West Indies broke fresh ground in 1948-49 with a visit to India, where their batting strength astonished their hosts, and victory in the fourth match of the series enabled them to win the Test rubber. The other four encounters, like eight more of the tour, failed to produce a definite result, and West Indies, who won six first-class matches, suffered only one defeat.
Apart from the fixtures which ended in victory for West Indies, the Tests occupied five days, and doubtlessly four were drawn because both sides lacked fast bowlers up to international standard. Unfortunately for West Indies, Hines Johnson could not make the trip. Few batsmen relish the ball which buzzes in the air on account of its tremendous speed, and until bowlers are found who can combine increased velocity with accuracy of length and direction it is to be feared that many representative matches will end in stalemate. Another weakness which manifested itself was the inability of leg-break bowlers to cause much trouble.
Consequently the stage was nearly always set for formidable scores, and as the tropical heat frequently tired those entrusted with the heavy task of taking wickets it was not surprising that new batting records were established. West Indies reached the peak at New Delhi, where a total of 631, which included four centuries, was their highest ever in Tests and eclipsed the previous best for any international contest in India. More remarkable still was the fact that Weekes, the Barbadian, became the first batsman in the world to score five hundreds in consecutive Test innings. That his splendid century against England in West Indies during the last Test match of 1948 was no isolated example of his skill became obvious when he followed with four more successive three-figure innings in the first three struggles with India. Weekes also joined the company of the select few by making a hundred in each innings of the Test at Calcutta. Only Headley had previously accomplished the feat for West Indies. Another exceptional performance was a fourth stand of 267 by Walcott and Gomez at New Delhi, which constituted a West Indian record for any Test partnership.
If West Indies, like their opponents, were not adequately equipped for Test clashes, they were a versatile band of players. From the moment of arrival at Bombay they never looked like visitors to a strange land and speedily adapted themselves to their environment. For instance, when they moved from matting to the turf pitches on which all the Tests were played they were just as confident. They were popular on and off the field, and deservedly so because their play invariably reached a high standard.
The West Indies team found great inspiration in the leadership of Goddard, whose sound judgment and circumspection were attributes that counted so much for the success of the tour. A talented player and an expert tactician, he commanded the respect of his men and so got the best out of them. Actually Goddard did more than was asked or expected of any captain. He won the toss in all five Tests, thus matching the feats of Sir Stanley Jackson for England against Australia in 1905 and H. G. Deane for South Africa against England in 1927-28.
Weekes was not a new star in the West Indies firmament. The secret of his success was quickness of eye, foot and wrist. As Walcott, Stollmeyer, Gomez, Rae and Christiani all hit maiden Test centuries, the batting power seemed almost unlimited. Even Headley, who did not turn out again after an early injury, was never really missed. Jones, a promising player, able to move the ball quickly, topped the bowling averages for all matches, but Gomez claimed more wickets at almost identical cost. He relied chiefly on the swing theory, but reverted to off-spinners round the wicket with equal skill. West Indies were without a successful left-arm slow bowler, and misgivings about their attack remained with them throughout the tour. The inability of Ferguson--due mainly to shoulder trouble--to repeat his performances of the G. O. Allen tour in 1947-48 was a severe handicap.
Although Worrell, a fine batsman, did not make the trip for West Indies, the continued absence of Merchant for health reasons, which kept him at home during the tour in Australia, dealt India a bigger blow. Experiments to find a reliable opening pair were largely disappointing, and another obstacle was the failure of Amarnath to find his best Test form. Hazare, Adhikari, Mushtaq Ali and Phadkar were all seen to advantage, but rarely did India's batting equal that of their opponents in technique or attractiveness. Mankad won the admiration of friend and foe alike by clever left-arm slow bowling, the view being expressed that he had no peer in the world. Whatever the merits of this assertion, he invariably kept perfect length, was deceptive in flight and in the style of Wilfred Rhodes and J. C. White, sometimes pitched short and wide of the off stump to lure batsmen to indiscretion. In the fourth Test, Phadkar, with considerable swing, did well enough to suggest that more may be heard of him as a very useful all-rounder.
Enthusiasm for cricket in India proved unbounded and record attendances almost everywhere assured financial success for the tour. West Indies travelled by ship to England and then went by air to and from India. After exhaustive train journeys to several places, the Indian Cricket Board of Control arranged the same form of long-distance air travel for other engagements. This provided a pointer for those who organise visits to countries where players may become fatigued by ordinary transport in extremely hot weather.
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