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India suffer whitewash at the hands of England in 1959

India suffer whitewash at the hands of England in 1959

Fred Trueman picked up seven wickets as England completed a 5-0 whitewash over India in 1959 © Getty Images

India’s humiliation was completed on August 24, 1959 as they capitulated to England by an innings. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back the day that resulted in the only 5-0 whitewash by an English side.

Both India and England had disastrous seasons in 1958-59: England had conceded the Ashes after a sound 0-4 thumping Down Under after winning the contest in three consecutive series; India, on the other hand had a nightmare series at home against West Indies — not only were they beaten black and blue, the series was also marred by some inexplicable selection policies that led to four captains — Polly Umrigar, Ghulam Ahmed, Vinoo Mankad, and Hemu Adhikari — leading the country in the five-Test series.

In another quixotic move India left their shores in 1959 with a fifth captain in the form of Datta Gaekwad (who had played only six Tests till then), with Pankaj Roy as his deputy: this was supposed mean that India would be led by five captains in six Tests. Ghulam had declared himself available before the tour, but the selectors left him out altogether, which made Ghulam retire promptly.

India were outplayed in each and every Test of the series. Fred Trueman, their old nemesis from 1952, was back to blow them away — and Brian Statham was around with him instead of Alec Bedser from that series. The formidable batting line-up included the likes of Peter May (the captain), Ken Barrington, and Colin Cowdrey.

India duly lost the first Test at Edgbaston early on Day Four by an innings and 59 runs. May scored a hundred, Godfrey Evans made an electric 73 at a run-a-ball, and Trueman and Statham picked up 13 wickets between them. For India, the only resistance came from Subhash Gupte and Bapu Nadkarni, who played aggressive and defensive roles with the ball — but fell woefully short in a battle of two against eleven.

Gaekward pulled out at Lord’s due to a bout of bronchitis, allowing Roy to lead India for the only time in his career. This meant that India now had six captains leading them in seven Tests. Ramakant Desai’s five for 89 and Nari Contractor’s 81 ensured that England batted twice, but this time they were drowned by Tommy Greenhough’s leg-breaks. They lost the Test by eight wickets on Day Three.

Statham did not play at Headingley, but the English seamers still reduced India to 23 for four before they managed to score 161. It was again a case of the same two men — Gupte and Nadrkarni — as England won by an innings and 173 runs, once again inside three days.

May pulled out of the remaining two Tests as Cowdrey was named captain. England were bowled out for 490 from 371 for three at Old Trafford thanks to Raman Surendranath’s five for 115. Cowdrey did not enforce a follow-on despite a 282-run lead (Barrington picked up three wickets) and set India a target of 548. For once India batted gallantly, with the debutant Abbas Ali Baig and Umrigar both scoring hundreds. However, Baig’s run out saw India collapse from 321 for five to 376 as they ended up losing by 171 runs. This was the only Test in the series that went into the fifth day.

Immediately after the first Test India had lost to Minor Counties at Stoke-on-Trent and became the first touring side to face this ignominy in 31 years. Though India set the hosts 334 — the highest score of the match — Phil Sharpe scored 202 not out as his side chased down the total in 71 overs with the loss of only six wickets.

By the time the Indians reached The Oval the psychological scars had dug in so deep that a recovery seemed almost impossible. With his aloof, detached attitude Gaekwad seemed almost clueless about the proceedings. Wisden wrote: “A more active approach to all he [Gaekwad] did, especially his field placing, would have been welcome.” They added: “Strangely enough, the side showed better form when he [Roy] took over in [Datta] Gaekwad’s absence and his frequent consultations with other senior members of the side obviously helped in this improvement.”

Injuries had also marred India’s progress in the series. Manjrekar was in fine form, but his illness meant that he was confined to treatments rather than on the grounds. He arrived overweight and could not play in the tour after the Lord’s Test as he underwent a knee-cap surgery. Even then, he had been in sublime form, scoring 755 runs on the tour at 68.63; other than Umrigar (55.33) nobody else averaged over 34. Wisden wrote that Manjrekar was “always quick to spot [Tommy] Greenhough’s googly and always master if [Fred] Trueman offered a bouncer.”

