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Tour and tournament reports

India in England, 1952

India returned home at the end of the 1952 tour of England well satisfied with a profit of over £11,000, but far from happy about their performances on the field

India returned home at the end of the 1952 tour of England well satisfied with a profit of over £11,000, but far from happy about their performances on the field. Frankly, they were a big disappointment and few countries have finished with such a poor record. Admittedly they lost only five matches, but they won no more than four of their first-class games and offered little opposition in the Tests. No fewer than twenty of the twenty-nine games were drawn--a fact that showed the biggest failing of the team.
From the moment the Indians arrived there seemed to be an attitude of defensive caution in their play, and the longer the tour progressed and the failures continued the more pronounced it became. Defeat was the horrid ogre in their path, and to ward it off they retired into a cave, pulled a massive rock over the entrance and attempted to defy all efforts to dislodge them. Against the battering rams of Trueman and Bedser when opposed to the full strength of England, this proved useless, as would probably have been any tactics they might have adopted. But the same methods could hardly be excused when they were opposed to county sides. India were weak as a representative team, but certainly not as bad as they made themselves appear. A more vigorous policy would probably have brought greater success and even more financial reward.
Having beaten England at Madras and gained the first Test victory in their history a short while before they sailed, the Indians were expected to do a good deal better than their predecessors on tour. It soon became obvious that this was not to be, and in the four Tests they were outclassed. They lost the first three and the weather saved them in the last.
People in India failed to understand why their side did so badly, not realising that there is a wide difference in the game of cricket as played in the two countries. It was this difference which the team could not overcome. In India pitches, with one or two exceptions, are completely lifeless, giving no encouragement to bowlers of any type. Batsmen get a false sense of security, and as long as they discard risks and concentrate on punishing only the bad balls they are in little danger. Hence the massive totals and slow rate of run-getting often found in matches in India. The most serious result is that fast bowling has become a lost art, for, as Statham and Ridgway found there, during the M. C. C. tour, it is merely a waste of time pounding away in the heat with such little reward. For all their energy, the ball came off so sluggishly that batsmen had plenty of time to step back and watch it right on to the bat.
This was a terrific handicap to India in England and explained to a large extent the disintegration before Trueman. Few of their batsmen had ever faced such speed and they did not know whether to play forward or back. The ball which flew round their head was a new thing to them--and they had no answer to it. Without a real fast bowler on their own side, there could be no question of retaliation. Quick spin, too, baffled them, for again they rarely meet it. A side which goes on tour inexperienced in facing fast bowling and the quickly-turning ball has little hope of succeeding. The remedy lies in the hands of the Indian authorities, who, if they expect their country to become a world power in cricket, must make every endeavour to introduce more pace into their pitches.
There can be little doubt that more players of experience were needed to balance the side, and the absence of men like Merchant, Mankad, Amarnath and Mushtaq Ali must, in the circumstances, be regretted. Yet at least three of them could have toured. Merchant, who hurt a shoulder against England at Delhi, stated that he could not make the trip and later announced his retirement, but, even though Amarnath and Mushtaq Ali were not particularly successful in their own country, their knowledge of English conditions would have been invaluable. As for Mankad, his absence was a tragedy for India. For a cricketer of his ability--one of the best all-rounders in the world--to play League cricket in England while his own team were touring here was hardly believable. Mankad's presence throughout, instead of in only three Test Matches, could have made a tremendous difference to the team. This is not the place to delve into the rights and wrongs of the argument between the ruling body and Mankad, but it can be said that with a little more tact an amicable settlement should not have been difficult.
Another headache to India is the shortage of first-class leaders. With all due respects to Hazare, a thorough gentleman and a great cricketer, he was far from the ideal captain. His shy, retiring disposition did not lend itself to forceful authority. During play he made few mistakes, but lacked the inspiration which can revitalise a struggling team. Off the field he did not relish the responsibilities that go with captaincy and such matters as speechmaking worried him. There is little doubt that Hazare would have been far more successful had he not been given this arduous duty. Unfortunately there were few others in India capable of undertaking the task.
