So much advance speculation described the visit of West Indies to Australia in 1951-52 as a tour designed to decide the unofficial cricket championship of the world that the outcome provided a severe anti-climax. An Australian team recognised there as weaker than for several seasons won four of the five Tests. Furthermore, the West Indies fell so far below expectations that they were victorious in only one of six games against State teams.
The failures of the West Indies came as a shock to those who based their judgment on the ease with which England had been outplayed in 1950. Certainly that year the batting trio of Worrell, Weekes and Walcott and the bowling combination of Ramadhin and Valentine surpassed anything seen in England since the war. Yet of these five only Valentine came away from Australia with his reputation undiminished. To ascribe the surprisingly mediocre results to the moderate form of the other four is not wholly fair--but that these were regarded as four of the five key men is unquestionable.
Among the various reasons advanced for the defeat of West Indies in the Australian Test series was that, with only one first-class match beforehand, they entered the First Test without sufficient experience of Australian conditions. Unfortunate as that may have been, the President of the West Indies Board of Control, Mr. Karl Nunes, came very much to the point in saying: "If we have not the wisdom, temperament or ability to adapt ourselves to the conditions of other countries, as we expect them to adapt themselves to ours in the West Indies, and if we cannot take what we give, we do not measure up to the calibre of Test cricket."
Those who followed the tour from start to finish preferred to opine that few of the West Indies' batsmen relished Australia's pace attack, that the hard Australian pitches nullified most of Ramadhin's leg spin, that the West Indies wasted their chances through poor fielding and mistaken tactics, and that temperamentally many of them were not ideally equipped for the battles of attrition which are characteristic of Test cricket in Australia.
In the main the Tests followed a familiar pattern. Once again the shock attack of Miller and Lindwall, ably supported by that magnificent all-round bowler, Johnston, carried too much pace and fire for the opposition. Impetuosity in attempting to play strokes before gauging the pace of the turf cost the West Indies numerous wickets, and few of the batsmen relished the necessity for hurrying their strokes on pitches faster than experienced in England. Nor did they show such confidence against the fast straight bumper to make the Australians look upon this as an unprofitable method of attack. Noting the weakness of the West Indies batsmen against the bumper, the Australian fast bowlers were not loth to employ it, but unfortunately at times the short fast ball became too frequent for happy relationships.
Notwithstanding the batting disappointments, the West Indies might easily have won the rubber three to two. Among other causes the First Test was thrown away by poor fielding, five catches being missed off Valentine inside twenty minutes, and the Fourth lost when all Australia must have been resigned to a West Indies victory which would have taken them into the Fifth Test level with two wins each.
When the ninth wicket fell at 222, Australia required 38 to win, with Ring and Johnston as the last pair. By setting a close field, however West Indies allowed Ring to hit boundaries from lofted strokes which should have provided catches to a field placed deeper. Had they forced Australia to make the runs in singles, the chances of doing so would have been considerably smaller--no one regards Johnston as other than a rabbit with the bat.
Valentine and Gomez were the chief West Indies successes. Apart from the second innings at Brisbane, where he was over-bowled, Valentine so impressed the Australians that they acclaimed him as the best of his type they had met in post-war cricket. He kept a length, spun sharply and never relaxed in his admirably determined efforts. By the end of the tour of Australia and New Zealand, Valentine raised his total of wickets to 65 in eleven Tests.
In tenacity and concentration none surpassed Gomez, who headed the Test averages in batting and virtually in bowling. His seven wickets for 55 in 18 overs in the Fifth Test at Sydney, where intense heat and humidity was enough to sap the energy of the most hardy, crowned for him a splendid series, but the batsmen did not maintain the grip his bowling had brought to the side.
Worrell played one superb innings, practically one-handed after injury, at Melbourne, but generally he was not comfortable against the fast bowlers, and, allowing for injuries which affected them a good deal, neither Weekes nor Walcott showed the form of which he was capable. Too often for their enjoyment they went in while the pace bowlers remained fresh and full of hostility. The stylish Stollmeyer, who took over the captaincy in the last Test, improved after a poor start, but the graceful Christiani marred some good innings by apparent lapses of concentration.
Although Ramadhin bowled even more overs than Valentine, after the First Test he troubled Australia much less than anticipated. On the comparatively soft Brisbane turf he bowled supremely well, turning his leg-break considerably, and there he probably helped Valentine more than figures reveal. Subsequently, on the less responsive pitches elsewhere, he became little more than an off-break bowler, faster but with less flight. No doubt Ramadhin increased his pace and abandoned flight because he found that whenever he threw the ball up quick-footed batsmen like Miller could advance to meet him on the half-volley. After Brisbane, Gomez and Worrell caused Australian batsmen more anxiety than did Ramadhin.
Although conquerors again, Australia could feel no reason for complacency. At 38, the nimble-footed captain, Hassett, remained the best batsman and he alone on either side hit two centuries in the series. Of the other recognised batsmen only Miller returned consistent results. For the second successive series Harvey and Morris achieved little, and of the younger batsmen only C. McDonald, who played in the last Test, could have been satisfied with his performances. In helping in 21 dismissals, Australia's new wicket-keeper, Langley, equalled Strudwick's record for a Test rubber. He was an efficient wicket-keeper but negligible as a batsman.
Matches--Played 22, Won 9, Lost 8, Drawn 5
Matches--Played 5, Won 1, Lost 4, Drawn 0
Match reports for
Match reports for
Combined XI (Australia) v West Indians at Sydney, Oct 20, 1951
Prime Minister's XI v West Indians at Canberra, Oct 22, 1951
New South Wales Country v West Indians at Newcastle, Oct 26-27, 1951
Queensland Country v West Indians at Townsville, Oct 30-31, 1951
Queensland v West Indians at Brisbane, Nov 3-7, 1951
New South Wales v West Indians at Sydney, Nov 16-20, 1951
Victoria v West Indians at Melbourne, Nov 23-27, 1951
South Australia v West Indians at Adelaide, Dec 7-11, 1951
Western Australia v West Indians at Perth, Dec 14-18, 1951
Tasmania v West Indians at Launceston, Jan 8-10, 1952
Tasmania v West Indians at Hobart, Jan 12-15, 1952
Victoria v West Indians at Melbourne, Jan 18-22, 1952