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To win the third Test, at Melbourne, after being 182 runs behind on the first innings, was a notable achievement by Sunil Gavaskar's Indian side. But apart from that victory, which drew the series, they had a very moderate tour - in New Zealand as well as in Australia. New Zealand outgunned them in both one-day internationals, and for the first time in seven meetings, India lost a Test rubber (0-1) to New Zealand.
In Australia, India lost the opening Test, at Sydney, in three days, being overwhelmed by a vintage innings of 204 by Greg Chappell and the fast bowling of Lillee and Pascoe. Even though Patil played a memorable innings of 174, they were on the brink of defeat in the second at Adelaide, and although India must be given credit for rising above the handicap of three injured bowlers to win the final Test at Melbourne, the surprisingly poor quality of the Australian batting in the second innings has to be taken into account.
Results of the subsidiary matches exposed the tourists' limitations, with their only win in a state match being against Victoria. They dissipated a considerable advantage before losing to South Australia, who were themselves having a poor season; and Western Australia and Queensland, with whom they drew, were well below strength, these fixtures clashing with Test matches between Australia and New Zealand. The Indians were less than impressive in their draw with Tasmania, to whom they lost the following one-day match, and they even contrived a loss in a minor game, against the Western Australian Country XI.
In the triangular, limited-overs competition, the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup, the Indians made a surprisingly good start, winnings three of their first four matches. Thereafter they fell away so badly that they seldom looked like winning another game. Their batsmen seemed incapable of the urgency demanded by instant cricket. Much of the bowling was uncontrolled and the overall fielding was not good.
None of the Indians' three main batsmen, Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Viswanath, played to his reputation. Gavaskar started the tour with an innings of 157 against Western Australia and, prior to the first Test, also had scores of 85 against Tasmania and 79 and 108 against Queensland. But he was a failure in the Test series, his only worthwhile contribution being an important 70 in his last innings. Until then, Gavaskar's Test scores were 0, 10, 23, 5 and 10, most of his dismissals resulting from catches to wicket-keeper Marsh or in the slips. His impact on the limited-overs series was no greater.
Gavaskar's one Test innings of substance, the 70 at Melbourne, ended in a dreadful scene. Given out lbw to Lillee, Gavaskar indicated that he had edged the ball on to his pad, and was so enraged that he wanted to forfeit the match, ordering his partner, Chauhan, to walk off with him. The bewildered Chauhan followed him towards the dressing-room, but the Indian manager, Wing-Commander Durrani, intervened before Chauhan actually left the playing arena. Such a bizarre incident not only brought controversy over the umpiring to a head but also revealed the stress which Gavaskar felt from his personal lack of performance as well as that of his team.
Vengsarkar, who made batting look disappointingly difficult and was at his most vulnerable outside the off stump, had a top score of 41 in six Test innings. Although Viswanath's century in the first innings of the third Test was a masterpiece, his record until then emphasised declining powers of concentration and loss of speed in footwork, the foundations of his genius.
Despite his technical limitations, the veteran Chauhan pulled his weight and in both the Test aggregates and averages was second to Patil, who struck the ball with awesome power in his great innings at Adelaide. The merit of this innings by Patil was heightened by the fact that he had suffered a nasty head injury from a bumper in the previous Test. He alone among the newer batsmen looked the part.
Kapil Dev's record with the bat put his classification as an all-rounder into question. As a bowler, however, he lived up to expectations. But the rest of the team's seam bowling was mediocre. Only two specialist spinners went on the tour - Doshi, who acquitted himself creditably, and Yadav, the off-spinner, who would have made a bigger contribution had he been given fuller opportunities. Their glory lay in bowling with broken bones in the final Test. Doshi started this match with a fractured instep of his right foot, and Yadav sustained a broken toe while supporting Viswanath's rescue act in India's first innings.
Australia's main strength was the sustained hostility of their fast bowlers, Lillee and Pascoe, who, between them, captured 37 of the 54 Indian wickets that fell to the bowlers. It was a tribute to their character and courage that, neither of them young and both nursing injuries, they bowled so consistently through six Test matches and the long one-day series. Lillee was the Man of the Series for his performances in the three matches against India.
