The interests of cricket were not best served by either the timing of this tour or the cavalier fashion in which the Board of Control for Cricket in India, influenced by financial considerations and driven by internal politics, chopped and changed the itinerary even after the tour had started. The World Cup tournament, which was so vigorously promoted and which had only just ended, left the country with no appetite for any form of international cricket except the overs-limit variety. The Test matches, regrettably, were received as enthusiastically as sandwiches filled with the leftovers of the Christmas turkey. The thrilling First Test, at Delhi, was played before very thin crowds and on no day of the series was any ground completely full.
In such an atmosphere, the first-class games outside the Tests also suffered from lack of support. Member associations of the Indian Board were reluctant to host these fixtures, yet all clamoured to stage one-day internationals. To meet this demand, the Board went to the extent of cancelling, at the eleventh hour, the Second Test match at Nagpur and substituting it with two one-day internationals in addition to the five originally scheduled. Nagpur had initially been allotted this Test match when Kanpur was unable to stage it. Mr Jackie Hendriks, the West Indians' manager, was unhappy at the shortening of the Test series, which he considered to be the main business on the agenda, and he accepted the rearrangement most reluctantly. He was told by Board officials that Nagpur had backed out of staging the Test match, but officials of the local association denied the allegation. Instead of the Test match, Nagpur was given a one-day international and the other went to Calcutta, whence the pressure for the revision of the programme originated.
The granting of a one-day international to Calcutta created further complications and controversy over the status of the one-day international in Ahmedabad, which figured in the original itinerary and the proceeds of which were to go to the Cricketers' Benevolent Fund. The Board declared that the Ahmedabad match would be one of the series - official, as they called it. However, the West Indians were not agreeable to this, although they were prepared to play the match. A great amount of pressure was brought to bear on their manager, but Mr Hendriks would not yield. In the event, neither the public nor the Indian team was told of the Board's enforced change of stance; the first that Ravi Shastri, the Indian captain, heard about it was from his opposite number, Viv Richards, as they were walking out to toss. West Indies won the Charminar Challenge one-day series 6-1, as well as the match at Ahmedabad, and most of their victories were gained decisively. Yet, crowds flocked to them. The low attendances at the Test matches, however, left the host associations incurring heavy losses.
The 1-1 result of the four-match Test series was not a true index of the strength of the teams. While West Indies were not the side they once were, they were distinctly superior. A more appropriate result would have been 2-1 in their favour, although even then it would not have been a just one. The Indian victory in the final Test was gained on a Madras pitch that made a mockery of Test cricket.
Except for the Third, in which an abysmally slow pitch at Eden Gardens rendered the contest between bat and ball completely uneven, the Test matches were absorbing. The opening Test was enlivened as much by the conditions on the first day as by the inept batting of both sides, who were each dismissed for their lowest totals against each other. The captains attributed the collapses to the problem of making an immediate transition from one-day cricket to Test matches. West Indies had only one intervening match in which to adjust, while the Indians had played no first-class cricket since before the World Cup. The balance in this match was swayed by a solid, responsible innings from Richards which yielded his only century of the rubber.
All four fast bowlers played by West Indies in this match excelled themselves for accuracy. The Second Test, which seemed to be petering out after the weather had intervened, was brought to life by bowling of fierce pace from Patrick Patterson. But after sustaining an injury, he never bowled again with the same hostility, and it was Courtney Walsh, putting in a tremendous amount of work, who emerged as the outstanding bowler with 26 wickets in the series at under 17 runs each.
Four hundreds and six other scores of 50 or more were made in the dreary Third Test, of which the highlight was a maiden Test century from Hooper. The quality of his batting stamped him as a player of class. The Fourth Test was dominated by the nineteen-year-old leg-spinner, Narendra Hirwani, who on his début took sixteen wickets, but India's comfortable win was owed, to no small extent, to a magnificent century by Kapil Dev.
Playing their first series since the retirement of Sunil Gavaskar, India missed him less than might have been expected. His replacement as opening batsman, Arun Lal, twice passed 50 and averaged 32.42. The mainstay of the Indian batting was Dilip Vengsarkar, the captain, with a three-figure average, and it was ironic that the Test India won was the one he missed through injury. India's bowling, except for flashes of brilliance from Kapil Dev, looked quite ordinary and incapable of bowling out West Indies twice until the sensational advent in the last Test of Hirwani. He was aided, it must be stressed, by a deplorably under-prepared pitch.
Test matches - Played 4: Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 2.
First-class matches - Played 7: Won 2, Lost 1, Drawn 4, Abandoned 1.
Wins - India, BCCI President's XI.
Loss - India.
Draws - India (2), Indian Under-25 XI, North Zone.
Abandoned - Hyderabad.
One-day international - Played 8: Won 7, Lost 1.
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