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A brave beginning

By Sanjay Rajan

Starting today, The Hindu will publish 10 articles on India-Australia cricket leading up to the first Test of the forthcoming four- Test series, which begins in Bangalore on October 6. The articles will focus on various aspects of a sporting rivalry that Steve Waugh has said "has the potential" to match the drama and historic significance of the Ashes contests.



K.S. Duleepsinhji, Don Bradman and Lala Amarnath at a reception in Adelaide during the 1947-48 series.

CHENNAI, SEPT. 25. For a side that was travelling to Australia for the very first time, Lala Amarnath's team in 1947-48 performed impressively with the bat.

Vijay Hazare scored a hundred in each innings of the Adelaide Test, Vinoo Mankad in the third and fifth Tests and young Dattu Phadkar in the fourth. Five centuries against Don Bradman's powerful team (which would sweep aside England the following season) constituted no mean achievement.

However, bowling was India's frailty. "I first saw them play in Adelaide when South Australia were their opponents. I made a century in this match, and in doing so formed the conclusion that our Test team would make a lot of runs against them for two reasons," wrote Bradman of the tour in his autobiography, Farewell to Cricket. "Firstly, their bowling, whilst reasonably steady and sound, lacked a really fast bowler, and what is probably more important, a really high-class spinner. Secondly, to my surprise, they were weak in the field."

Vijay Merchant, appointed captain, and Rusi Modi withdrew from the tour because of ill health. So did Mushtaq Ali, whose elder brother passed away around that time. And there was no word from fast bowler Fazal Mahmood in Lahore — living in Pakistan, following the partition. The team was weakened by their absence.

India, led by Lala Amarnath, lost the five-Test series 4-0 — three of the contests by an innings and the other by a huge margin of 233 runs — while gaining a draw in the second Test at Sydney, where Australia's susceptibility to damp pitches was exposed.

India, opting to bat, made 188 thanks to Phadkar's half-century. The host was bowled out for 107 on a sticky pitch. But, as the Don wrote, "The Indians dismissed us too quickly for their own good. They, in turn, had to now face the unpleasant wicket and were immediately in trouble, losing seven wickets for 61 before stumps." Three days of play were lost to rain.

The tour was about Bradman, the scourge of England and the greatest batsman of all time. It is possible that the Indians were keener to watch the Don bat than actually compete against Australia. It was, after all, India's third overseas trip, after two tours of England.

Bradman certainly didn't disappoint them. He was, in fact, irresistible; scoring 185 in the first Test, 132 and 127 not out in the third (the only time he ever scored a century in each innings), 201 in the fourth and 57 retired hurt in the fifth, for an average of 178.75.

Great knock

His century in the second innings in the third Test at Melbourne is considered to be one of his greatest knocks, coming as it did on a glue pot of a wicket. "It reminded me of the match against Gubby Allen's English side in 1936. I had to adopt the same tactics of sending in tail-end batsmen to hold the fort until the wicket improved. As on the previous occasion the move succeeded. Arthur Morris and I each got centuries after we had lost four wickets for 32 runs," Bradman wrote later.

Bradman's 100th first-class century came against India. Playing for an Australian XI in a tour match at the SCG, the Don was batting on 99 when Amarnath called up Kishenchand, who was fielding on the boundary. "He had not bowled before and I had no idea what type of bowler he was. It was a shrewd move, as one could have so easily been deceived, but I treated him with the greatest respect until eventually came a single to mid-on and the greatest moment had arrived," wrote the Don.

This was the only time he played against India; it was also his last series at home. He retired after the historic 1948 England tour.

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