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It is to be hoped the tour undertaken by a team of cricketers from India in England during 1936 will have a beneficial effect upon Indian cricket, but there is no getting away from the fact that the results achieved did not come within measurable distance of what had been expected. Playing 28 first-class matches, India won no more than four of them. They beat Minor Counties in an innings, and Ireland by ten wickets and overcame both Lancashire and Hampshire, but in the fixture at Liverpool, Lancashire had nothing line full strength in the field and the success at Bournemouth was gained by a margin of only two runs.
Without wishing to be unfair or ungenerous, one has to state that for chosen cricketers of a country admitted to Test status the playing results were most disappointing. As our visitors had no extravagant ideas as to what they were likely to do in the Test matches, it is pleasant to record that the team showed their best form in the representative matches against England when Amar Singh, M. Jahangir Khan and Dilawar Hussain were available. The cold and wet weather for the greater part of the season may have been an excuse for the failure of the players to do themselves justice, and extraordinary ill luck certainly dogged the Indians in regard to injuries suffered. When Wazir Ali arrived here, a finger broken in a game in India had not mended, and he did not appear in the eleven until May 30. In the middle of May, Merchant broke a finger and was out of the side for six matches; both Jai and Hindlekar suffered similar mishaps and as a consequence missed several games.
The difficulties inseparable from the selection of a representative India side can be fully appreciated only by those in close touch with the game in that country. Some very good players were sent but they did not blend and the lack of team work offset the value of individual performances. Merchant, Mushtaq Ali and Ramaswami proved themselves no mean exponents of batting and Nissar, although not reproducing such devastating form with the ball as when in England four years previously, placed several good bowling feats to his credit. Some of the players, however, were handicapped through inexperience of matches of three days' duration. Accustomed to innings lasting three hours apiece in which batsmen need to score quickly, they found difficulty in adapting their style to the altered circumstances. The middle of the batting all too often lacked stability.
Most unfortunately, dissension developed among members of the party and although much of the gossip was exaggerated many of those who watched the Indians last season formed the impression that there was a want of harmony on the field. If a tour of India cricketers to be successful, differences of creed will have to be forgotten. Another blow to the prospects of the team came a week before the first of the Test matches when it was announced that Amarnath had been sent back to India as a disciplinary measure. This drastic action - unparalleled in the history of modern cricket - deprived the team of their most successful all-round player, for Amarnath had scored more runs than anyone else (613 in 20 innings) and had dismissed 32 batsmen at a cost of under 21 runs per wicket. His feat in the match with Essex at Brentwood of registering two separate hundreds and his clever bowling against Middlesex at Lord's had proved emphatically his worth to the side. A clear and convincing explanation of the reason for this stern measure was withheld at the time, and after the players returned to India a special committee enquired into the affair.
With the acquiescence of the Indian captain the team had been strengthened before Amarnath's return home by C. S. Nayudu, but that player accomplished nothing out of the ordinary as a batsman and his bowling was only occasionally effective. Altogether, 22 players were called upon during the tour. The members of the official team were:
C. S. Nayudu joined the team in June; AMAR SINGH, M. JAHANGIR KHAN and DILAWAR HUSSAIN in accordance with an arrangement made before the tour was begun, assisted in several matches, and S. M. HADI played in two games.
So brilliant a success on his previous visit to England, C. K. Nayudu disappointed both himself and his friends. Like Merchant and Mushtaq Ali, he reached a four-figure aggregate but although taking part in all but four of the fixtures counted as first-class he did not play an innings higher than 83 made in the second match of the tour - against Oxford University. Merchant was far and away the outstanding batsman and despite his absence from several matches he scored 1,745 runs for an average of 51.32 and hit three hundreds. No one else on the side was quicker to find his form and when from June onwards the Maharaj requested to go in first he played some admirable innings. He and Mushtaq Ali, in scoring 203 together in the second innings of the Manchester Test match set up a record first-wicket partnership against England in England. The same two batsmen previously had made 215 for the second wicket against Minor Counties. Another notable, performance by Merchant was that in the match with Lancashire at Liverpool where he carried his bat for scores of 135 and 77.
Described by D. R. Jardine two or three years ago as the soundest batsman in India, Merchant undoubtedly proved the worth of that tribute by his doings in England last summer. After moving higher in the order, he may have erred a little on the side of caution, but there was never any doubt as to his class. Neat and finished in style, he showed himself a fine exponent of the hook stroke and also got a good proportion of his runs by cutting. It may be added here that, Merchant over and above his batting was very valuable to the side by his fast and sure work in the outfield. Another batsman with a keen eye for the short ball and also very quick on his feet, Mushtaq Ali always introduced a spirit of adventure into his play. He actually shared in three partnerships exceeding 200 runs - the third was one of 217 with Hindlekar against Surrey - and on each occasion he reached three figures. Another memorable match for him was that at Scarborough. when he scored 140 and 74 and gave a brilliant exhibition of driving, cutting and hooking. As a fieldsman, he had no superior in the side.
