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Australia's fifth tour of the West Indies, their first since 1978 when their team was much weakened by the absence of players contracted to World Series Cricket, was a disastrous one. They were comprehensively beaten in the last three Tests, after just managing to hold out for draws in the first two, and lost the one day internationals 3-1. They also lost friends through a number of unsavoury incidents. An outstanding West Indies team started the series immediately after returning from highly successful visits to India and Australia. Australia, on the other hand, were badly affected by the absence of leading players and injuries at crucial periods.
The retirement from international cricket just prior to the tour of Greg Chappell, Lille and Marsh had an individual effect on each department of the team as well as the obvious repercussions. What is more, the left handed Graham Yallop, Australia's leading scorer in the pre-ceding series against Pakistan, was kept at home by a knee injury. To add to these problems one of the opening batsmen, Kepler Wessels, was forced to return to Australia with a knee injury after the second Test and his replacement, Graeme Wood was ruled out of the tour after having his finger fractured in the third Test. One of the remaining specialist openers, Steve Smith, also suffered a fractured finger in the final Test, in which he batted in only one innings, while injury at some time or another affected fast bowlers, Carl Rackmann, who played only one Test, Rodney Hogg, who missed the fourth, and Geoff Lawson, who played in them all but was sometimes below peak fitness.
Against a team described by their captain, Kim Hughes, at the end of the tour as "the strongest, most professional and most disciplined" he has played against, Australia needed to be at full strength. As it was, they were outplayed in every department of the game, sometimes embarrassingly so. West Indies went through the five Tests without losing a single second-innings wicket, and only the loss of significant amounts of play to the weather denied them victories in the first two Tests. Only once were they dismissed for fewer than 300, they passed 500 once and 450 twice; and five of their batsmen had centuries, two by one of the younger players, Ritchie Richardson.
Australia on the other hand, totalled 300 only once while falling for 200 or under four times, including the lowest total over recorded in a Test in Bridgetown, 97, as they collapsed to defeat in the third Test. Only one of their batsmen, the left handed Allan Border, found the spirit and technique necessary to score consistently against the strong West Indian bowling, dominated, as usual, by pace. He was top-scorer in half his ten Test innings, scored more than twice as many as anyone else in the team, and averaged nearly three times as many. His 98 and 100 in the second Test, both undefeated were innings of the utmost courage. With several inexperienced batsmen in the team, much depended on the captain, Hughes and the left handed David Hookes, the only two who had previously toured the West Indies, Neither measured up to the demands, placing persistent pressure on Border and the lower order.
The disparity in the bowling was equally stark. The giant Joel Garner, back re-freshed and more menacing after missing the tour to India, set a new record for West Indies against Australia with 31 wickets in the series, while Malcolm Marshall, who missed the first Test, and Michael Holding, who missed the first two, returned to comprise a formidable trio with Garner. The presence of the 21-year-old Roger Harper as a specialist off-spinner lent variety. The Australian bowling proved as inconsistent as the batting. Although all the bowlers produced an impressive spell at some stage, there was a lack of penetration on good batting pitches.
Hughes came under justified criticism, both in the West Indies and Australia, for an unprecedented show of dissent on the field during the closing stages of the match against Trinidad & Tobago, and Lawson was never slow to show his displeasure at umpiring decisions, incurring a fine for an incident with an umpire in the first Test. Such behaviour made life difficult for the manager, Mr Col Egar, the former Test umpire, and did not endear the Australian team to the West Indian public.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Leeward Islands v Australians at Basseterre, Feb 18-21, 1984
Tour Match: Guyana v Australians at Georgetown, Feb 24-27, 1984
Tour Match: Trinidad & Tobago v Australians at Pointe-a-Pierre, Mar 9-12, 1984
Tour Match: Barbados v Australians at Bridgetown, Mar 24-27, 1984
Tour Match: Windward Islands v Australians at Castries, Apr 14-17, 1984
Tour Match: Jamaica v Australians at Montego Bay, Apr 21-24, 1984
Tour Match: Jamaica v Australians at Montego Bay, Apr 23, 1984
Tour Match: Jamaica v Australians at Montego Bay, Apr 24, 1984