Wisden wrote: “The main defects were the lack of top-class opening batsmen who would have set the innings on a sure foundation, the need of genuine fast bowlers of the [Mohammad] Nissar-Amar Singh brand, and until late in the tour a tendency to slothful fielding.” They added: “There was no excuse for India as they enjoyed one of the finest summers in living memory and, moreover, man for man they were a more talented bunch, but they never harnessed their resources. Instead, they performed as a set of individuals.”

Though the injury of Vijay Manjrekar was somewhat compensated by Baig’s arrival India suffered another blow when Umrigar pulled out of the Test due to a split finger. He was replaced by Jayasinghrao Ghorpade, a batting all-rounder from Baroda; ‘Nana’ Joshi, the Maharashtra wicket-keeper, was replaced by Naren Tamhane.

Greenhough’s injury meant that David Allen had been called in as a cover, but the Lancashire leg-spinner declared him fit moments before the toss. Statham and Raman Subba Row were also recalled; ‘Dusty’ Rhodes, John Mortimore, and Gilbert Parkhouse were dropped from the Old Trafford squad.

Day One: India succumb to pace

Things looked decent for a while after Gaekwad won the toss and elected to bat on what looked like a pitch perfect for batting. Trueman and Statham charged at the openers in contrasting styles: the Yorkshireman, his mop of shaggy hair ruffling in the wind as he ran in with uncomplicated action, furious pace, and an intimidating hostility, seemed to be from a planet different from the origin of the Lancastrian, brilliant yet unassuming, relying more on relentless accuracy than on pace and aggression.

Despite their disparity in approach they formed a formidable pair, and on this day at The Oval they put a suffocating stranglehold on the Indian openers. Though Contractor and Roy managed to hang around they were not allowed to get away with the score. Then, after a 51-minute partnership of 12, Statham broke through Roy’s defence. The bespectacled Bengal opener had crawled to three.

Baig, the hero of the previous Test, looked in trouble against the fast bowlers, and succumbed to Trueman after close to another hour. India went to lunch at 47 for two — in trouble, but not really blown out. Yet.

The drama began after lunch when Nadkarni edged one from Trueman and Borde was bowled by Greenbough. Gaekwad struggled but hung around for 43 minutes; then Ted Dexter broke through as the Indian captain holed out to Barrington; Ghorpade was cleaned up Greenbough; and then, after a 199-minute resilience of 22 that included just one boundary, Contractor was caught by Ray Illingworth of Dexter. From 49 for two India had slid to 74 for seven; 100 seemed very, very far away.

Tamhane and Surendranath then showed how easy it was to bat on the track. Not only did they last, they also kept the scoreboard ticking. Hundred came up, and the two eventually added 58 runs in 83 minutes before Trueman snared the Services paceman, cleaning up Gupte almost immediately afterwards. Statham finished things off when he had Tamhane caught behind: the Indian wicket-keeper had top-scored with 32.

India were bowled out for 140, their lowest score in the series. They lasted only five hours, and were never at ease: the 140 runs had come at a run rate of 1.63. Trueman picked up four for 24, while Statham, Dexter, and Greenhough chipped in with two wickets apiece.

Geoff Pullar (20) and Subba Row (15) saw off the rest of the day. England were 35 without loss at stumps, only 105 runs behind.
Day Two: Surendranath fights as India sink

Surendranath began spectacularly the next morning, finding Pullar’s edge after England added only three. Cowdrey struggled against Desai and Surendranath, and eventually fell to the latter as Borde took a spectacular running catch at square-leg. The score was 52 for two, and India probably had the feeling that they were coming back into the Test.

Mike Smith joined Subba Row at this stage, and the two slowly batted India out of the Test. Smith, slow to start with, gradually took control and began to dominate the partnership. He was eventually bowled by Desai for a solid, well-compiled 98; he had hit two boundaries, and the 169-run stand in 197 minutes had already put the Test beyond India’s reach. It was a record third-wicket stand for England against India.

Eleven runs later Desai had Subba Row caught behind for a 306-minute 94 with 11 boundaries. His batting, however unattractive, had served its purpose, and had given England the start they needed.

