For a combination of reasons, India's fifth Test series in the West Indies fell disappointingly short of the hard-fought drama of the previous two, in 1971 and 1976. Rain, which affected every Test in varying degrees, made the third meaningless. West Indies won two of the other four and had the better of the two drawn matches. At no stage of any match were India in a position to win, although the West Indian bowling often lacked the penetration which has become its hallmark.
India arrived direct from a trying series in Pakistan, in which they had been badly beaten. The consequence of their defeat was the replacement of their long-standing captain, Sunil Gavaskar, by the dynamic all-rounder, Kapil Dev, besides a number of other critical team changes, notably the exclusion of Gundappa Viswanath, after 89 Tests, and the left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi.
The new formula made little difference. West Indies won the first Test, following a thrilling final session in which India lost their last four wickets for 6 runs and West Indies then reached the 172 runs they needed in the last over of the match. India's spirits were revived by a courageous second-innings battle which saved the second Test, an unexpected victory in the second of the three one-day internationals and a return to form of Gavaskar, who compiled his 27th Test century in the truncated third Test.
Gavaskar's performance, however, was only a temporary reminder of what he had achieved on his two previous tours, and the series was decided with a massive West Indies victory in the fourth Test in Bridgetown where conditions were ideally suited to the West Indian fast bowlers. The Indian captain and manager complained after that Test of intimidatory bowling, a charge which did have some merit although the umpires had not felt obliged to intervene. The umpires' attitude may have been conditioned by the magnificence of Mohinder Amarnath, who, far from being intimidated, hooked and cut with certainty.
Amarnath had returned to the Indian team for the series against Pakistan, after three years out of Test cricket. The fine form he showed there continued with centuries at Port-of-Spain and Antigua, two vital innings of 91 and 80 when all others around him were falling in Bridgetown and a final aggregate of 598 Test runs (average 66.44). His choice as Benson and Hedges Man of the Series was obligatory. No other Indian passed 300 for the series, Gavaskar being the major disappointment with no score above 40 except for his Georgetown century. Six times in his nine Test innings he was caught behind the wicket, although he was not alone in this, the West Indian wicket-keeper and slips being kept busy throughout.
India's bowling was limited. While Kapil Dev was never less than the quality fast-medium bowler he was known to be, in West Indian conditions the medium-paced swing of Balwinder Sandhu and Madan Lal was inadequate support once the ball had lost its shine. Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan, the veteran off-spinner brought back at age 38 for his experience, bowled steadily on his third West Indian tour, as did the two orthodox left-arm spinners, Ravi Shastri and Maninder Singh. Shastri developed as a batsman, scoring a century in the final Test.
India's wicket-keeper, Syed Kirmani, dropped catches at critical stages in the second and fifth Tests, helping West Indies to total 394, 470, 486 and 550 in successive innings. The first seven in the West Indian order all scored centuries. One of these was the only new batsman introduced by West Indies in the series, Augustine Logie, a stroke-playing right-hander from Trinidad. He was badly missed when 7 in the course of his 130 in Bridgetown and managed only 37 in his five other innings.
With the exception of Lloyd and the fluent wicket-keeper-batsman, Jeffrey Dujon, no West Indian batsman was at his best throughout the series. Nor were two of the leading bowlers, Michael Holding and Joel Garner, both of whom were obviously feeling the effects of demanding seasons in Australia, where Holding, still not recovered from the effects of a knee operation the previous year, played for Tasmania and Garner for South Australia. Holding only occasionally reached his fastest, while the giant Garner, who complained of fatigue, eventually lost his Test place. It was left to Marshall, generating tremendous pace and hostility mainly from round the wicket, to spearhead the West Indian attack. The 32-year-old Andy Roberts, with clever change of pace, made an ideal foil. As India batted comfortably to draws in the second and fifth Tests on slow pitches, the West Indian policy of concentrating purely on fast bowling to the exclusion of specialist spin was again brought into question.
Outside the Tests, the Indians were unbeaten, though this was more a reflection of the weakness of their territorial opponents than their own strengths. Although the West Indies Cricket Board of Control estimated another loss on the tour, that was principally because of the playing days washed out by rain. The Indians proved popular wherever they went, particularly in Trinidad and Guyana where large sections of the the population are of Indian descent. Their public relations, under the astute management of the former Test batsman, Hanumant Singh, gained them many friends.
INDIAN TOUR RESULTS
Test matches - Played 5: Lost 2, Drawn 3.
First-class matches - Played 10: Won 3, Lost 2, Drawn 5.
Wins - Trinidad & Tobago, Windward Islands, Leeward Islands.
Losses - West Indies (2).
Draws - West Indies (3), Jamaica, Barbados.
Non first-class matches - Played 4: Won 1 Lost 2, Drawn 1.
Wins - West Indies.
Losses - West Indies (2).
Draw - Guyana.
Match reports for
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