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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Lethal pitch, Windies' unrestrained fast bowling cause India's 'Bloodbath'

West indies v India Test 1976
West indies v India Test 1976
©Youtube

April 25, 1976 - West Indies won the Jamaica Test by picking up just 11 legitimate wickets. Anshuman Gaekwad, Gundappa Viswanath and Brijesh Patel suffered serious injuries in trying to counter the terrifying West Indian bowling.

West Indies had just copped a 5-1 humiliation in Australia. Skipper Clive Lloyd was quite confident before the tour Down Under as he predicted that the outcome of the series could hang on a slender thread. As it turned out,  Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson shook up the Windies batsmen. Post the embarrassing defeat, Lloyd said "Never again".

In the series following the drubbing, India had drew level the four-match Test series as they scored a mammoth 406/4 in the last innings to chase down the improbable total in the third Test at Port-of-Spain. The score remains India's highest-ever chase in a Test's fourth innings. Lloyd was under serious pressure to win the series.

In the last and the deciding Test at Jamaica, the relaid pitch in Sabina Park was a lively one. Lloyd won the toss and put India in on an untested strip. Michael Holding charged in from one end, and debutant Wayne Daniel from the other as Indian openers Gavaskar and Gaekwad did well to see India through to lunch without the loss of any wicket. It prompted Lloyd to unleash the searing tactics that not only left the Indian batsmen aghast but paved the way for Windies' dominance in the years to come.

Post lunch began a barrage of bouncers and beamers that sent several Indian batsmen to the hospital, literally. Gundappa Viswanath had a plaster cast running from his forearm to fingers after gloving one to slip. Anshuman Gaekwad walked off with a bleeding ear. Brijesh Patel had three stitches on his upper lip.

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In 'Sunny Days', Gavaskar devotes an entire chapter on the Test, under the rather graphic title Barbarism in Kingston, where he in no kind terms, describes the gory details of that day in Kingston. While those may be a bit too strong to quote, his fellow opener Gaekwad's account is no less horrifying. 

As umpires Ralph Gosein and Douglas Sang Hue didn't try to rein in the bowlers, the ball passed tantalisingly close to the face of Indian batsmen on several occasions. On one such ball, as Gaekwad ducked into a ball that did not rise, it crashed into his left ear. The opener describes it as follows:

“Right from the start, the West Indies’ strategy was clear as there was no mid-off or mid-wicket. Everyone was standing in line of the off-stump or behind the wicket. They wanted to bowl only short-pitched stuff and nothing up. The wicket also suited their style — it was hard and bouncy. There were cracks large enough for a coin to have vanished in them!”

“At the end of the first day, I had swollen and fractured ribs, the effect of being hit several times. But I stayed put.... The next delivery was at rocket pace. I just didn’t see it. It hit my left ear and the spectacles went flying. Everything went numb and I could only hear a humming sound. I was bleeding profusely but managed to walk off the field.”

India declared for 306 for 6 in the first innings after these injuries. In the absence of express bowlers to utilise the uneven bounce of the surface, India conceded 391 in the first West Indian innings. In the second Indian essay as well, the bowling was no less hostile. Soon, India were reduced to 97-5. 

With serious injuries to Anshuman Gaekwad, Gundappa Viswanath, Brijesh Patel and skipper Bishan Bedi and his spin bowling partner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar unable to bat because of figure injuries that they picked up while fielding, India declared their second innings, suffering a 10-wicket defeat.

West Indies had won by picking up just 11 legitimate wickets in the match, with injuries to the rest. The injury to Gaekwad damaged his eardrum and he had to undergo two surgeries. If that was not enough, one of the subs, Surinder Amarnath, had to be rushed to the hospital with appendicitis on the fourth day.

India lost the Test and hence the series 2-1. When West Indies captain Clive Lloyd was later asked about the nature of the win, in typical fashion, he said, “This is cricket — if you get hit you have to take it!”. And thus began two decades of West Indian dominance in world cricket.

 

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