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In the arrangement of tours Marylebone Cricket Club always has set the furtherance of friendship between man and man, country and country, as one of its main hopes and objectives. As the recognised Privy Council of cricket, M.C.C. firmly maintain their idealistic outlook that the spirit in which the game is played carries greater importance than such transient elation or disappointment as the winning or losing of a Test Series. In days when so many attach the unhappy word prestige to nearly every international sporting event such an attitude should be encouraged rather than criticised as out-dated and unrealistic.
This made it all the more regrettable that the visit of the M.C.C. representatives to the West Indies in the early months of 1954 aroused such controversy and uneasiness. Whatever the gains in other directions, the primary intention for the tour was not fulfilled and the circumstances of its failure were such that all those with the welfare of cricket at heart recognised that the problems arising needed to be tackled boldly but without heat.
To set out the origins and assess the responsibilities for the tension which marred so much is anything but simple. Certainly the early insistence of so many people that the cricket championship of the world was at stake did nothing to ease the situation. Nor did the constant emphasis upon victory which the M.C.C. players found to be stressed by English residents in the West Indies.
A certain amount of tension was thus created before a ball had been bowled. This quickly became heightened through crowds, whose intense noise, coupled with almost ceaseless torrid heat, provided a background in which tempers too easily became frayed. At times some crowds were demonstrative and twice they became menacing.
Convinced by the happenings on the field that the general standard of umpiring in the West Indies was not adequate for Test cricket, the touring team felt that the crowd atmosphere made the work of the men in the middle even harder than it should have been. The M.C.C. players sympathised with umpires threatened with physical violence, as marred the First and Third Tests. When, as the West Indies players admitted, the majority of disputed decisions, usually at moments of match crisis, went against M.C.C., they wondered how in the circumstances any umpires could remain completely calm and controlled.
To a man the M.C.C. team recognised their responsibilities as ambassadors of sport, but, being human, the less phlegmatic did not always hide their annoyance and displeasure. In some instances only someone with the forbearance of the most highly-trained diplomat could have been expected to preserve absolute sang-froid. Dramatic gestures of disappointment and untactful remarks, however understandable some of them were in the heat of a moment, caused resentment among West Indies officials, umpires and others. No doubt some of the incidents were exaggerated, but to deny their existence or to minimise their seriousness would be only a disservice to the future welfare of the game.
In view of previous occurrences, fears were held that the last Test, which England entered requiring victory to draw the rubber, would add fuel to the flames, though these, it must be emphasised, had never extended to the players. Instead, reason prevailed and a splendid match went through without rancour. Cricket became a game again, not a battle. Even so, one pleasant game was insufficient to erase earlier memories, and anyone who followed the tour from first to last finished with two definite conclusions.
One concerned the necessity for alteration in the system of electing umpires for Tests in West Indies. As it was, in every Test England had to accept umpires from the colony in which the game was to be played. Even when Hutton in British Guiana objected to the two colony match officials standing in the Test, the West Indies Board would not agree to umpires being brought over from another island. After hearing their emphasis on the danger of creating inter-island jealousies, Hutton reluctantly agreed to two other Georgetown umpires, one of whom he had never seen in charge of a game.
A panel of umpires, drawn from all the islands, who could be inspected by the captains before the Tests began and from whom officials could be chosen for the whole series, appeared to be the only solution and one which was to be recommended emphatically. In nearly every Test series one side experiences more than an equal share of acceptedly wrong decisions, but the England team estimated that the proportion of these which went against them was in the region of seven or eight to two, a number they believed to be too much out of proportion for them not to become aggrieved.
Against this dissatisfaction had to be placed the responsibility attached to all cricketers honoured by selection for M.C.C. Whatever the provocation and the pinpricks, only harm can arise when M.C.C. cricketers fall from the highest estate of conduct on the field. As many loyal West Indies people pointed out, the foundation of their own task in instilling the principles of sportsmanship into the rising generations in the islands was to cite English cricketers as the models. They said that if the models lowered their code, the effect could be far-reaching and depressing.
Only one or two of Hutton's team deserved this censure, but even the slightest sign of disagreement became public property, as must be accepted in times when Test matches are given increasing prominence in newspaper, radio and news-reel, self-control should have been regarded as essential. Earlier and firmer handling of the most recalcitrant member, the fiery Trueman, might have avoided several situations, but, anxious not to dim the spark of Trueman's hostility and aggressiveness, Hutton probably waited too long before calling his lively colt to heel. Potentially Trueman remained a fast bowler of whom England could expect stirring deeds, but first he required to harness his temper solely to his fast bowling.
