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DateLine Sunday, 25 May 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Windies stars Walcott and Gomez changed course of cricket

CRICKET: The 1948-49 period saw the West Indies tour India for the first time, everything that had to do with cricket was very different.

Most cricket followers in India did not know very clearly who, or, even what the West Indies were. The more knowledgeable might have read in their geography books that the West Indies were a large group of islands off North America and they would conclude that West Indians were inhabitants of those islands.

They would have had a vague impression that these were negroes whose ancestors had been kidnapped from Africa in order to work in sugar plantations if they were of a literary turn of mind, they would have remembered the story of Conks Samba in “The Pickwick Papers” who, poor man, bowled and bowled until he died.

If they had read their “wisdem”, they would have known that it’s cricket abounded in fast bowlers and in phenomentally high scoring batsmen. There was something bizarre, even comic, about West Indian cricket.

Sixteen of its representatives arrived in Bombay in October 1948. The captain John Goddard, it was found, was a white man. So were John Stollmeyer and Denis Atkinson. All the others were negroes, except perhaps Fred Cameron, who seemed to be a mulatto.

Nobody talks about the racial composition of a touring cricket team in India today, but in 1948 most people, were not sure who these West Indians could be. There were 16 players in all, black, coloured and white. They came from Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana, as Guyana then was.

Their names were: J. D. Goddard (captain - Barbados), J. B. Stollmeyer (vice-captain, Trinidad), E. D. Weekes, C. L. Walcott and G. Carew (all from Barbados), G. E. Gomez, P. Jones, W. Ferguson and D. Atkinson (all from Trinidad), G. Headley, F. J. Cameron, A. F. Rae and K. Rickard (all from Jamaica), B. J. Christiani, C. A. McWatt and J. Trim (all from British Guiana); It was learnt that a character named F. M. Worrell had declined to make the visit. Who he was! What he had done on the cricket field, nobody in India knew.

. Amarnath leads India

To do battle against these worthies, India had assembled its forces under Lala Amarnath. Indians, of course, knew of English cricketers and, before Hitler’s war, they had seen a team of Australians in action, a remarkable collections of ancients and fledglings.

It was not with much confidence that Indian followers of the game contemplated the oncoming Test matches then with the West Indies.

Since one knew nothing whatever about these visitors from the other side of the globe, the optimist could hope that they would be weak and incompetent, but the pessimist might fear that they would prove all devouring.

Indian cricket was in no good case at the time. In the previous season Don Bradman and his cohorts had devastated its bowling and almost made mincemeat of its batsmanship. Generally speaking, it was not a very good time for cricket or any other sport.

The country had been partitioned only a year previously, followed by the holocast and by the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. But A. S. de Mello, the President of the Indian Cricket Board, was above these considerations.

However, these might be, but the West Indian cricketers were in India and the Indians had to watch the situation and what the events will turn out to be.

The Windies were not very impressive before the first Test in New Delhi. In a match in Bombay, the Combined Universities held their own. Polly Umrigar scored an unbeaten century. There were three other players who later appeared for India - P. G. Joshi, D. K. Gaekwad and G. S. Ramchand.

There is a little puzzle about the 11th batsman. He appears in the records as “P. Roy.” Was he the future opening batsman? If he was, why did he bat at No. 11? He did not bowl.

Though the Windies defeated Holkar by the massive margin of 10 wickets, they were not very impressive. They looked somewhat pathetic when, batting first in the inaugural Test in New Delhi, they lost their first three wickets for 27 runs. Rangachari had Rae caught behind, Stollmeyer leg before, and above all, the great Headley clean bowled, all within 27 runs.

No batsman in the World could have been more comprehensively bowled than Headley was. One of the stumps was smashed and broken. The splinters used to be preserved in the Kotla pavilion.

Fine partnership

It was then that Gomez joined Walcott at the wicket. Their partnership changed the course, not only of this Test, not only of India - West Indies Tests in general, but of international cricket itself.

Before Hitler’s war, West Indies cricket had been something of a joke. Immediately after the war it had overwhelmed an MCC team of ancients. The boy named Worrell had, in one of the Tests, slept awhile on a pavilion table and strodden forth to the wicket to score a century. Nevertheless, the pundits would not take West Indian cricket very seriously.

