Reminiscing India’s tour of Australia in 1947-48

As the Indian cricket team begin their quest to defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in a four-Test series next month, it also brings back memories of past series between the two countries that have always been fascinating for cricket lovers. Mostly, series between India and Australia had seen some exceptional batting performances that have gone on to become part of cricketing folklore.

This bilateral series amid a global pandemic would be lapped up by fans on any online sports channel that would broadcast the matches, because sports these days are happening mostly on empty stadiums.

So, as Virat Kohli’s team take on the Australians in their home turf, let us look back at the very first Test series India played against the mighty Oz under the leadership of the legend Sir Don Bradman.

It was in 1947-48, barely months after India achieved independence, the Lala Amarnath-led Indian team landed in Australia to embark on what was India’s maiden Oz tour of five Tests.

Despite India losing the series by 0-4, it turned out to be a trailblazing series with some exemplary batting performances by a few of the Indian batsmen. Unlike today, there was no live TV sports channel in those days and hence cricket fans were deprived of enjoying those performances in India.  

Vijay Hazare’s 116 and 145 (4th Test, Adelaide):

In the Adelaide Test, Australia hammered 674 in their first innings, with Bradman scoring 201 and 198 not out from Lindsay Hassett.

On the contrary, Indians made a dismal start to their innings, losing two wickets for just six runs. However, they added 127 more runs after that, although at the cost of three wickets. At 133 for five wickets, their position was still precarious.

Then came right-handed batsman Vijay Hazare, who along with Dattu Phadkar added 188 runs for the sixth wicket. Phadkar contributed a fine 123. However, Hazare cracked a classical and orthodox 116. His 303-ball knock included 14 boundaries which left even the Australian players spellbound.

India were all out for 381, 293 runs behind, and were asked to follow on by Bradman. Even in the second innings, India made a bad start.

It was then Hazare who played a great innings of 145 runs with the help of 17 boundaries. There was no sports channel live telecast of matches for the Indians to enjoy those moments.

Vinoo Mankad’s 111 (5th Test, Melbourne)

In the fifth and final Test match in Melbourne, Australia declared at 575 for eight wickets in their first innings.

After India lost opener Chandu Sarwate with just three runs on the board, Mankad, who opened the innings with him, took the mantle of resurrecting the innings along with Hemu Adhikari and bailed the team out of the crisis. They added 124 for the second wicket, before Adhikari fell for 38.

Hazare came out to bat next, and he was ably supported by Mankad who went on to score his second century of the series. He played a well-crafted five-hour knock of 111, which was studded with just six boundaries.

India lost the match by an innings and 177 runs.

Don Bradman’s 185 (1st Test, Brisbane):

In the first Test at Brisbane from November 28 to December 4, Bradman scored a fluent 185. He “demoralised the bowlers by punishing methods which brought runs at a terrific rate”.

On the second day, only one hour of play was possible due to rain, and Australia went through this period without losing a wicket and added 36 runs more. A large attendance of 11,000 people had come to watch the day’s play.

Bradman, after playing a marathon innings that lasted 285 minutes, got out hit wicket off the bowling of Lala Amarnath. Lala bagged four wickets in the innings. Australia won the match by an innings and 226 runs.

Australia may have won the series 4-0, with Bradman outshining with 715 runs at 178.75 in six innings of five Tests, but the second in the list of top scorers was Hazare, who tallied 429 at 47.67 in 10 innings of five matches.

These performances by Indians against the mighty Australians, had shaped the future of cricket in India.