After murders, chaos and a first Test slump, Gat­ting leads the fight­back...

Richard Ed­wards talks to Eng­land all-rounder Richard El­li­son about the 1984/5 tour to In­dia when se­cu­rity was again a ma­jor is­sue

The Cricket Paper - - ACTION REPLAY - The sec­ond in our new se­ries on ma­jor events that gripped the cricket world – today a story with spe­cial in­ter­est for our cur­rent tourists

If some Eng­land play­ers har­boured reser­va­tions over a tour to Bangladesh this win­ter then spare a thought for the side who landed in Delhi in Oc­to­ber 1984 and could only watch on as the coun­try de­scended into chaos.

The as­sas­si­na­tion of the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter, Indira Gandhi, sparked weeks of re­crim­i­na­tions and blood­shed. Then, just as it ap­peared things were re­turn­ing to some­thing like nor­mal­ity, the Deputy Bri­tish High Com­mis­sioner, Percy Nor­ris, was shot dead, just hours after host­ing a drinks party for the side in the run-up to the first Test.

In be­tween the chaos, Eng­land headed to Sri Lanka de­spite grave reser­va­tions from some over the con­tin­u­a­tion of a tour that looked set to be doomed from the out­set.

One of the tourists was a 25-year-old Richard El­li­son, who had made his Eng­land de­but in the fi­nal Test of the fa­mous ‘Black­wash’ se­ries against the West Indies at the Oval.

After that hu­mil­i­a­tion, trav­el­ling to In­dia and wit­ness­ing ev­ery­thing that hap­pened dur­ing one of the tur­bu­lent pe­ri­ods in the coun­try’s history very much rep­re­sented a case of jump­ing out the fry­ing pan and into the fire.

The man from Kent, though, was in his ele­ment.

“I couldn’t wait to get over there,” he says. “It was some­thing new.We ar­rived in Delhi and I re­mem­ber the first four or five days we were there prac­tis­ing and just see­ing th­ese fires and this smoke across the city. Ri­ots were go­ing on ev­ery­where.

“We were ad­vised by the Bri­tish Em­bassy to hold tight for a while and then the de­ci­sion was made for us to leave the coun­try and head to Sri Lanka while the sit­u­a­tion un­rav­elled.We needed to keep the cricket go­ing, we needed to do some­thing.

“We ar­rived back in Bom­bay in time to play the first Test and Percy hosted a cock­tail party at one of the ho­tels in the city for us. He was as­sas­si­nated the fol­low­ing morn­ing.”

De­spite con­cerns over their safety from fam­ily back home – El­li­son says he was in reg­u­lar con­tact with his mother and step­fa­ther who were fol­low­ing events on the BBC – the de­ci­sion was made to carry on with the tour rather than take the easy op­tion or hop­ping on the next plane back to Heathrow.

“There were some doubters, some who weren’t com­fort­able with what was go­ing on,” says El­li­son. “None of the threat was to­wards us, though.We had guards on ev­ery cor­ri­dor in ev­ery ho­tel we stayed at.

“We had po­lice es­corts to and from the ground. The big turn­ing point re­ally was the fact that the In­dian peo­ple loved any tour­ing team.

“It was the first time I had ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like it but the smiles they had on their faces and the love of peo­ple who played cricket and had come to their coun­try to do it was such that it al­most over-shad­owed what was go­ing on off the field with all the po­lit­i­cal un­rest through­out In­dia.”

Quite what cur­rent Eng­land se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, Reg Dick­a­son, would have made of it all is any­one’s guess.Vic Marks re­called the story of pho­tog­ra­pher Gra­ham Mor­ris test­ing se­cu­rity on the morn­ing of the Bom­bay Test in a col­umn in the Observer back in Novem­ber 2012.

“Wear­ing a jacket crammed with hard­ware he asked a gate­man in his best Ir­ish ac­cent, ‘ex­cuse me, I’m from the IRA could you di­rect me to­wards the Eng­land dress­ing room please?’ The of­fi­cial po­litely obliged,” he wrote.

Things didn’t im­prove on the pitch when the se­ries fi­nally got un­der­way. Un­done by the guile of Lax­man Si­vara­makr­ish­nan – who took 12-181 in the open­ing Test – Eng­land suc­cumbed to the home side by eight wick­ets.

Per­haps most sig­nif­i­cantly, though, Mike Gat­ting scored his first Test cen­tury in the sec­ond in­nings of Eng­land’s los­ing cause.

