India 1 England 1

M.C.C. tour of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, 1951-52

Taking everything into consideration, the M. C. C. team which toured India, Pakistan and Ceylon in the winter of 1951-52 did as well as could have been expected. They began the tour under a big handicap, knowing they were being termed England's second string, and hard as they tried to prove that false, they never really succeeded. They took a long time to settle down, and even midway through the tour, when at their best, ground conditions made it difficult for them to force victories. As a result a large proportion of the games were drawn, thirteen in fact in first-class matches, compared with seven wins and three losses--one in each country.

In the Test Matches with India, England shared the honours, each side gaining one victory, with the remaining three drawn. The tour lacked colour and, except perhaps in one or two instances, failed to show English cricket at its best. At the same time it must be emphasised that cricket in India is very much different from that in England. Pitches there are practically all of the slow, lifeless type, unhelpful to either batsmen or bowlers. These, plus the trying heat and humidity, made it sheer hard work with little reward forthcoming. The bowlers, particularly, had a most difficult tour. On not more than four occasions did the faster men find pitches which gave the slightest encouragement, and for them it generally meant an over or two at full pace while the shine remained on the ball, then a drop to three-quarter speed to conserve energy.

Statham and Ridgway had days when they looked really menacing, but they were very rare, and it must have been a heartbreaking tour for them. The loose-muscled 21-year-old Statham did, however, show signs that he might develop into a really first-class bowler. He filled out a little and at times looked genuinely fast. Shackleton and Watkins were the stock bowlers. Both did much valuable work but rarely looked dangerous. Shackleton took most wickets on the tour; his well-controlled late swing worried a number of sides but he seldom upset the better-class batsmen, hence the reason why he played in only one Test. Watkins did good work in keeping down runs and bowled rather more than expected. His final figures did not reflect his value to the side in this respect.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the comparative failure of the spin attack. Hilton and Tattersall had the reputation of being two of the best slow bowlers in England, but for the most part they looked ordinary in India. For the purpose of obtaining response from the pitches there, bowlers must employ real finger spin, with plenty of wrist action. India's slow men realised it. In England not so much effort is needed to make the ball turn, the turf being more helpful to bowlers. This lack of bite in the spin was most noticeable during the tour, even second-class Indian slow bowlers often looked more dangerous than the Englishmen.

Tattersall deserved credit for his persistence and clever variation of length, flight and pace. He always bowled intelligently and was the most successful Test attacker. Hilton took a long time to settle down, but improved considerably later in the tour when he often experimented with leg theory, forcing the batsmen to play at balls pitched just outside the leg-stump to an inner and outer ring of fieldsmen. At Kanpur, where England won the fourth Test on a pitch which gave a surprising amount of help to spin, Tattersall and Hilton showed how dangerous they could be with ground help.

The lack of a top-class leg-spinner was badly felt. Rhodes, who returned home for an operation early in the tour, might have been successful, for in the early matches he was one of the few bowlers able to beat the bat with any regularity and his well-disguised googly often baffled the batsmen. Leadbeater, flown out to replace Rhodes, showed commendable keenness, but proved costly. Towards the end he reduced the length of his run, bowled with a rounder arm action and looked more effective. Carr, with his mixture of left-arm off-breaks and googlies, turned the ball more than anyone, but lacked consistency, his length and direction often going sadly astray. Like Robertson, however, he often broke an awkward stand when the others failed. Robertson finished top of the bowling averages with 14 wickets, and perhaps more use might have been made of his off-spinners. During the early stages, when a number of matches were played on matting, he was the most effective bowler.

On paper the batting should have been quite formidable, yet only three times was a total of 400 reached. Often batsmen got themselves out when apparently well set and rarely did more than one or two strike form together. Graveney and Watkins were perhaps the only batsmen who enhanced their reputations. Graveney did well throughout. Hitting six hundreds and scoring over 200 more runs than anyone else, he easily headed the averages. His scoring strokes were generally limited to an arc between extra cover and wide mid-on, usually off the back foot, but he used them well and, keeping his head down, watched the ball closely in defence. He looked a definite England prospect and gave promise of developing into a real personality. The left-handed Watkins saved his best innings for the Tests, making good scores in every game. His Test average of 64.42 was the best for either side and India feared him more than anyone else. His grim determination and fighting spirit were glorious to behold and the innings of nine hours he played at Delhi undoubtedly saved England from defeat in the first Test.

Lowson possessed more strokes and looked the most accomplished batsman on the side, but he had an unfortunate time in the Tests. His skill could not be denied and he seemed an England batsman all over, the only doubt being the question of temperament. The number four position caused trouble. Kenyon was unable to settle down there and eventually it was given to Robertson. This allowed Spooner to go in first, where he was much happier than in a lower position. Poole, after recovering from a broken finger which kept him out for the first two months, showed consistent form and strengthened the middle batting, and a number of stylish innings came from Carr, the vice-captain. Nigel Howard led the side capably, but disappointed with the bat and was unfortunate to develop pleurisy during the second half of the tour. The wicket-keeping of Brennan and Spooner reached a high level, with Brennan perhaps superior behind the stumps but being left out of the Tests because of Spooner's batting ability.

India, for the most part, looked a better balanced side, with strength in batting making them extremely difficult to dismiss cheaply. Roy, a definite discovery, scored more runs than any other Indian batsman in a Test series against England, Hazare made centuries in the first two Tests, and good support came from Gopinath, Umrigar, Phadkar and Adhikari, with others occasionally rising to the occasion. India possessed by far the best bowler on either side in their slow left-hander Mankad, whose achievement of taking 34 wickets in the series on pitches seldom suitable to him was a great performance. Shinde bowled superbly at Delhi and Ghulam Ahmed showed good form in the last two Tests, but without Mankad India's attack would have been weak. England were slightly superior in the field, especially in ground work, but taken all round India were the sounder combination.

Match reports for

1st Test: India v England at Delhi, Nov 2-7, 1951
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2nd Test: India v England at Brabourne, Dec 14-19, 1951
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3rd Test: India v England at Eden Gardens, Dec 30, 1951 - Jan 4, 1952
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4th Test: India v England at Kanpur, Jan 12-14, 1952
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5th Test: India v England at Chennai, Feb 6-10, 1952
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