowe, who had badly torn the ligaments in his ankle on the first day.

Even so they made a remarkable effort to score the runs and at lunch on the last day needed another 66 with four wickets left, Kallicharran and Foster having already put on 49. At the lunch interval it looked as if the West Indies would bring off an astonishing victory, but this did not allow for the uncompromising determination of the Australians. When they came out again, Ian Chappell set an attacking field in spite of the few runs at his disposal. Kallicharran played back to the first ball of the afternoon, bowled by Walker, and was caught behind. Chappell immediately increased the pressure and the last three wickets fell with scarcely a fight. Australia had refused to give in and at the last when all seemed lost they increased the pressure and the West Indies wilted.

The fourth Test again illustrated the temperamental differences between the two sides. After winning the toss the West Indies looked the likely victors for three days on a newly laid wicket which had not yet settled. They began their second innings late on the third day with a small lead needing to score enough runs to give Australia an awkward time on the last day. They survived that evening, but the next day produced some abjectly irresponsible batting and were bowled out for 109.

All they had to do was to bat through the day for 250 or so, which would have left Australia to score about 270 on the last day, a far from easy task. The West Indies batsmen all came in as if determined to score 400 in the day, which would have been impossible on a pitch which was not completely true. They played one reckless stroke after another, leaving Australia a simple task in the fourth innings, although their ten-wicket victory was certainly not a true reflection of the difference between the two sides.

The Australians were bedevilled throughout the tour by the uncertainty which surrounded Lillee and his injured back. He came to the West Indies heralded as the fastest bowler in the world with the memory of the 31 wickets he had taken in the series in England fresh in everyone's minds. He played in the opening games in Jamaica, but on the lifeless pitches in Kingston and Montego Bay he found neither life nor genuine pace. He played in the first Test, but did not take a wicket and was a pale imitation of the bowler he had been in England. In the next game in Antigua he took four wickets but complained of his back. Then until the end of the tour he went the rounds of many doctors, some of whom diagnosed muscular trouble while others said that he had hair-line fractures in his vertebrae. In any event he did not bowl again on the tour. From time to time he went through a fitness test, but the answer was always the same. It seems probable that he had the basis of this condition when he bowled so successfully in England, but he has an action which must put a great deal of strain on his body and this combined with continuous cricket for some time had had its effect.

It was soon apparent, too, that the thin atmosphere and the lifeless pitches would be no help to Massie and he never looked like winning a place in the Test side. He was unable to swing the ball and although an attack of influenza set him back at the start of the tour his length and direction were always bad except once towards the end of the tour when he took seven wickets in a day against Guyana, but by then the Test side was settled. The absence of Lillee and Massie inevitably put a great strain on the remaining fast bowlers, Hammond and Walker. They responded magnificently and eventually bowled Australia to victory.

In England, Hammond had little chance to be impressive and he did not start the tour well in the West Indies. He played in the first Test because the Australians were probably happy to settle for a draw in the first game of the series and so played three fast bowlers. Halfway through the match Hammond took the wicket of Kallicharran caught behind hooking and immediately became a different bowler. From somewhere he found an extra half yard of pace and became little short of genuinely quick. For the rest of the tour, too, he developed his away swing in a way which had seemed unlikely.

Walker was the outstanding Australian during the series. He had played against Pakistan in two Tests in Australia, but was something of an unknown quantity when he arrived in the Caribbean. He is a tall man, about 6'4", who bowls off the wrong foot at fast medium. For the most part he moves the ball into the right hander, but he also has the ability to make the ball leave the bat on pitching in spite of his action, and this brought him several wickets. He has great stamina which enables him to continue for long spells and he is all the time a hostile bowler who is trying to get the batsman out. He continually bowls at the stumps, trying to make the batsman play, and he took 26 wickets during the series.

He and Hammond were at times given valuable help by Walters and Greg Chappell, but the two leg spinners who played in the series, O'Keeffe and Jenner, did not have a particularly happy time. O'Keeffe was the better of the two, but he had difficulty in turning his leg break and never bowled as well as he can. The third leg spinner in the touring party, Watkins, hardly pitched a ball during the three months and never came into Test reckoning.

The batting spoke for itself except that after the first Test Stackpole ran out of luck. Suddenly his powerfully hit leg side strokes all seemed to find the fielders whether in the air or on the ground, but he was a very cheerful member of the side and a good vice-captain who did a great deal for the general spirit of the party. The two Chappells, and Walters, batted splendidly and the change in Walters after the terrible time he had had in England was one of the remarkable features of the tour. Greg Chappell is the most elegant of the modern Australian batsmen while Ian, although more rugged, is equally effective and just as hard to get out. They produced one of the best pieces of cricket of the tour when they put on 300 against Barbados with a display of strokes which will not often be bettered.

