India, after their triumph against England in 1961-62, had reason to embark on their tour of the West Indies with hope and great heart, if not with glowing optimism, but they returned home vanquished in all five Tests and the colony game against Barbados.
Their only first-class victory was in the last match against the Leeward and Windward Islands and followed six defeats and two drawn games.
India, even had they given of their best, might not have won a Test against a side of such immense all-round strength, but they should not have lost four of the five Tests so easily, and should have drawn the third Test comfortably.
The score cards of the matches in the West Indies were a correct reflection of the players' form on the tour, but certainly not an accurate index of the strength of the side when it left India.
Circumstances, to an extent, militated against the touring side touching peak form in the West Indies. The heavy domestic season, which had started in August instead of in November, had taxed their energy, determination and concentration beyond measure, and it was folly on the Board's part to hustle them into a tour in so short a time after the end of the home season.
The Indians took the field under a hot Trinidad sun within twelve hours of arrival from wintry London and New York. A crop of pulled muscles and stomach disorders was inevitable, and throughout the tour the players' nostrils were filled with the odours of drugs and liniments.
A nasty accident to Contractor, the captain and opening batsman, half-way through the tour, had the team in a state of shock, anxiety and extreme unhappiness. What most of the outside world heard about the incident was that Contractor was struck through ducking to a ball delivered by Charles Griffith, which never rose beyond the height of the stumps.
Contractor did not duck into the ball. He got behind it to play at it -- he probably wanted to fend it away towards short-leg -- but could not judge the height to which it would fly, bent back from the waist in a desperate, split-second attempt to avoid it and was hit just above the right ear. A few hours later, in his second over of the second innings of this match in Barbados, Griffith, a fast bowler, was no-balled for throwing by the square-leg umpire Cortez Jordan.
Viewed in the light of the performances against Dexter's side at home, the Indian batting side in the West Indies looked one of the finest ever to leave the country. No longer did the Indian batsmen show that hysterical uneasiness against pace, and one felt that if Hall was played with method, determination and good sense, India would always be able to put up sizable scores. This was not the case.
Well as they bowled, one still wondered how Sobers and Gibbs reaped such abundant harvests when, at home, the Indians had played Lock and Allen with skill and imagination.
The Indian bowling, which originally looked so inadequate, acquitted itself creditably. Of course, all through the tour, the lack of a genuine pace attack was keenly felt.
India also sadly missed Subash Gupte, and never more than in the last two Tests, when West Indies had to bat a second time. In spite of Gupte's absence, the spin bowling was of the highest class, though it sorely lacked variety. Often, when runs were being scored too fast, Nadkarni and Durani had to bowl opposite each other, and the versatile Surti delivered orthodox spinners as often as he bowled with an upright seam.
As against England, Durani was the foremost wicket-taker, and Borde performed creditably till Pataudi took over the captaincy. Having learnt and played most of his cricket in England, Pataudi seemed inexperienced in the handling of leg-spinners.
When free from fibrositis of the back, Umrigar bowled his offbreaks with admirable steadiness and hostility. India would have been subjected to a much greater gruelling but for Umrigar's sustained accuracy during many long spells.
The saving grace of the Indian's performance on this tour was their ground fielding, which was as good as that of any contemporary Test side. Surti was outstanding. If the catching had touched even half these heights, the Indians would have saved themselves a lot of humiliation.
To look at the other side of the coin, there were few chinks in the West Indies' armour, and these were not fully exposed because of the limitation of the opposition.
One of their most glaring weaknesses was at the top of the batting order, with Hunte experiencing probably the leanest series of his career.
Had the Indian batting not proved so inept, West Indies might have felt the want of adequate support for Hall in the opening attack. Of all the other pace bowlers tried during the series, King, of Jamaica, who made his Test debut in the final test, looked a great prospect for the future.
In the spin attack, Gibbs looked a world beater. So masterly was his variation of flight that he appeared capable of succeeding on the truest pitches. Sobers again proved his versatility with the ball. As a purveyor of the chinaman and the left-hander's googly, he looked a vastly improved bowler than when he toured India in 1958-59.
There were frequent and wide fluctuations in the West Indies' fielding ability. In the wicket-keeping department, Hendricks proved himself a worthy successor to the retired Alexander, while Allan, of Barbados, was seen to great advantage when keeping to pace.
Matches -- Played 12, Won 2, Lost 6, Drawn 4
Test Matches -- Played 5, Lost 5
First- Class Matches -- Played 9, Won 1, Lost 6, Drawn 2
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