THE FIRST TEST SERIES - 1947-48
An Indian cricket team captained by Lala Amarnath embarked
on a full tour of the land in late 1947. Besides being the
first official Test series between the two countries, it
was India's first cricket series as an independent nation.
A tour of Australia has always been a difficult and
challenging proposition. The pressure increased after the
withdrawal of four frontline players from the touring
party; Vijay Merchant (who was originally named captain),
his fellow opener Mushtaq Ali, paceman Fazal Mahmood and
Rusi Modi, a competent middle-order batsman. While
Merchant and Modi were stricken by injuries, Mushtaq
pulled out for personal reasons, and Mahmood because he
had become a Pakistani post-independence and Partition.
India played 20 first-class matches on the tour, of which
they won five, lost seven and drew eight matches. Vijay
Hazare, Amarnath and Mankad were in splendid form.
Amarnath scored four hundreds and one double hundred in
the 'state' games, Mankad was amongst the wickets and
runs, and Hazare scored three hundreds and seven fifties.
One of India's biggest problems was the fact that Amarnath
was unable to carry his great form into the five Test
matches. His highest score in the Tests was a mere 46.
Hazare too was disappointing in the first three Tests, but
he bounced back with two splendid centuries in the fourth
Test at Adelaide, followed by a fifty in the fifth. His
knocks of 116 and 145 made him the first Indian to score
two hundreds in a Test, a feat that was subsequently
emulated by Sunil Gavaskar (thrice) and Rahul Dravid.
Mankad did not begin very well with the bat, and after
being bowled by Ray Lindwall thrice in succession in the
first two Tests, he sought out the bowler for advice.
Lindwall told him that he had a backlift as high as the
Sydney Harbour Bridge. Mankad took note, reduced it and
went on to score two hundreds. Another all-rounder who did
well with the bat was Dattu Phadkar, who scored a hundred
in the first innings of the Adelaide Test and added 188
for the sixth wicket with Hazare, the other centurion.
An Indian fan with a bust of Sir Don Bradman, after
the legend's demise in February 2001, 54 years
after the Don captained Australia in the inaugural
Test series between the two countries
The first Test at Brisbane was a complete fiasco for
the Indians were concerned. They ran into poor
weather and Sir Don Bradman in one of his most
determined moods. He scored 185 and his team rattled
up a score of 382/8 declared. Rains and the wet
outfield had made it difficult for the Indians to
grip the ball. The Australians were much more
experienced in playing in such conditions. The
hard-pressed Indians collapsed against Lindwall,
Miller, Johnston and Toshack, for 58 in the first
innings and 98 ion the second. None of the batsmen
could rise to the occasion. To their discomfiture,
Lindwall proved to be so fast that the ball thudded
into the keeper's gloves before batsman brought down
The weather gods frowned again in the second Test at
Sydney and deprived India of an opportunity to show
their mettle. India won the toss and decided to bat.
However, rains had not allowed much work on the
pitch. India scored 188 and then bowled out Australia
for 107. In the second innings, India scored 61/7
before rain rendered any further play impossible.
Australia won the toss in the third Test at Melbourne and
took full advantage of a good wicket by scoring 394.
Bradman scored 132. India made a gutsy reply with Mankad
scoring 116 with his 'reduced backlift'. The visitors
finished with 291. Bradman then made his hundred of the
match, and set India a target of 358. On a wicket that
had deteriorated alarmingly due to intermittent rain,
India were bowled out for 125 to lose the Test by 233
Bradman won the toss again in the fourth Test and gave
his team first use of a batting paradise at Adelaide. The
Aussies amassed a mammoth 674 and forced India onto the
back foot straightaway. In spite of Hazare's 'twin'
fightback, India lost by an innings and 16 runs.
Australia's 'coin fortunes' continued in the fifth test,
and so did the massacre of Indian bowling and batting.
The hosts piled on 575 runs, and despite a spirited
run-chase led by Mankad in the first innings, India lost
by an innings and 117 runs managing 331 and a measly 67
in the 2 innings.
There was no comparison between the two sides. The tour
emphasized the fact that the Indians were not
accomplished enough to face the Australians in such
trying conditions. However, it was a learning experience
that stood Indian cricket in good stead. There were some
unforgettable individual performances, and the Indians
displayed courage and guts in the most adverse
- By SP Bhatia