A violent storm blew across London shortly afterwards and a couple of brief interruptions accounted for the loss of half an hour. Immediately after resumption Gupte accounted for the formidable Barrington, and Surendranath, brought back for another burst, had Dexter caught-behind for a duck. From 221 for two England had lost four wickets for 14 runs. However, given India’s performance in the series, it could safely be said that the collapse had happened a bit too late.

Illingworth, playing his third Test, was now joined by the Roy Swetman, playing in his seventh. Both were new to international cricket, but applied themselves well. At this stage Gaekwad looked completely clueless once Desai and Surendranath were through with their spells. For once Gupte did not turn out to be successful, and though Nadkarni held up one end he could not break through.

The baffled Wisden correspondent wrote: “Whenever called on to bowl he [Borde] very seldom failed to break a partnership and the biggest mystery of the whole tour was why he was never called on to bowl in the last Oval Test.” Borde was not asked to bowl a single over; Ghorpade, a more than capable leg-break bowler, was also overlooked as Illingworth and Swetman batted India out of the Test.

England were 289 for six at stumps with Illingworth on a resilient 20 and Swetman on a dominant 33. They had already acquired a lead of 149.

Day Three: India on the brink of defeat

More unimaginative leadership followed as Swetsman hit his way to 65 with ten fours — his maiden Test fifty — the next morning before falling to Surendranath. The pair had added 102 in 104 minutes, a record seventh-wicket partnership for England against India.

Trueman was stumped trying to escape Nadkarni’s stranglehold but Illingworth eventually reached his maiden Test fifty as well. He fell to Nadkarni immediately afterwards for a 141-minute 50 with seven boundaries. Surendranath picked up Greenbough to pick up his second five-for in as many Tests. England had acquired a 221-run lead.

Roy fell for a blob this time as Statham trapped him in front of the stumps. Baig scored four, and Contractor followed soon. India were 44 for three, still trailing by 177, and Statham had removed the top of the Indian line-up; Borde was run out, and after Gaekwad’s departure it seemed that the Test was another three-day finish with still 80 minutes of play left.

However, Nadkarni, who gone already past Tamhane’s 32 (till then India’s highest score of the Test) reached his fifty and remained 69 not out at stumps, Ghorpade providing him company with 15. Play was called off 30 minutes before the scheduled time, and India still required 75 to save an innings-defeat.

Day Four: India whitewashed

The 56-minute partnership of 53 ended as Greensbough ran through Ghorpade’s defence early on the morning following the rest day. He had hit five boundaries in his 24. Illingworth then ended Nadkarni’s 235-minute battle; the all-rounder’s 76 was the only face-saving effort in India’s second innings.

Once Nadkarni fell, Cowdrey brought Trueman back, and he picked up the last three wickets to finish India’s innings. India lost by an innings and 27 runs (their third innings defeat of the series) and handed the series 0-5. It remains the only whitewash by an English side in a series involving five or more Tests.

5-0 whitewashes in Test cricket
Winner Opposition Venue Season
Australia England Australia 1920-21
Australia South Africa Australia 1931-32
England India England 1959
West Indies India West Indies 1961-62
West Indies England England 1984
West Indies England West Indies 1985-86
South Africa West Indies South Africa 1998-99
Australia West Indies Australia 2000-01
Australia England Australia 2006-07

Summing up the series, Wisden wrote: “There can be no denying that the Indian tour of 1959 was a disappointment for the team as well as for the British public. Twelve months ago Wisden recorded that in recent years no touring team has gone through such a lean time as did the New Zealanders. Now we have India with a more dismal story, for they suffered eleven defeats — five more than the New Zealanders — and their seven wins in 35 matches were exactly the same.”

What followed

- The 1,000-strong crowd were disgruntled at the no-contest, resulting in a 22-over exhibition match being played in the afternoon that day.

- Gaekwad was sacked on his return to India. He was replaced by Gulabrai Ramchand, who led India to their first Test win over Australia that winter.

- Two-and-a-half years after the England tour India were defeated 0-5 in West Indies as well.

Brief scores:

India 140 (Fred Trueman 4 for 24) and 194 (Bapu Nadkarni 76; Fred Trueman 3 for 30, Brian Statham 3 for 50) lost to England 361 (Mike Smith 98, Raman Subba Row 94, Roy Swetman 65, Ray Illingworth 50; Raman Surendranath 5 for 75) by an innings and 27 runs.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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