“He re­ally came of age on that tour,” says El­li­son. “I think it took him some­thing like 54 in­nings to do it but that hun­dred was re­ally a mon­key off his back. He was the con­sum­mate team man on that tour, a great mo­ti­va­tor for the younger guys, too.”

The match was also no­table for the en­try of Chris Cowdrey into Test cricket – and the reaction of his fa­ther, Colin, as he lis­tened to Test Match Spe­cial on ra­dio in his car back in Lon­don. “We hadn’t made

There was no Botham and no Gooch but ev­ery­one took re­spon­si­bil­ity. The at­mos­phere within the team was un­be­liev­able

many runs, they were al­ready level with us and Kapil Dev was smash­ing it all over the place,” said Cowdrey. “I had been field­ing at short leg for a day and a half and I wasn’t feel­ing great be­cause it was very, very hot and dusty and ev­ery shot they played was go­ing through the leg side. I was be­ing pep­pered.

“Typ­i­cal Gower, he wan­dered over to me and said, ‘(the) mo­ment’s come, you’re bowl­ing’. I turned to him and said, ‘I had bet­ter take th­ese shin pads off’ but he told me not to bother as I wouldn’t be on long enough. So I ended up bowl­ing my first over for Eng­land with a huge pair of shin pads on and a box.”

With Kapil mak­ing hay, Cowdrey could at least bowl without any bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tion, imag­ine his sur­prise then when he took just four balls to do some­thing his fa­mous fa­ther had failed to do in 114 Tests when he bowled Kapil.

“My dad made a few runs for Eng­land but he never took a wicket so he was so ex­cited as soon as he heard I was bowl­ing,” says Cowdrey. “He was head­ing up to the City in bl­iz­zard con­di­tions and ended up driv­ing the wrong way up a one-way street. He was picked up (by the po­lice) and ev­ery­thing. They ended up let­ting him off.”

Un­like the lo­cal con­stab­u­lary, Eng­land had no in­ten­tion of let­ting In­dia off the hook after draw­ing level in the sec­ond Test in Delhi. A mag­nif­i­cent cen­tury from Tim Robin­son set-up an eight-wicket win as Eng­land’s spin twins, Phil Ed­monds – strug­gling with his run-up – and Pat Po­cock, 38, took 13 wick­ets be­tween them.

A bore draw in Cal­cutta fol­lowed, with In­dia’s tal­is­man Su­nil Gavaskar again fail­ing as he did all se­ries, be­fore Graeme Fowler and Gat­ting rewrote the record books in the fourth match in Madras.

“That’s the match that ev­ery­one re­mem­bers, I sup­pose,” says El­li­son. “I think we were 400 odd for one at one stage. Graeme and Gatt were sen­sa­tional but that match re­ally typ­i­fied ev­ery­thing Eng­land did through­out that se­ries.

“There was no Botham and no Gooch but ev­ery­one took re­spon­si­bil­ity. The at­mos­phere within the team was un­be­liev­able and the re­la­tion­ship with the Press was great, too. It was just a lot of fun, we were re­ally en­joy­ing our­selves, de­spite ev­ery­thing that had gone on when we ar­rived.”

Fowler and Gat­ting both scored dou­ble cen­turies in Eng­land’s mam­moth first in­nings to­tal of 652-7 de­clared. With Neil Fos­ter pick­ing up 11 wick­ets in the match, Eng­land romped to a nine-wicket win to put them 2-1 up with a fi­nal Test in Kan­pur re­main­ing.

“We were ex­pect­ing a much live­lier pitch in Kan­pur with some­thing in it for their spin­ners but it was dead,” says El­li­son. “There was never go­ing to be a re­sult on that pitch, we couldn’t believe our luck.”

A tour which had be­gun in chaos had ended serenely. What Eng­land wouldn’t give for a re­peat – on the pitch at least – in the com­ing months.

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Pro­lific: Mike Gat­ting scored sin­gle and dou­ble tons to top the Eng­land av­er­ages

Haul: Lax­man Si­vara­makr­ish­nan

Strug­gler: In­dia’s lead­ing bats­man Su­nil Gavaskar failed dur­ing se­ries

High hopes: In­dian fans were hop­ing to win all five Tests

In­spired: David Gower’s bowl­ing change and Tim Robin­son’s bat­ting

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