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One's immediate estimate at the end of this short tour was that the West Indies had declined in strength. There could be little doubt about the validity of this impression where the great fast-bowling team of Hall and Griffith was concerned. Yet when it came to the failure of the majority of the batsmen to reveal the ability we have come to expect of them, one felt that the tour, limited to the three Tests and five other matches, was too short to let them prosper.
The potential of the team (which won the Test rubber two-nil and won two and lost one of the other matches), was reduced after the first Test by Holford contracting a serious illness that kept him in a nursing home till he was strong enough to undertake the long journey home.
In the three matches he played, the all-rounder from Barbados distinctly enhanced the reputation he made in England, scoring 157 runs at an average of 52.33 and taking 11 wickets. This record included a splendid all-round performance in his only Test match.
Sobers' fantastic genius and the versatility of the side as a whole covered up the loss of Holford's services and all their other shortcomings. However, when it came to individuals, only Sobers, Gibbs, Hendriks and, to an extent, King, lived up to the high standards the West Indians have set up for themselves over the last eight or nine years.
From their point of view, the least satisfying feature of the tour was their failure to find an adequate opening partner for Hunte. Robin Bynoe, of Barbados, who, at 17, had gone to India eight years earlier and then been left in the back-ground, played regularly on this trip and yet averaged only 29.30 in fourteen innings, showing marked vulnerability against spin bowling.
He made one good score of 94, and 36 and 48 in the final Test but without looking a player of international standard. He held his place because the other candidate, Bryan Davis, of Trinidad, never came to terms with himself.
The touring term included two new names in Clive Lloyd and Rex Colleymore, both of Guyana. Lloyd, given his opportunity through a finger injury to Nurse, became an outstanding success.
Looking very scholarly behind thick-rimmed spectacles, this left-hander hit the ball off the back foot with startling power; and the manner in which he battled his way out of a period of immense torment in his maiden Test innings marked him as a player of fine temperament. As a fielder in the deep, he was quite outstanding. Colleymore's chances as an orthodox left-arm spinner were limited by his captain's domination of the department.
Among the old-stagers, Hunte made a workmanlike century that proved the foundation of West Indies' win in the opening Test. He never really mastered the spin attack, yet he was never found wanting.
Kanhai had the satisfying Test average of 56.75, but he enjoyed more than a fair measure of luck and was the biggest beneficiary of India's disastrous catching. Kanhai seemed to have reached a stage in his career when a curb on his adventurous spirit might have served him well. Too often was he either caught or missed at mid-off or mid-wicket from shots badly miscued.
Butcher, in spite of a good start to the tour, played not one innings of distinction in the Test matches, but Nurse's 56 at Calcutta was an effort of considerable merit.
Hall fell and injured his left knee at the nets before the first match and the tour was far gone before he fully recovered. A terror on his previous trip, this time he could not bowl with the sustained hostility of old, and his form was erratic. His opening spell in the first Test was superb, and worthy of a great fast bowler. Griffith was neither impressive nor terrifying, and I often wondered why King went through the tour without playing in a single Test.
Both as batsman and bowler, Sobers added further lustre to his brilliant career. In two of the Test matches, at Bombay and Madras, India were in challenging positions till Sobers arrived at the wicket, as late as number seven in the third Test. Each time India found him ruthless and devastating and apart from his last innings in the series, when he was dropped twice before reaching 10, the poor Indians must have thought him absolutely infallible.
He did not score a single century, and yet amassed 342 runs, influencing the destiny of the rubber as no one else did. Sobers took only two wickets in his quicker style but captured 12 as a slow bowler, changing from wrist spin to orthodox variety as the occasion demanded.
Another of the team who carried all before him was Gibbs, whose 27 wickets on the tour, including 18 in the three Tests, stamped him as the most successful off-spinner ever to tour India.
It is hard to recall more than one dropped catch or stumping by Hendriks in the entire series and Murray, on the occasions he deputised for him, proved most able.
It is pleasant to record that the nature of India's Test pitches showed a change designed to produce better and more positive cricket. At Calcutta, however, the pitch was grossly underprepared on purpose. India probably gambling on winning the toss; but they lost it and were hoist by their own petard.
Apart from Borde, who scored two centuries and altogether 346 runs in six innings, the Indian batting was too patchy and inconsistent to trouble such strong opposition. There were stray flashes of brilliance from Kunderan, Engineer, Pataudi, Durani and Wadekar, but mainly the Indian batting was of disappointing quality. Whatever its other faults, however, it was never dull or unattractive.
As in every series he has so far played, Chandrasekhar was the foremost Indian bowler. In the first Test he bowled with practically no support, but Bedi was introduced to Test cricket in the second encounter and both he and Prasanna played in the third, giving the attack greater ability and thrust.
Test Matches -- Played 3, Won 2, Drawn 1.
First-Class Matches -- Played 10, Won 4, Lost 1, Drawn 5.