A Memorable Tour

India won the 1971 Test series 1-0 in the Caribbean Islands with Sunil Gavaskar (below) compiling 774 runs, a record for a debutant till date, writes Gulu Ezekiel.

India's 1962 tour of the Caribbean Islands was a disaster — a 5-0 whitewash and the loss of captain Nari Contractor due to a serious injury. That series marked the beginning of the reign of Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi. Nine years later he was unseated and Ajit Wadekar took over the reins.

Four players, Dilip Sardesai, M. L. Jaisimha, Salim Durani and E. A. S. Prasanna, who had toured in 1962, were back in the side for the 1971 tour.

There were some new faces too, prominent among them was Sunil Gavaskar, a 22-year-old opener from Bombay. Gavaskar missed the first Test at Kingston, Jamaica. In this Test, India, for the first time, forced the West Indies to follow on, thanks to a splendid 212 by Sardesai.

West Indies was going through one of its lean spells, having not won a series since 1967.

The team was led by the peerless Garry Sobers, backed up by veteran Rohan Kanhai. The bowling looked thin due to the retirements of fast bowlers Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith.

India had won just a solitary series prior to 1971 and that was in 1967-68 against New Zealand. Few gave the team a chance of improving upon that record, particularly with a new captain. Further many felt that the team lacked quick bowlers.

But though the Kingston Test was drawn, the home side never quite got over the shock of having to follow on. It was considered a great humiliation for such a mighty side.

That certainly gave Wadekar and his men a boost and they skittled out West Indies for 214 on the opening day of the second Test at Port of Spain. The very first ball of the Test saw an Abid Ali shooter bowl Roy Fredericks off his pads and the batting never really recovered after that.

Abid Ali also bowled Lloyd for seven while the spin trio of Bedi, Venkat and Pras did the rest. Only Davis with an unbeaten 71 offered some resistance. But he lacked support though Grayson Shillingford, coming at No. 8, added 53 runs with Davis, pushing the total past the 200-run mark.

Openers Ashok Mankad and Gavaskar gave India a good start with 68 runs.

After Mankad was out to Shillingford for 44, it was off spinner Jack Noreiga, playing his second Test and on his home ground, who picked up the wickets of Gavaskar (65), Durani (9) and Wadekar (0) to leave the Indians in a spot of bother at 186 for four.

Sardesai once again played a great innings. He had added 96 for the second wicket with Gavaskar. Later he found an able ally in Eknath Solkar who was enjoying a purple patch with the bat in this series.

The batsmen benefited immensely from the poor catching of West Indies. Gavaskar (once) and Solkar (twice) were reprieved.

The Indian total reached 300 when Sardesai was dismissed for 112 after batting for four and a half hours. It folded quickly thereafter for 352, but gained a lead of 138 runs.

Noreiga, who made his debut in the first Test — he would play the last Test of his career in the fifth and final match at the same venue a month later — was the bowling hero with nine for 95, still the best figures for a West Indian bowler.

By close of play on the third day, the West Indian batsmen finished on 150 for one. Openers Fredericks and Kanhai had a rollicking stand. It looked like it would be a long haul for the Indian bowlers on the next day.

The fourth day's play — March 10, 1971 — turned out to be one of the memorable moments in Indian cricket history. Call it luck, call it fate... but everything went India's way on what turned out to be the final day of the Test match.

Davis, who did well with the bat on the previous day, could not join his overnight partner at the start of play. During the morning practice session, a shot by Fredericks went through a gap in the nets and hit Davis above the eyebrow. He had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment. So Lloyd walked out to bat.

Fredericks was run out without adding to his overnight score of 80. The left-hander attempted a single off Durani, but was sent back by Lloyd. Even before he could reach his crease substitute Jayantilal, fielding in place of Sardesai, did the damage.

Then two runs later, came the wicket that turned the tide. And it was the left-arm spin of Durani that did the trick with two vital wickets.

Sobers was bowled for a duck and Lloyd departed two overs later for 15, followed by Steve Camacho, who was bowled by Venkat in the next over.

The Windies were tottering at 169 for five — four wickets had fallen in the first hour for the addition of just 19 runs and India was back in the match.

Durani was not given the ball in the first innings. But after the third day's play he pleaded with Jaisimha to convince his captain to allow him to bowl first in the morning.

Though he was a failure with the bat in his last series, Jai was a vital member of Wadekar's brains-trust and his advice was heeded to.

Davis returned from hospital, rallying to his team's cause and once again played a heroic innings. But his unbeaten 74 was not enough. India needed just 124 for its first win in West Indies and made it with the loss of three wickets.

The openers batted well again and put on 74. But the dismissals of Mankad (29), Durani (0) and Sardesai (3), all to leg breaks of Arthur Barrett, saw the total slide to 84 for three. But Abid Ali and Gavaskar took over and the victory came 15 minutes before close of play with a day to spare.

Gavaskar announced his arrival with a bang (65 and 67 not out) on his debut. The next three Tests saw him reeling off four centuries, including 124 and 220 in the fifth and final Test at Port of Spain.

India had won the series 1-0 with Gavaskar compiling 774 runs, still a world record for a debutant in a Test series. And just four months later came the victory against England at the Oval. It was a memorable year indeed for Indian cricket.

THE SCORES

West Indies 214 (R. B. Kanhai 37,C. A. Davis 71 not out, G. S. Sobers 29, G. C Shillingford 25,E. A. S. Prasanna four for 54, B. S. Bedi three for 46) and 261 (R. C. Fredericks 80, R. B Kanhai 27, C. A. Davis 74 not out, S. Venkatraghavan five for 95) lost to India 352 (A. V. Mankad 44, S. M. Gavaskar 65, D. N. Sardesai 112, E. D. Solkar 55, J. M. Noreiga nine for 95) and 125 (A. V. Mankad 29, S. M. Gavaskar 67 not out, A. G. Barrett three for 43).