Considering that the side were regarded as powerful in batting when they arrived, it was most disappointing that only Umrigar, Hazare and Manjrekar completed 1,000 runs. Umrigar, with 1,688, was the leading run-getter, and this tall and powerfully-built batsman sometimes scored so easily and quickly that it was surprising that he did not do even better. When set, he demoralised the bowling, and in his five three-figure innings there were three double hundreds as well as a not out 165. At Oxford, where he made 229 not out, Umrigar and Hazare shared a stand of 366, the best for India in any match against an English side. What a contrast was his Test batting, when he showed his dislike of fast bowling. He obtained no more than 43 runs in seven innings, doing even worse than Roy, who failed to score in five of his seven Test innings. Roy was a young opening batsman of whom India held high hopes, but, although showing glimpses of what he could do, he and another youngster, Gopinath, were perhaps the biggest batting failures of the tour. Both are, in fact, more than average players, but English conditions upset them from the start and they became over-anxious. A real discovery was the youngest member of the side, Manjrekar, aged 20. One of the few batsmen who refused to be disturbed by the big occasion, he hit a fine century in the first Test at Leeds, and played many other noteworthy innings, showing attractive strokes and style. The vice-captain, Adhikari, a neat player, displayed good fighting spirit at times. Short of opening batsmen, Hazare made a number of experiments before settling on D. K. Gaekwad, another youngster who showed promise and learned quickly.
Their failure at Leeds led to the Indians applying to Haslingden for the release of Mankad for the remaining Tests. The Lancashire League club agreed, and at Lord's Mankad not only went in first but he scored 72 and a remarkable 184 which thrilled everyone who saw it. Mankad is too adventurous to be consistent, however, and he failed to repeat his triumph in the other games. In actual fact Mankad is a better bowler than batsman, but cleverly as he flighted and spun his left-handed slows, he could make little impression on the England batsmen.
The leading bowler was the off-spinner, Ghulam Ahmed, who had days when he looked in the highest world class, but on other occasions he lacked bite. The powerfully built Ramchand, the surprise choice for the tour, fully justified his inclusion. His wholehearted all-round work as medium-paced in-swing bowler and hard-hitting batsman made him one of the most valuable members of the party. The faster men, Phadkar and Divecha, tried hard, but did not do as well as expected, and the spinners, Shinde and Sarwate, were big disappointments. Sarwate, one of the most experienced men in the side, had a most unhappy tour, both with bat and ball.
The fielding of the side was patchy. Some of the work, particularly that of Adhikari, D. Gaekwad, Manjrekar, Ramchand and Umrigar, was first class, but a good deal of slackness was also noticeable and a struggling side could ill afford the many dropped catches that occurred. Sen looked the neater of the wicket-keepers, but Mantri improved considerably as the tour progressed.
A curious feature of the tour was the selection of the teams to play in the county games. While appreciating the desire of the side to do well, it was difficult to understand why some players were constantly left out. For instance, H. G. Gaekwad, the only left-hander in the party, although always fit, played no more than nine first-class matches. He began with four erratic overs against Surrey in the second match and was not given another chance until five matches later against Essex, when he was the most successful bowler. Chowdhury, the medium-paced off-spinner, appeared in only ten games. Such methods can hardly be expected to give players confidence or enable them to recover form. It is generally anticipated that if a player is considered good enough to tour and provided he is fit he will be given a fair chance.
Whatever their shortcomings on the field, the Indians were deservedly popular wherever they went. The tour was free from disagreeable incidents and a good deal of credit for this must go to the exuberant and efficient manner in which P. Gupta managed the side.


Test matches.--Played 4, Lost 3, Drawn 1.
First-Class Matches.--Played 29, Won 4, Lost 5, Drawn 20.
All Matches.--Played 34, Won 6, Lost 5, Drawn 23.
Wins.--Oxford University, Ireland, Combined Services, Lancashire, Surrey, Gloucestershire.
Draws.--England, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, Cambridge University, M. C. C., Essex, Somerset, Glamorgan (2), Ireland, Durham, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, A Commonwealth XI, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Middlesex, Kent, Hampshire, An England XI, Minor Counties, T. N. Pearce's XI.
Losses.--England (3), Surrey, Sussex.