In all three Tests, Australia topped the 400 runs mark. Still, their batting often seemed uneven. Their 406 in the first Test was founded on Greg Chappell's superb double-hundred, until then the highest by an Australian in a Test against India. This record was passed in the second Test by Hughes, when Wood also made a century. Border's 124 was the crux of Australia's first innings in the final Test. However, the Indians were always at pains to dislodge the ageing Walters, who, although he failed to make a hundred in the series and never sought to dominate the bowling as of old, finished the series with an average of 72.
The Australian squad as a whole felt the strain of playing so many Test matches in just over two months, alongside an extended programme of one-day matches, and Greg Chappell was highly critical of the exclusion of rest days during Test matches. There were clear signs that the excess of one-day cricket at international level, which limits the appearances of Test players in Sheffield Shield matches, would, if continued, be to the detriment of the rising generation.
After their victory in Melbourne, the Indians should have arrived in New Zealand inspired and ebullient. Instead, their cricket slipped into another trough. New Zealand themselves had only just returned from Australia, also tired and defeated, though their resurgence in the one-day series had put them in good heart. Against the Indians, they batted with more determination and bowled with greater zest, no-one more than Hadlee, despite the demands made on him in Australia.
India's bowling problems were compounded in New Zealand by the unavailability of Doshi for the first Test and of Yadav until the last because of the injuries they took with them from Australia. Yet the loss of the first Test and, in the event, the series, was due principally to inept batting. Not one century was made for India in any of the three Tests.
On the happier side was the fairytale Test début of Ravi Shastri, a nineteen-year-old left-arm spinner from Bombay, who was pulled out of a Ranji Trophy match in Kanpur and despatched to reinforce the touring party. He arrived in Wellington on the night of the first Test, in which he took six wickets for 63 runs. Tall and gangling, Shastri, more alike in style to Durani than Bedi in that he pushed the ball through, took nine more wickets in the two following Tests. His calm, sensible batting lower in the order raised promise of his developing into a useful all-rounder, and his fielding too was an asset.
Test matches - Played 3: Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 8: Won 2, Lost 2, Drawn 4.
Wins - Victoria, Australia.
Losses - South Australia, Australia.
Draws - Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, Australia.
Non first-class matches - Played 17: Won 6, Lost 9, Drawn 2. Wins - Western Australia, South Australian Country XI, Australia, New Zealand (2), Victorian Country XI. Losses - Western Australian Country XI, Tasmania, Australia (4), New Zealand (3). Draws - Australian Capital Territory, Victorian Country XI.
In New Zealand
Test matches - Played 3: Lost 1, Drawn 2.
First-class matches - Played 5: Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 3.
Wins - Otago.
Losses - New Zealand.
Draws - Central Districts, New Zealand (2).
Non first-class matches - Played 2: Lost 2. Losses - New Zealand (2).
Match reports for
1st ODI: New Zealand v India at Auckland, Feb 14, 1981
2nd ODI: New Zealand v India at Hamilton, Feb 15, 1981
1st Test: New Zealand v India at Wellington, Feb 21-25, 1981
2nd Test: New Zealand v India at Christchurch, Mar 6-11, 1981
3rd Test: New Zealand v India at Auckland, Mar 13-18, 1981
Match reports for
Western Australia v Indians at Perth, Nov 22-24, 1980
South Australia v Indians at Adelaide, Nov 29-Dec 2, 1980
3rd Match: Australia v India at Melbourne, Dec 6, 1980
5th Match: India v New Zealand at Perth, Dec 9, 1980
6th Match: Australia v India at Sydney, Dec 18, 1980
7th Match: India v New Zealand at Brisbane, Dec 21, 1980
8th Match: India v New Zealand at Adelaide, Dec 23, 1980
Queensland v Indians at Brisbane, Dec 26-29, 1980
1st Test: Australia v India at Sydney, Jan 2-4, 1981
9th Match: Australia v India at Sydney, Jan 8, 1981
10th Match: India v New Zealand at Melbourne, Jan 10, 1981
11th Match: Australia v India at Melbourne, Jan 11, 1981
13th Match: Australia v India at Sydney, Jan 15, 1981
14th Match: India v New Zealand at Brisbane, Jan 18, 1981
2nd Test: Australia v India at Adelaide, Jan 23-27, 1981
3rd Test: Australia v India at Melbourne, Feb 7-11, 1981