Hindlekar made 80 in the match with Surrey and although that was his highest innings his record for the tour hardly provides a fair idea of his batting skill. In his anxiety to do well, he spent a lot of care over runs. After the first Test match, during which he chipped a bone of the finger, he was troubled by blurred vision and did not appear again until the latter part of August, but form what was seen of him before the good wickets came along it is more than likely that he might have been a great success but for his unfortunate accident and illness. His wicket-keeping was extremely good, if not brilliant, and in the match with Middlesex he made six catches. India, incidentally, had to play a different wicket-keeper in each of the representative games Meherhomji acting in that capacity at Manchester and Dilawar Hussain at the Oval.
As regards the other batsmen, the averages indicate how few of them displayed the form they had been accustomed to show in India. Wazir Ali hit 85 not out against Cambridge University in his first match, but afterwards, although given every opportunity to settle down, he did nothing out of the common until at Folkestone he hit 155 not out - the highest innings made for India during the tour. The explanation for this inconsistent form was hard to seek. Ramaswami, a sturdily-built left-hander, came out in consistent form during the second half of the season. He made a hundred off the Lancashire bowling at Old Trafford, played two useful innings in the Test match on the same ground, and was one of the five Indian batsmen who finished the tour with an average exceeding 30. Rather inclined to hit indiscriminately at first, he improved his game when exercising more care. An undergraduate at Cambridge, Dilawar Hussain assisted the side when the two other wicket-keepers were unfit and taking part in eight of the last nine engagements he played two three-figure innings and scored over 600 runs. Essentially a defensive batsman, Hussain had a most ungainly stance and his exaggerated crouch debarred him from bringing many strokes into use, but by his close watching of the ball and unwearying patience he batted with admirable determination in the third Test match, while withstanding England's bowling for four and three-quarter hours. Jai, flitting in and out of the eleven, had a good share in the victory over Hampshire, but his general form, having regard to his accomplishments before he came here, was disappointing. Of the rest of the batting there is not much to be said. There was a lack of steadiness and care; with a few exceptions the players showed impatience to get going.
The leadership of the Indian team was no sinecure, and the Maharaj Sir Vijaya Vizianagram - he received a knighthood during his visit here - carried far more cares and worries than are usually the lot of the captain of a touring team. He did not accomplish anything out of the common in batting but could not alone be held responsible for the limited success of the side. Cricket is essentially a team game, and in a band of players divided amongst themselves the will to pull together was not often apparent.
One occasion when the Indian cricketers undoubtedly created a big surprise was the Test match at Lord's, this game going so evenly up to a point that at the end of an innings apiece the difference in the scores was no more than 13 runs, the advantage being to India. Although England won easily in the end, the game was memorable for some excellent bowling by Amar Singh and Nissar and more particularly the former. It is perfectly true to say that when Amar Singh played his presence had a stimulating effect upon his colleagues. Although not the electrifying personality he was in 1932, he bowled most skilfully in taking six England wickets for 35 runs in the first innings at Lord's. It is only proper to observe that the pitch at the time was helpful to bowlers, but Amar Singh's work in that match was first-rate. Released by the Colne Club for all three Tests, and playing in seven of India's matches, Amar Singh came out second to Amarnath in the bowling averages with Nissar third. India called heavily upon the energies of Nissar, who bowled more over than anyone else, took 66 wickets and for a man of his weight stood the strain of the tour extremely well. He had filled out a good deal since being in England with the Maharajah of Porbandar's team in 1932. One instance of his powers of endurance came during the Test at the Oval when late in the day with England's total exceeding 400 with four men out he took four consecutive wickets in nine overs. Commencing the tour by taking nine Worcestershire wickets for 139 runs, Nissar accomplished another notable performance at Bradford, his accurate work and sustained pace, especially against the early batsmen, bringing him six successes at a cost of under 13 runs per wicket. The one other bowler of genuine speed, Banerjee revealed promise when during the first five matches he secured 20 wickets, but afterwards he fell right away. He was rarely able to impart swerve to the ball and in the view of some of his colleagues was far below his India form. His best feat was in the Derbyshire match when in the first innings he bowled 13 overs for four wickets and 51 runs.
On the whole, India's bowling possessed nothing like the steadiness and venom shown by the 1932 side. First of the slow bowlers in point of effectiveness, C. K. Nayudu was able to control length and impart sufficient spin to deceive batsmen, and next to Nissar he took the largest number of wickets. His bowling had much to do with India's victories over Ireland and Lancashire, for in the first of those matches he took 10 for 75, and in the other his analysis was seven for 93. Palia failing to find his form, the side were without a good left-arm slow bowler for Amir Elahi met with no pronounced success. Baqa Jilani, an all-rounder, took only 11 wickets and achieved his one meritorious batting performance of the tour when hitting 113 v. Leicestershire. Late in August, Jahangir Khan proved that his bowling skill had not deserted him; in the course of the last eight innings in which he bowled he took 20 of his 40 wickets. In the field, the Indians needed the stimulus of a special occasion. Now and again there were glimpses of brilliance but in comparison with the live and accurate work of the players who came to England four years previously the fielding was no more than moderate. Major Brittain Jones acted as manager of the team and Major E. W. C. Ricketts helped in a special degree in connection with the tour.
Match reports for
1st Test: England v India at Lord's, Jun 27-30, 1936
2nd Test: England v India at Manchester, Jul 25-28, 1936
3rd Test: England v India at The Oval, Aug 15-18, 1936