#Ashes2015 – The Summer of 60

 

Back in the day, growing up in India at the tail end of the Great Spin Quartet, I had to endure the ignominy of the Summer of 42. A classic tale of loss, heartache and the end of a dream. The Summer of ’42 was a major hit film and on 24th of June, 1974 at Lord’s Cricket Ground, India were shot out for 42. This caused that summer series in England to be called India’s Summer of 42.

Yes, 42. Top score came from Eknath Solkar, he of the sticky hands, able to catch everything that touched the bat. Solkar was the only man to get into double figures in this innings. Three others, Sunil Gavaskar, his brother-in-law- Gundappa Vishwanath and the offspinner, Errapalli Prasanna got 5 each which the next highest score. Chris “Chilly” Old got 5/21 in 8 overs and GG Arnold got 4/19. BS Chandrasekhar was absent hurt. Mike Hendrick bowled a solitary over. There were no extras.

I was 14 and very much able to follow the ignominy of it all. The radio commentary is all we had. TV was unheard of at the time. I well remember that tour. It seemed India could not get anything right on the tour. Despite a century and 50 from Gavaskar and a couple of stirring innings from Farokh Engineer there was little cheer for India.

This tour caused the end of the captain Wadekar, the man credited with the earlier tour victories in the West Indies and England. It was also the beginning of the end for the spin quartet. By 1979 we’d seen the retirement of Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Prasanna, with only Venkat hanging on till 1983.

42 is the joint 5th-lowest score in Tests. New Zealand topping the table with 26. Australia has scores of 36, 42, 44, 47, 53, 58 and, now 60. Australia has a previous total of 60 way back in the 1888.

This horrendous tour of England, will now, I think forever be called The Summer of ’60, for Australia. The big thing though is that this is the end of the road for so many of the Australians. Even for India in 1974 it wasn’t this bad. It really was the end of just Ajit Wadekar but the rest of the core team played on for another 4 years or so. But for Australia there are major problems ahead.

I have always maintained that the Australian batting is their weak link. The insistence on Shane Watson at #3 for so many years is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise. Steve Smith is going through a golden patch, but even that seems to be ending now. David Warner, hmm, I cannot put my faith in him just yet. I put him in the same category as Smith. “We shall observe your progress, young man and see how you get on over the next 2 years or so”.

The loss of Clarke and Rogers is going to be huge. Clarke for his presence, not so much his actual run-making which has been lacking. Rogers will be missed for his solidity, the one thing no modern team likes to say they want or need. Yet, it’s players like him who know how to get runs that matter. I know the old saying you have to take 20 wickets to win. But you also have to have the ability to make the runs, wear down the opposition and tire them out.

It’s been the bowlers who’ve done all the hard work, scoring and taking the wickets. Now with Rogers gone the top too is vulnerable. Of all the players, Harris, ironically, will be least missed. He was missed here, no question about it. And the decision to not play Siddle for Starc was silly.

The muddle order, as I call it, has been just that for Australia for a while now. First of all, we’ve had “Front-foot” Watson at #3. Smith and Clarke unsure about who should be batting at #4 and #5. There isn’t a #6 that comes to mind readily and Haddin has had way too many bouts of the crazies. To recap then, we’re looking for a David Warner and Steve Smith. So we have #1 and a #3 or is he #4 or wait, #5? Four spots available!!!

We shall have to wait and see what happens next in Australia’s Summer of ’60 and the next couple of years as well.

I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a few more low scores..

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