Redpath and Edwards both played important innings while Marsh at number seven showed some typical belligerence. The Australian fielding was always good and Ian Chappell captained the side imaginatively and well and won much deserved credit by the way in which he approached the minor games on the tour.

By the time the tour was over the West Indies had gone for twenty Test matches without a victory and this alone may have been a part of the reason for the lack of confidence they appeared to have in their own ability to succeed. Man for man there was not much to choose between them and the Australians. They lacked a suitable opening partner for Fredericks, for although Geoffrey Greenidge played in three Tests he never quite looked the part. They also needed at least one fast bowler, but their batting was strong and their spin bowling gave them an important advantage over their opponents.

For some reason Clive Lloyd is not reckoned to be quite the force in the West Indies that he is in the rest of the world. He missed the first two Tests, was brought back perhaps unwisely on a spinners' wicket at Port of Spain and then made a big score with uncharacteristic patience in the West Indies first innings in the fourth Test. Rowe, who is the most beautifully orthodox strokeplayer of all the young West Indians, tore his ankle ligaments on the first day of the third Test and was out for the rest of the series.

Kanhai played several important innings and batted with tremendous determination and for the most part held his more exuberant strokes in check. Foster, who has become one of the more consistent West Indies batsmen in the Shell Shield tournament, at last established himself in the side after hitting his first Test century at Kingston and he picked up one or two useful wickets with his off-breaks. Some of the most brilliant batting came from Kallicharran. His 91, which almost won the third Test, was out of character in that it was disciplined and controlled, and it showed that he has become a much more complete player because of his experience of county cricket. The batting was completed by Deryck Murray, who is a formidable number seven and a difficult man to dislodge. His 90 in the second Test pulled the West Indies out of trouble and was a splendid innings.

The West Indies spin bowling was the most fascinating aspect of their cricket. Gibbs was back in his best form, taking 26 wickets in the Tests, while two intriguing left-arm spinners, Inshan Ali and Willett, emerged during the series. Willett, who comes from the tiny island of Nevis in the Leeward Islands, is an orthodox spinner with a generous and beguiling flight. The Australians are fine players of spin bowling and they are always seeking to use their feet and yet time and again they came down the pitch to Willett only to find at the last moment that the ball was not where they thought it was. Willett will be an even better bowler when he learns to follow through more, for this will help him to spin the ball.

Inshan Ali is an unorthodox spinner who turns the ball a good deal and disguises his Chinamen and googlies extremely well. He played in the first Test where he injured his shoulder and after that could not find the consistency to establish a permanent place in the side. He has great potential, but there is still some doubt about his temperament. He has never bowled at his best away from Trinidad and as yet he has not the experience to know what to do when he is attacked. He will probably get over this and he and Willett could one day win the West Indies several Test matches.

The West Indies side was completed by Boyce, who by the end of the series had come close to establishing himself in the side. He was desperately lucky to play in the first place. Julien was picked for the second Test, but he broke a bone in his arm at practice the day before the match began and being a local player Boyce was the obvious one to take his place. He bowled well, but his batting was much too erratic. Both these all-rounders will, undoubtedly, have a big part to play in West Indies cricket in the next few years.

In the final analysis the Australians won well against a side suffering more than anything from its own continued lack of success. When the West Indies win a Test, this very same side could easily take on a different dimension, for the ability and potential of the team was unmistakeable. There were any amount of talented cricketers all over the West Indies. Australia, on the other hand, owed less to luck than probably any other side. In this series they were given two chances which they took with their usual efficiency although they left the first one late enough. Wherever they went they left behind many good impressions both as cricketers and as human beings.


Test Matches--Played 5: Won 2, Drawn 3.

First-Class Matches--Played 12: Won 7, Drawn 5.

All Matches--Played 13: Won 8, Drawn 5.

Wins-- West Indies (2), Jamaica, President's XI, Barbados, Guyana, Windward Islands, University of West Indies (1-day, 40 overs)

Draws-- West Indies (3), Leeward Islands, Trinidad

Match reports for

1st Test: West Indies v Australia at Kingston, Feb 16-21, 1973
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: West Indies v Australia at Bridgetown, Mar 9-14, 1973
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: West Indies v Australia at Port of Spain, Mar 23-28, 1973
Report | Scorecard

4th Test: West Indies v Australia at Georgetown, Apr 6-11, 1973
Report | Scorecard

5th Test: West Indies v Australia at Port of Spain, Apr 21-26, 1973
Report | Scorecard

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