New Zealand's first tour of the Caribbean was something of a triumph for New Zealand cricket, at the same time it was little short of a disaster for the West Indies. All five Test Matches were drawn and, indeed, every first-class match the New Zealanders played was drawn. Ever since New Zealand has played Test cricket it has been the lowliest side of all and the New Zealanders cannot be blamed for coming to the West Indies content to settle for a drawn series. This in itself was a considerable achievement against a side which has admittedly fallen a long way from its peak in the early and mid-1960s, but still contains some marvellous cricketers. In the final technical analysis the drawn series was the result of two weak bowling sides playing on very slow pitches.
The series itself however was nowhere near as torrid as five drawn Test matches suggests. Four of them were thrilling games of cricket; only the fourth at Georgetown was a bore and not many duller games of cricket can have been played than that one. In the first two matches New Zealand escaped from seemingly impossible situations and in the second were miraculously within sight of victory themselves on the last afternoon. They should then have won the third Test and, but for two dropped slip catches, would have done so, while rain was probably the principal factor in saving them from defeat in the fifth Test, played over six days.
When the New Zealanders arrived in the West Indies they found the conditions very strange and looked well out of their depth, but they learned amazingly quickly, they could hardly have shown more determination and the overall spirit and enthusiasm were tremendous. They were unlucky with injuries and first Collinge, fast left-arm over, had to return home as a result of a family bereavement and then Dowling, their captain, aggravated an old back injury and he, too, went back to New Zealand, having played in only the first two Tests.
During the first three months they improved tremendously both in terms of technique and overall approach and for this they owed a lot to Glenn Turner. He was their best batsman, but even more important he was the only member of the party to be playing professional cricket in England. In just a few years the toughness of Championship cricket has changed Turner from a talented amateur into a shrewd and dedicated professional. His analytical and determined approach had a big influence on the others in the side. For a long time New Zealand have been thought of as a bunch of good losers; now, they were a hard, and increasingly efficient unit, which gave little away and as a result became difficult to beat.
They had in Turner himself, Congdon, Howarth and Taylor, four world-class players all of whom did more than could really have been expected of them. As the tour progressed the others in the side began to play above themselves. Wadsworth, Hastings, Burgess and Jarvis all played important parts at different times. Their fielding, too, was the most impressive I have ever seen from any side anywhere. Vivian was the best of all with Burgess, Jarvis and Hastings not far behind. Collectively they showed what a fine spectacle good fielding can be and how it adds another dimension to a game of cricket.
The New Zealanders have always been a poor side in terms of Test cricket and they are aware of this. Naturally, their first concern was to make themselves safe from defeat. In three Tests, their fighting qualities served them well, in one, the third, it probably cost them the match. Magnificent seam bowling by Taylor put them in a winning position by tea on the first day, but from then on they played like a side who did not believe in their ability to win.
Turner, who scored four double centuries on the tour, equaling Patsy Hendren's record, had a remarkable tour with the bat. But for such an able player he scored his runs too slowly and was very different from the fluent stroke maker he can be when opening for Worcestershire. If he had been able to score quicker in the first innings of the third Test at Bridgetown--he made 21 in two and three-quarter hours-- New Zealand would probably have won. His tactics later in the series at Georgetown were also difficult to follow.
On this tour Congdon, who made a very able captain when Dowling returned home, developed fully as a Test batsman. He scored his runs rather more impressively than Turner, and his 126 in the Third Test was the most commanding innings by a New Zealander on the tour. He also played an important part as a medium pace bowler where his great control brought him several valuable wickets.
Howarth, orthodox left-arm spin, was the most interesting member of the attack and it was extraordinary how quickly he was able to come to terms with the strange conditions. He learned a great deal about flight and pace variations and was never mastered by the West Indians. His figures did not reflect his true worth because there was no other top class spinner to support him.
The most surprising achievement of all was that of Taylor who at fast-medium took 27 wickets in only four Test matches, equalling Snow's record in 1967/68. Tight control allied to a high action enabled him to extract any bounce going and there was no greater trier in the entire New Zealand party. It was unbelievable that their selectors could have left him out of the first Test.
Of the others, Cunis did not have quite the pace nor the variation for West Indies wickets. Alabaster, until he was injured, bowled tidily, but was more of a leg roller than a spinner. Webb and Campbell were two who were not really up to it while Morgan, Collinge's replacement, was not quite adequate either as an off spinner or a middle order batsman.
Not the least of the successes was the admirable way in which the tour was run by Murray Chapple, a former New Zealand Test player. He did a lot to relieve his players of the many different pressures which were upon them and was always a wise counsellor. He must share the credit for the success of the tour which left New Zealand cricket better placed than for many years.
For the West Indies it was rather a disillusioning three months. They should have won three Tests and had only themselves to blame that they failed to do so. Sobers's captaincy was not as sharp or as far sighted as it might have been; there was an epidemic of dropped catches and at the moment there were no genuine fast bowlers in the Caribbean.
For all that, there is an abundance of natural cricket talent around the islands. This tour threw up two splendid batsmen in Rowe and Kallicharran, who will both surely play for the West Indies for a long time to come. Inshan Ali took his chance and is a very clever unorthodox left-arm spinner while Greenidge made a more impressive start in Test cricket as an opening batsman than his figures suggested.
The West Indies were going through a period of rebuilding, but with so much natural ability at their disposal it would be surprising if they do not come up with another formidable side before long. Meanwhile, Sobers, Charlie Davis, Lloyd, Fredericks and Holder along with the newcomers will ensure that none of their opponents will have things entirely their own way in the immediate future.
Test Matches--Played 5; Drawn 5.
First-class Matches--Played 13; Won 1, Drawn 12.
All Matches--Played 16; Won 4, Drawn 12.
Wins--West Indies Universities, Tobago, Windward Islands, Bermuda.
Draws--West Indies (5), Jamaica, W.I. President's XI, Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, Windward Islands.
Match reports for
Jamaica v New Zealanders at Kingston, Feb 5-9, 1972
Windward Islands v New Zealanders at Kingstown, Apr 14-16, 1972
Windward Islands v New Zealanders at Kingstown, Apr 16, 1972