From a cricket point of view, the tour was divided into two distinct phases. Fresh from defeating Australia, England played well below form and capabilities in the first two Tests. Bottom was reached on the third day of the Second Test when, in five hours, they scored 128 runs from 114 overs and lost seven wickets--in perfect conditions. Their methods merited and received much criticism.
Improvement came in the Third Test, England played together more as a team, became angry through a bottle-throwing interlude and, in anger, rose to a united best. After this victory England knew they had to win again in Jamaica--the Fourth Test on the Trinidad mat being accepted by both sides as a draw from the outset--to level the rubber, and, thanks to inspired bowling by Bailey and a double century by Hutton, they did so with a day to spare.
From first to last no batsman compared with Hutton. His performance in leading the Test averages on either side, with 96.71, was overshadowed by the mastery he showed of every bowler in every innings of any length. In concentration and certainty he stood alone and, when inclined, he produced his most majestic attacking strokes, without ever allowing the wine of them to course to his head. In the last three Tests Hutton's average was a shade under 150, and throughout he was the bulwark of England's batting.
Considering the weight of his many responsibilities and worries, Hutton played magnificent cricket, but he showed reluctance to take what at times appeared to be necessary corrective action with the more headstrong.
Compton began uncertainly, discovered himself in Barbados and thereafter played so well that he re-established himself as a reliable England number four batsman, but none of the others took full advantage of their opportunities. Most advance came from May, who, after allowing himself to be confined to crease-tied defence in the earlier matches, eventually gave rein to his attacking strokes and began to fulfill his rich promise. At the start Graveney also pursued caution too far and he never thoroughly settled down, but no one could doubt his potential talent. In experiments to find an opening batsman, Watson at first looked likely to provide the answer, but his century in the First Test was his only major innings, and the ever-dependable Bailey became Hutton's partner in the last two Tests.
In bowling, as in batting, individual performances varied considerably. Long before the end Statham had advanced his reputation as a fast bowler of the highest class, and his dramatic spell of three wickets for ten runs in the Third Test helped materially to turn the course of the series. Much was expected of Trueman, but, although he bowled well in the first match and in the last Test, he lacked accuracy in between and seldom attained his full pace. Lock, the other big hope, required a long time to adjust his methods to the different conditions, but in the end he did so very well. After being no-balled for throwing three times in one day in Barbados, Lock discarded his faster ball and as a result some of his value was reduced through the absence of his surprise weapon. None of the slow bowlers, however, found their work on West Indies pitches other than hard with very occasional, and usually costly, reward.
By contrast to England, the West Indies played their best cricket in the first two Tests. Deterioration set in through two batting failures in British Guiana, and, after the draw at Trinidad, another collapse in the first innings of the last Test gave England the surprise chance they seized so surely. Most consistent of the batsmen was the massive Walcott, most of whose drives off the back foot left the bat at finger-splitting speed. On this form he deserved to be ranked level with Weekes, still capable of pulverising any attack in spite of frequent leg trouble which threatened to bring an early finish to his Test career.
Apart from an innings of 167 on the Trinidad mat, Worrell looked stale and out of touch, probably through too much cricket. Holt, a new opening partner to the stylish Stollmeyer, played two long innings without being thoroughly impressive against the faster bowlers, but Atkinson, whose style of bowling as well as batting was reminiscent of that of K. R. Miller, attracted attention as an all-rounder deriving full enjoyment from every moment of play.
In dismissing Laker in the Third Test, Valentine became the youngest player, at 23, to reach a Test aggregate of 100 wickets, but his bowling fell some way below its previous standard. When injured, he was replaced by Sobers, a 17-year-old left-arm-slow bowler and useful batsman, who showed distinct promise. With Valentine off form or absent through injury, the theory that he and Ramadhin provided such a perfect foil to one another that the decline of one would be crippling to the other was proved incorrect through Ramadhin's emergence as the most successful bowler on either side.
C. H. Palmer won much credit on his first tour as manager, but, as a principle, the policy of a manager-player to an M.C.C. tour in West Indies was not to be commended. In such trying circumstances as existed in 1954 the manager required to know exactly where his authority and duties began and ended.
Matches--Played 10, Won 6, Lost 2, Drawn 2
Matches--Played 5, Won 2, Lost 2, Drawn 1
Match reports for
1st Test: West Indies v England at Kingston, Jan 15-21, 1954
2nd Test: West Indies v England at Bridgetown, Feb 6-12, 1954
3rd Test: West Indies v England at Georgetown, Feb 24-Mar 2, 1954
4th Test: West Indies v England at Port of Spain, Mar 17-23, 1954
5th Test: West Indies v England at Kingston, Mar 30-Apr 3, 1954