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For India, the 0-3 defeat by England in the 1974 series marked the end of an era of unprecedented success in Test cricket. In the three years preceding, India had won all the three series they contested -- two of them abroad. Of their previous 13 Test matches, four were won and only one lost.
They had beaten England twice during this span -- in England, in 1971 (1-0) and again at home (2-1), in the winter of 1972-73. In the context of this record, India's total eclipse was surprising.
The weather was outrageously unkind to the tourists while they prepared for the Test Series. It was at its coldest and wettest during the opening Test, at Old Trafford. But the weather was by no means the decisive factor. The team had its shortcomings, some of which have applied to every Indian team to have toured England since the war.
Yet, England could not have broken India's past supremacy over them so conclusively without showing a significant rise in their own performance. England's was indeed a triumph of both tactics and technique. The planning of the campaign was as perfect as its execution.
To a spin attack which was already hard pushed to come to terms with the experimental limitation of the leg-side field of five men, England's selectors posed the added problem of having to bowl to combinations of right-handed and left-handed batsmen. Bringing Edrich back was a shrewd move; then to risk controversy by standing down a batsman of Boycott's stature and introducing Lloyd was a bold step indeed.
Even more vital was the English batsmen's rediscovery of the art of playing spin bowling. In the past, they had tried to defend from the crease and to score with uncultured heaves and nudges across the line of flight. This time, they employed the time-honoured method of using their feet and playing straight. On good, reliable Test pitches, they truly imposed their will on the Indian bowlers. Needless to say, the English batting was as good to watch as it was effective.
Except for Willis's wayward length in the second innings of the first Test and Arnold's inaccurate aim in the first innings of the second, England bowled with admirable consistency, in ideal conditions.
The odd half-chance went down, but otherwise England gave away nothing in the field. One of the highlights of their out-cricket was the wicket-keeping of Knott which, even by his own standards, touched lofty heights.
The declaration by Denness on the final day of the Old Trafford Test, made with the clock in the Indians' favour, was a gesture of confidence. It paid off and Denness led the side during the rest of the series with increasing authority. England now seemed convinced that the tide could not turn again, at least during this series.
The Indians, the other hand, showed no conviction, not even in the county matches. Basically, their batting was not much weaker than in 1971. It was shown up more by the size of England's totals and more purposeful bowling than they encountered either in 1971 or, in the home series, 1972-73.
In fact, Gavaskar, who was such a big disappointment on both those occasions, came forth with effective performances in his first three innings of the series, starting with a very sound century. Simultaneously, Viswanath also gave evidence of his class and ability.
Engineer, after failing in the first Test, lent weight to the batting with innings of substance and dash in each of the remaining encounters. There was one flash of brilliance from Abid Ali, at Old Trafford, and another from Solkar, at Lord's. More through grit than ability, Naik made some useful runs at Edgbaston.
Collectively, the Indian batting was too weak and brittle to be able to hold its own at international level. Despite reaching the fifty mark time and again in county matches before the first Test, Wadekar was an outright failure in the series. His 36 in the final Test was his only score above 20 and three times he was dismissed for a single-figure score. Faced with adversity for the first time since he assumed the captaincy, the burden of leadership was proving too heavy for his shoulders.
Their performances in the early games of the tour indicated that the promise of two newcomers, Patel and Madan Lal, would have a significant influence on India's Test fortunes. In making a century in his very first innings in England, and another against Lancashire, Patel looked a polished batsman, but in his encounters with England's Test bowlers, he revealed a woeful weakness outside the off stump.
Madan Lal shone with both ball and bat, yet by the time the Test series started, he had already been overbowled and as far as his batting was concerned, the short ball from the quick bowlers found him completely at sea.
Lal was not the only one to be vulnerable in this respect. Many wickets were given away through the batsman attempting to hook when he would have done well to duck. Likewise, the old tendency to follow the out-swinger was still very much in evidence.
As always, the Indian bowling lacked balance. Pace and seam bowling are at all times the major weapons in English conditions, more so during the earlier half on the season. Without quite possessing the pace, Abid Ali and Madan Lal did better than one would have expected. Solkar's effectiveness was limited to his unaccountable power to dismiss Boycott.
Probably the Indians would have benefited from including Salgoankar, of Maharashtra, easily the quickest bowler in the country and who, as it happened, came to England later for coaching at A.R. Gover's school.
India's celebrated spin attack had a very lean tour. Chandrasekhar, the central figure in India's previous successes against England, simply could not strike a length. It might be that he was short of practice. Almost at the start, he sustained a finger injury which enforced inactivity.
Also, the tour management were reluctant to expose him in matches involving prospective England batsmen. Chandrasekhar suffered another hand injury during the second Test and did not play again on the tour.
In the circumstances, a bigger stress fell on Bedi, who sent down 350 overs or more before the first Test and showed signs of wear and staleness. As for the two off-spinners, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan, they suffered, rather than profited, from having to compete for a Test place. Prasanna bowled superbly in the two Tests he played and, in fact, looked the best bowler in the side.
With the exception of Solkar, Abid Ali and Patel, the fielding tended to be on the slow side. Impeded by a pre-season injury to his ankle, Engineer kept wicket poorly; but for his lapses, England might have been run closer in the first Test at Old Trafford.
As captain, Wadekar had obviously used up all his luck in building up his hitherto unbeaten record. To add to all his problems, the coin just would not fall the way he called. The only time it did, at Edgbaston, he might have been better off losing the toss. There came a stage when all judgement about bowling changes and field placings seemed to have deserted him.
Ironically, this was the first Indian team to go through an English tour without losing to a county, but this record was no compensation for massive defeats in all three Test matches.
Test Matches -- Played 3: Lost 3.
First-Class Matches -- Played 17: Won 3, Lost 3, Drawn 11.
All Matches -- Played 20: Won 4, Lost 5, Drawn 11. Abandoned 1.
Wins -- Surrey, Oxford and Cambridge Universities XI, Gloucestershire; Scotland (2 days).
Lost -- England (3); England (2 one-day games).
Drawn -- Derrick Robbins XI, Worcestershire, Somerset, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, M.C.C., Northamptonshire, Essex, Nottinghamshire.
Abandoned -- Indian Gymkhana (1 day).
Match reports for
Tour Match: DH Robins' XI v Indians at Eastbourne, Apr 22-24, 1974
Tour Match: Worcestershire v Indians at Worcester, Apr 27-29, 1974
Tour Match: Somerset v Indians at Taunton, May 1-3, 1974
Tour Match: Hampshire v Indians at Southampton, May 5-7, 1974
Tour Match: Leicestershire v Indians at Leicester, May 8-10, 1974
Tour Match: Yorkshire v Indians at Bradford, May 11-13, 1974
Tour Match: Lancashire v Indians at Manchester, May 15-17, 1974
Tour Match: Marylebone Cricket Club v Indians at Lord's, May 18-21, 1974
Tour Match: Northamptonshire v Indians at Northampton, May 22-24, 1974
Tour Match: Essex v Indians at Chelmsford, May 25-28, 1974
Tour Match: Surrey v Indians at The Oval, May 29-31, 1974
Tour Match: Derbyshire v Indians at Derby, Jun 1-4, 1974
Tour Match: Oxford and Cambridge Universities v Indians at Oxford, Jun 12-14, 1974
Tour Match: Gloucestershire v Indians at Gloucester, Jun 15-18, 1974
Tour Match: Nottinghamshire v Indians at Nottingham, Jun 29-Jul 1, 1974