That historic triumph and this
by Partab Ramchand

Event:India in West Indies 1970/71

DateLine: 11th July 2006


Comparisons may be odious but I just can’t help putting the two results side by side – the latest triumph in the Caribbean and the only other one registered 35 years ago – and arguing the merits and demerits of both contests.


In the first place it must be said that the 1971 team outpoints the present squad from the historical viewpoint. Anything achieved for the first time scores over any subsequent triumph. Moreover the triumph 35 years ago represented a path breaking series in that it saw the arrival of Sunil Gavaskar. If the history of mankind is divided into two eres – BC and AD – the history of Indian cricket is divided into two eras – BG and AG. Before Gavaskar burst upon the scene so dramatically Indian cricket was marked by defeats, debacles and disasters and very few triumphant moments. The period since then has generally been marked by glorious victories, rare individual feats and greater respect for Indian cricket and cricketers in the international arena. Sure they have been the low points but these have been comparatively few.


In fact the 1971 Indian team within months after their triumphant campaign in the Caribbean went on score another historic first – a series win in England. Yes, there can be little doubt that from the historical viewpoint the former triumph is the greater feat.


Coming to the strength of the Indian team there is little to choose between the two squads. In spin bowling the 1971 squad would seem to have the edge. It had Bishen Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and S Venkatraghavan (not to forget Salim Durrani who struck telling blows in the only victory at Port of Spain) to the present side’s Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. There is little doubt however that the 2006 squad scores over the 1971 team in pace bowling. Irfan Pathan, S Sreesanth and Munaf Patel have predictably shown much more firepower than the comparatively gentle duo of Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar though the former did have his moments. In wicket keeping P Krishnamurthy did a competent job in 1971 as did MS Dhoni this time. But of course there is no comparison as far as the batting is concerned with Dhoni winning hands down even if he did not perform up to the high expectations.


As far as batting is concerned in five Tests in 1971 the Indian duo of Gavaskar and Dilip Sardesai notched up five centuries and two double hundreds. This time the quintet of Rahul Dravid, Wasim Jaffer, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Md Kaif accounted for four hundreds and one double century in four Tests. However impressive Dravid was his record pales – statistically – before Gavaskar’s tally of 774 runs at an average of 154.80 especially when one recalls that it was his debut series. Sardesai’s figures too were a match for Dravid – 642 runs at an average of 80.25 and it must be added quickly that his 212 in the first Test at Kingston set the tone for India’s unexpected dominance in the series. However the 2006 side had the greater batting depth with the 1971 team over dependent on two batsmen. As far as heroism is concerned the present squad can offer Dravid’s two knocks at Kingston and gutsy batting by tailenders Kumble and Harbhajan on a couple of occasions. But a match for all this would certainly be the three heroic stands of Sardesai and Solkar 35 years ago. Their partnerships had a tremendous impact on the final result that saw India win 1-0 – interestingly enough the same margin 35 years later.


As far as the opposition is concerned there is little doubt that the 1971 West Indian side was stronger. The all-conquering squad of the 60s built by Frank Worrell had broken up and the West Indies were in the process of rebuilding - one reason why India did finally win the series – but with the likes of Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Roy Fredericks around the batting can certainly be considered stronger than the line up the present Indian squad came up against even with the presence of Brian Lara. On that occasion too it was the bowling that was weak with a temporarily out of form Lance Gibbs playing only one Test. This explains the run glut from the Indian viewpoint on both occasions. This time however the West Indian side has been in the doldrums for some time now and the Indian win was not entirely unexpected.


Unlike in the series that just concluded when the Indians were considered favourites despite losing the one-day contest the 1971 squad were ranked firmly as outsiders and given little chance of winning. In 23 Tests against the West Indies going into the first Test India had lost 12 and drawn 11. India had not even taken the first innings lead in any of the matches the closest being the Kanpur Test in 1958 when the scores were level at 222 each. So even from this viewpoint it was a commendable feat by the 1971 squad. All things considered one must give the palm to Ajit Wadekar’s side for registering the greater triumph.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)


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