On the eve of the 1994-95 tour of India by the West Indies, the home team were firmly installed as favourites to win the three-Test series. The Indian team was on a roll at home where they had registered nine successive victories in the period from 1988 to 1994.
Against all odds, the batting and bowling gelled together at a vital time and none personified this never-say-die attitude than Jimmy Adams. An obdurate left-hander with an insatiable appetite for runs, Adams proved a veritable thorn in India's flesh by amassing 520 runs at a more-than-Bradmanesque average of 173.33.
Against that, the West Indies had lost their No 1 ranking and the slide had started in real earnest. By the early 90s, the vast majority of the stars of the all-conquering team of the 80s had retired. To compound matters, they were, for various reasons, without several leading players including reigning captain Richie Richardson, fast bowlers Curtly Ambrose and Winston Benjamin and veteran opener Desmond Haynes.
The side, led by Courtney Walsh, had one really big name in vice captain Brian Lara, who in the first half of 1994 had set the two famous world-record scores of 375 and 501 not out. The captain, of course, was one of the top fast bowlers in the world while Carl Hooper, Phil Simmons and Keith Arthurton were cricketers with some experience. But little was known about the other players in the side and the chances of the tourists doing well were not rated highly.
Things seemed to move according to prediction when India won the first Test at Bombay by 96 runs to make it ten in a row at home. But the winning streak was halted in the next Test in Nagpur in which the West Indies earned a honourable draw. And in the final Test at Mohali, West Indies scored a surprise 243-run victory to level the series against all expectations.
How did this turnabout come about? It would be easy to put it down to a sense of complacency on the part of the Indians. Indeed, it was largely perceived that Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin had let the West Indies off the hook at Nagpur with a delayed declaration on the final morning.
But that would be downplaying the fighting spirit displayed by the visitors. Against all odds, the batting and bowling gelled together at a vital time and none personified this never-say-die attitude than Jimmy Adams. An obdurate left-hander with an insatiable appetite for runs, Adams proved a veritable thorn in India's flesh by amassing 520 runs at a more-than-Bradmanesque average of 173.33. He just loved to bat and hated getting out, signified by his figures 39 and 81, 125 not out and 23, 174 not out and 78 not out.
Adams easily put into the shade his more illustrious colleagues, Lara, Hooper and Arthurton, though, the trio did pull in their weight now and then, and by the end of the series, the Indian bowlers had ran out of ideas to get Adams out. More, however , was certainly expected from Lara, given his lofty reputation. But in six innings, his highest score remained 91.
The bowling hinged too much on Walsh and Kenny Benjamin and the pace duo did well in taking 17 wickets each. But Hooper's off spinners were a welcome support and he even had a five-wicket haul at Nagpur.
India did everything right till the final day of the series when the batting crumbled against the pace of Walsh and Benjamin. But for this aberration, the traditional batting strength was in full bloom with Sachin Tendulkar getting his eighth Test hundred while still 21. Navjot Sidhu and Manoj Prabhakar were the other century makers while Azharuddin, Nayan Mongia and Sanjay Manjrekar chipped in with valuable contributions.
The eclipse of Vinod Kambli, however, was a sad sight. The left-hander was a sitting duck for fast, short-pitched deliveries and could only garner 64 runs at an average of 10.66. It marked the beginning of the end of his Test career.
In bowling, the spinners, not unexpectedly, were the dominant force with Anil Kumble and Venkatapathy Raju picking up 33 wickets between them.
It was also the first Test series since 1978 without Kapil Dev representing India. He had a rather melancholic end to his international career in the first one-day game against the tourists, interestingly enough in his hometown of Faridabad. He was mauled by openers Phil Simmons and Stuart Williams and went for 37 runs in five overs. Then in regaining his crease during a brief knock of 12, he damaged his hamstring and a few days later, announced his retirement.
The tour, in fact, was heavily loaded with one-day matches. Besides a contest between the two teams, there was also a new innovation a triangular tournament involving New Zealand. West Indies lost a oneday series to India for the first time and also went down in the final of the triangular competition, again to India.