The West Indies first toured India in 1948-49. The
five-match series was no less than a dramatic soap
opera, a dull start notwithstanding. The series was
the first to be hosted by independent India.
Delhi, the national capital, hosted the first Test
in front of an animated crowd. Lala Amarnath, the
Indian captain lost the toss. What followed was
disastrous. The West Indies piled up a mammoth 631,
with Clyde Walcott, Gomes, Weekes and Christiani
all scoring centuries. India managed 454 and saved
the Test despite being asked to save the follow-on.
The second Test at Mumbai followed the same script.
The West Indies reached 629-6, thanks to one of
India's worst fielding displays. The batting was no
different from the fielding, and the home team
finished with 273. They applied themselves better
in the second essay, and centuries by Rusi Modi and
Vijay Hazare enabled India to save the match.
The Kolkata Test, the third of the series, can be
summarised as 'Everton Weekes v/s India'. One of
the three Ws scored majestic centuries in both
innings. India also batted well, with maverick
opener Syed Mushtaq Ali leading the way. India drew
the game comfortably.
The West Indies moved up a gear in the next Test at
Chennai. Dattu Phadkar apart, every Indian bowler
was taken to the cleaners. The West Indies
capitalised on a tactical error by Amarnath, who
instructed his bowlers to 'bounce' the opposition.
Short-pitched bowling was what the West Indian
batsmen had grown up playing, and the Indian
bowlers were not as quick as their Caribbean
counterparts. Amarnath and his team paid the price,
and the Windies eventually won by an innings and
193 runs to go one-up in the series.
The teams returned to the Brabourne stadium in
Mumbai for the fifth and final Test of the series.
The game was eagerly awaited, for all of India
expected Amarnath and his team to fight back.
India got off to a great start, restricting the
West Indies to 286. But the Indian batsmen
flattered to deceive. All the batsmen got starts,
but none stayed at the wicket for a substantial
period. Instead of taking a lead, the Indians
conceded one of 93. The West Indies were dismissed
for 267 in their second innings. It was the first
time in the series that the Windies had lost twenty
wickets in a Test.
India needed 361 to win, a difficult but not
impossible task. The key lay in the Indian batting.
If it clicked, anything was possible. The openers
fell cheaply, but Amarnath promoted himself to no.
3 and filled the breach. He played some superlative
strokes before being bowled by Atkinson for 39. The
score now was 90-3. The determined duo of Modi and
Hazare carried on and took the score to 220.
Their partnership shook the West Indians, prompting
the visitors to resort to deplorable negative
tactics. They packed the leg-side with six men and
the bowlers started bowling a leg-stump line. Such
tactics would not be allowed today.
Modi fell 14 short of a hundred in the quest for
quick runs. However, Hazare completed his century
before being bowled by Jones.
India needed 72 from the final ninety minutes. The
lower-order did its bit, and the match reached a
stage wherein 21 were required from fifteen
minutes. The West Indies resumed their dirty tricks
at this point. Although drinks had already been
taken, the fielding team asked for another. The
Indian umpires, who for some reason were awestruck
by the West Indians, allowed them to do so.
Wicketkeeper Walcott then started walking to the
boundary-line and back to his position at a
India needed eleven from a maximum of two overs.
Phadkar hit a much-needed boundary off the second
ball off the penultimate over. The next two balls
fetched two more runs. India needed five to win
with one-and-a-half minutes, and the final delivery
of what should have been the second-last over left.
But the umpire at the bowler's end walked up to the
stumps, took off the bails and announced the end of
the match! Simply shocking!
India thus missed a golden opportunity of levelling
the series and registering its first Test win, due
to a combination of foul play by their opponents,
and the incompetence of the umpires. India took
another three years to open its account in Test
cricket, with an innings win over England at
Chennai in February 1952.