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The Australians' third full tour of India was of historic interest on two counts. It was Australia's final campaign before the compromise between the Australian Cricket Board of Control and World Series Cricket took effect, and it was important from their opponents' viewpoint because India won a series (2-0) against Australia for the first time. The two countries had previously contested seven rubbers over 31 years, during which India had won only five Tests to Australia's nineteen, with six drawn.
In terms of results, Australia had a poor tour. They completed it without a single win and, as well as their two losses in the series of six Tests, they were beaten by East Zone, possibly the weakest side they encountered. But to put this defeat in perspective, it must be mentioned that the tourists brought it on themselves with two declarations which were intended to finish the match in two days.
The result of the Test series was not unexpected, for the Australians were relatively inexperienced, ten of the party of fifteen never having toured before. Moreover, they were all new to conditions on the Indian sub-continent. They did have some early advantage in that India had just returned from a long and strenuous tour of England and had had no time at all to acclimatise before going into the first Test. Furthermore, India themselves were in the throes of rebuilding their side.
The main Australian gain of the tour was the tremendous advance made by two batsmen, Hughes and Border. Between the first Test and the last there was a marked development in Hughes's technique of playing spin bowling, and happily the heavy burden of captaincy had no adverse effect on his batting. The duties of captaincy might have weighed more heavily had the team management not been so superbly handled by Bob Merriman of Geelong.
The fact that Hughes's twelve innings in the series produced only one century is no reflection on his consistency. He passed the half-century mark in every Test but one and could certainly have made more runs had he not batted as positively and purposefully as he did. Border, whose Test aggregate - like Hughes's - also exceeded 500, started the series more strongly than he finished it. But as his form declined, another left-hander, Yallop, came into his own.
The most experienced player in the side, Yallop was at his best when batting conditions were most difficult. In the last two Tests, he opened the innings and filled the rôle with distinction. If he did not make an earlier impact on the series it was partly because, more than once, he was dismissed in unfortunate ways.
A major weakness of the Australian batting was its fragility at the top of the order. Wood and Darling took turns to open with Hilditch before Yallop moved up the order, and even his promotion did not remedy the situation. The best Australian opening partnership in the entire series was one of 32.
Yet this was not Australia's only weakness, nor the most prominent. It was the lack of depth to their bowling and their generally poor out-cricket that put them at such a disadvantage. On the few occasions when their bowlers rose to any heights, they were let down by the fielders, with many more slip chances going down than were held.
Fitness problems also were acute. Hurst injured his back quite early on the tour and, finding his injury unresponsive to treatment, went home after the third Test, Yardley, whose all-round ability served the Australians well in a couple of Tests, was prone to accident and illness. He was missed especially in the final Test at Bombay, where the ball turned quite extravagantly.
Hogg, who had taken a record 41 wickets in Australia's previous series, against England, was a major disappointment. In the early days of the tour he could not find his rhythm and was frequently no balled for over-stepping. This difficulty, as well as the lack of pace in the pitches, seemed to demoralise him and he roused himself only in the third and fourth Tests.
Leg-spinner Higgs had a brilliant first Test, in which he severely pressed the Indian batsmen and took seven wickets for 143 runs. But he was mastered thereafter. Easily the outstanding bowler was the veteran Dymock, always industrious, brave and thoughtful, returning match figures of twelve for 166 in the third Test. Yet this was a Test in which Australia were soundly beaten.
The series marked the end of an era in Indian cricket as, for the first time in eleven years, India took the field without any of their three great contemporary spinners, Chandrasekhar, Bedi and Prasanna. Venkataraghavan also lost his place after the first two Tests.
Bedi's mantle fell on 31-year-old Doshi, new to Test cricket but highly experienced after ten years in first-class cricket, both at home and in England. The new off-spinner was Yadav, of Hyderabad, still in his early 20s. Taking 27 and 24 wickets respectively, Doshi and Yadav played prominent parts in India's success. But the main wicket-taker, with 28 victims, was pace bowler Kapil Dev, who showed how much he had benefited from the tour of England.
India's most prolific batsman was Viswanath, who made 518 runs, including two centuries. Only he accumulated more runs than Gavaskar, who looked in want of a rest after the England tour yet aggregated 425 with two hundreds, Chauhan was a loyal and stubborn opening partner for Gavaskar and was in the forefront in the Third Test, at Kanpur. India, who were behind on the first innings and 48 for two in the second, might have been in desperate trouble without Chauhan's marathon innings of six and a half hours for 84 runs. In the first innings, too, when the pitch was lively, he batted for five hours, giving India a fine start, which the later batsmen did not exploit.
In the middle order, Vengsarkar and Yashpal Sharma both made many valuable contributions and were capable of playing long innings. Yet there were indications that Yashpal, whose back foot made an initial movement away from the leg stump, would have been less successful against an attack with a fuller complement of fast bowlers. The return of Kirmani, omitted from the England tour, gave the side great strength. As wicket-keeper, he was in peak form and was never found wanting with the bat when runs were needed.
To suit Australia's convenience, the tour was scheduled for an unusually early time in the season, when the monsoons had not quite receded. The first two Test matches, played in September, were both drastically affected by the weather and it was fortunate that the others were free of interference. The Indian Board would be unfair to the paying public if, in future, they arranged tours starting any earlier than mid-November.
Test matches - Played 6: Lost 2, Drawn 4.
First-class matches - Played 11: Lost 3, Drawn 8.
Losses - India (2), East Zone.
Draws - India (4), North Zone, South Zone, Central Zone, West Zone.
Match reports for
1st Test: India v Australia at Chennai, Sep 11-16, 1979
2nd Test: India v Australia at Bangalore, Sep 19-24, 1979
3rd Test: India v Australia at Kanpur, Oct 2-7, 1979
4th Test: India v Australia at Delhi, Oct 13-18, 1979
5th Test: India v Australia at Kolkata, Oct 26-31, 1979
6th Test: India v Australia at Mumbai, Nov 3-7, 1979