India's 4-0 defeat in their first full series in Australia in 14 years betrayed serious shortcomings in the team, but it also highlighted the tourists' handicap of inadequate preparation for the Tests. On the insistence of their own Board, India were allowed only one first-class match before the opening Test. While Australia won the First, Second and Fifth Tests by crushing margins, India were deprived by the weather of almost certain victory in the Third. In addition, they salvaged much glory from the Fourth. Although the outcome of the series was no surprise, the Tests did not follow the predicated course. It was expected that India's batting would hold its own while the bowling would be annihilated. As it happened, India, except at Sydney, were always short of runs while the bowling had Australia in trouble at some stage of every Test. The major weakness of the Indians' batting was at the top of the order, where a more dependable opening pair would have helped the middle order yield better returns. This view was reinforced by the course India's innings took in the Third Test, in which Shastri scored a double-century.
The outstanding Indian batsman was Tendulkar, whose 148 not out in the Third Test was so largely responsible for giving India a glimpse of victory and whose 114 at Perth saved them from an even quicker rout in the Fifth. On the placid Adelaide pitch, Azharuddin scored a spectacular century but, at all other times, he gave the impression of lacking both the technique and the determination to cope with Australian conditions.
The pillar of India's attack was a rejuvenated Kapil Dev who, with 25 wickets, had his most successful series on foreign soil. In the final Test, he reached a career aggregate of 400 Test wickets, a mark hitherto passed only by Sir Richard Hadlee. Prabhakar, who shared the new ball with Kapil Dev, also bowled with great heart and India's new pace bowling discovery, Srinath, was often unlucky and looked an excellent prospect for the future. The spinners were allowed a minor role, although it was Shastri who bowled India within range of victory in Sydney, and it was unfortunate that a knee injury ended his tour not many days later. India's fielding was below acceptable standards, although it did improve as the series progressed.
While Mark Taylor was a heavy scorer, Marsh had a poor series and outside the First Test, Australia, like their opponents, invariably lost an early wicket. Nor was there much stability in the middle order. Jones was averaging below 23 until he scored a magnificent unbeaten 150 in the final innings of the series. Mark Waugh looked in good touch and yet had a poor series, leading to his omission from the Fifth Test. For a batsman with an outstanding record against India, Border was also short of runs, but the three major innings he played were all in times of need. It was he who staved off defeat in the Third Test. Boon was the bulwark of the Australian batting, his batting as sturdy and robust as his build. He amassed 556 runs, including centuries in each of the last three Tests, while the lack of depth to India's bowling often helped the tailenders make telling contributions. Marsh, with Waugh, was dropped from the Fifth Test. It was a move which placed his captain, Border, at odds with the selectors and provoked from him an angry public outburst which, under a less indulgent administration, would have incurred disciplinary action.
Australia's main strength was their bowling, with McDermott consistently hostile. He took five wickets in an innings three times and collected 31 wickets, a record for Australia in a series against India. The Indians found Reid, who missed the First Test and broke down early in the Third, unplayable in the Second, in which he took six wickets in each innings. Hughes and Whitney also had their turns as match-winners. Hughes took 22 wickets in the series and was prominent in Australia's victories in the First and Fourth Tests. Whitney, filling Reid's role of left-arm pace bowler, wrecked India's second innings at Perth, bringing the Fifth Test to an abrupt end. Australia dropped catches, some of them proving expensive; but they also held many that were outstanding for speed of reflexes and athleticism. On the ground, they gave away nothing.
The series was historic in that it was the first to be played under the ICC's new code of conduct and the first in which the restriction on short-pitched bowling applied. It also marked the inception of the office of referee- shared by former England captains Mike Smith and Peter May. Played in amicable spirit, the series was free of altercations. However, when the Indian manager, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, stated publicly, halfway through the Second Test, that he had asked the Australian Board not to reappoint one of the umpires in subsequent Tests, Smith warned the Indian management of its responsibilities. There were other occasions when the Indians expressed dissatisfaction with the umpiring. As often as not, television showed their complaints to be justified. At one stage, India's cricket manager, Abbas Ali Baig, drew attention to the disparity in lbw decisions given against the two sides. Perhaps, he noted drily, there are changes in the lbw of which we have not been made aware.
Test matches- Played 5: Lost 4, Drawn 1.
First-class matches- Played 7: Won 1, Lost 5, Drawn 1.
Losses- Australia (4), New South Wales.
One-day internationals- Played 10: Won 3, Lost 6, Tied 1. Wins- Australia, West Indies (2). Losses- Australia (5), West Indies. Tie- West Indies.
Other non first-class matches- Played 4: Won 1, Lost 3. Win- New South Wales Country XI. Losses- ACB Chairman's XI, Western Australia, Prime Minister's XI