Walcott and Gomez changed all that. Never was the partnership more historic. They not only added 267, but paved the way for the latter batsmen to make free with the panting and perspiring bowlers. From 27 for three the final total was 631. Apart from Walcott and Gomez, Weekes and Christiani also scored centuries.

Weekes was a short stature, but with forearms like those of a blacksmith. He positively chased after runs. He took the bowling by the scruff of its neck and, as it were, shook down the runs from it. He went on and on. Tireless, unresting, he amassed runs by the ten, by the fifty, by the century. He had a ‘murderous’ square-cut and a positive hook. But he could also make the other strokes. His century in New Delhi was the first of four successive ones, in Bombay and twice in Calcutta.

Walcolt was as different from Weekes physically as one human being can be from another. He was gigantic. When he stood at the wicket, he seemed to blot out the heavers. When he crouched behind the wicket, for he was then a wicketkeeper too, he seemed to overflow all over the batsman in front of the stumps. In his hands the bat looked like a toy. He was perpetually grinning, to the people in the stands.

Windies forge ahead

After that partnership the West Indians did not look back. They flooded India with runs, with torrents of them. In 1947-48, the Indian bowlers had been maltreated by Bradman, Barnes, Harvey and Miller. Here were Weekes, Walcolt, Stollmeyer and Rae at the same job. It was no joke being an Indian Test bowler around 1948.

If, however, the West Indians won the Test series only by the margin of a single match, it was because their bowling was comparatively weak. It is amusing when Jones and Trim were called “fast” bowlers.

At his best, the former was fast-medium, the latter distinctly medium. The Indians were not to know that in the seasons that were to follow they could see hurlers of thunderbolts from the West Indians - Gilchrist, Griffith, Hall, Roberts.

Indian batsmen stood up well to Jones and trim, not to mention Furguson, who was alleged to be a spin bowler. Time after time Hazare and Modie scored runs. Between them these two scored three centuries and took part in three century stands.

For all the wealth of their batsmanship, the West Indians could not hope to defeat India often. It is true that Gomez was the finest swing bowler the Indians have ever seen, except, perhaps, Davidson - the Australian. But Jones and Trim inspired no fear. They did win the only decisive Test, in Madras, but that was on a wearing pitch.

In fact, India should have won the final game in Bombay. But the tourists continued to draw it by somewhat wasting time, and the umpire was so frustrated that he lost count of the number of balls in the last over. On the whole, it was a creditable achievement for India.


Brief scores of five tests played in 1948-49 between West Indies and India:

At New Delhi: West Indies 631 (Clyde Walcolt 152, Everton Weekes 128, Christiani 107, Gomez 101, Rangachari 5 for 107) drew with India 454 (Adikari 114 not out, Ibahim 85, Amarnath 62) following on, India 220 for 6 wickets.

At Bombay: West Indies 629 for 6 wkts dec (Everton Weekes 194, Rae 104, Cameron 75 not out, Christiani 74, Clyde Walcott 68, Stollmeyer 66) drew with India 273 (Phadkar 74, Ferguson 4 for 126) and following on, 333 for 3 wkts (V. Hazare 134 not out, Modi 112).

At Calcutta: West Indies 366 (Everton Weekes 162, Clyde Walcott 54, Ghulam Ahmed 4 for 94, Banerjee 4 for 120) and 336 for 9 wkts dec. (Everton Weekes 101, Clyde Walcott 108) drew with India: 272 (Modi 80, Hazare 59, Mushtaq ali 54) and 325 for 3 wkts (Mushtaq Ali 106, Modi 87, Hazare 58 not out).

At Madras: West Indies: 582 (Stollmeyer 160, Rae 109, Everton Weekes 90, Phadkar 7 for 159) beat India 245 (Modi 56, Trim 4 for 48) and following on 144 (Hazare 52, Jones 4 for 30) West Indies won by an innings and 193 runs.

At Bombay: West Indies 286 (Stollmeyer 85, Everton Weekes 56, Phadkar 4 for 74) and 267 (Rae 97, Bannarjee 4 for 54) drew with India 193 and 355 for 8 wkts (Hazare 122, Modi 86, Jones 5 for 85).



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