“I’ve done the elephants and I’ve done the poverty, it’s time to go home.” Phil Tufnell’s appraisal of India towards the end of his country’s visit. “Delhi belly” and several other outdated cultural references led to a shambolic England tour that many would quite happily consign to the annals of history.
February 2021 and a very different England set up are about to take on India, this got me thinking back nearly 30 years to the infamous tour there in early 1993. That tour, perhaps more than any other, perfectly encapsulated English Test Cricket in the 1990s. As the hideously dated moniker for this series (The Brownwash Series) suggests, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
A lot of it was self-inflicted too. In a more innocent age, the coverage was minimalistic to say the least, there was no wall to wall following of the squad. This allowed a raft of funny/controversial/frankly unbelievable stories to sprout legs and flourish. From smog to scary aeroplanes, dodgy prawns to massive fallouts in the squad no stone was left unturned in England’s quest to self-destruct.
England travelled to India following an entertaining summer where they had narrowly lost 2-1 to an exciting Pakistan side. The tourists were supremely confident, after all just 2 and a half years previous England had won the home Test Series against India 1-0, scoring a hatful of runs and breaking records along the way. Although packed with an array of talent the Indians had only won 1 Test out of 25 although a slight caveat to that is, they had only once played at home (the Test that they won!)
The first controversial decision was that to omit David Gower from the touring party. At 35 and despite having averaged over 50 the previous summer he was deemed too old for the trip. Captain Gooch was 39 and Emburey (40) and Gatting (also 35), who had both just finished bans for going on a “rebel tour” to South Africa must have hidden their birth certificates better than the “stylish left-hander” as they found themselves on the flight.
That wasn’t the only strange selection, Jack Russell, England’s best wicket-keeper was jettisoned for the untried Richard Blakey who ended up having a nightmare tour, especially with the bat. An insistence on playing seamers on pitches that were turning square was another common theme. The First Test in Kolkata saw the controversial but surely England’s only match winning spinner Phil Tufnell dropped, after being fined in the lead up to the game for various misdemeanours.
Predictably England’s quartet of Malcolm, Jarvis, Taylor and Lewis toiled with little success and it was left to part-timer Hick, and not frontline spinner Ian Salisbury to dismiss the captain Azharuddin (182) and the dangerous Kapil Dev and break the back of the India innings with an impressive return of 3-19 from his 12 overs. England’s batting duly crumbled and the hosts won comfortably by 8 wickets thus establishing the pattern of this thoroughly depressing tour from an English point of view.
The only positives were a maiden Test century from the enigmatic Chris Lewis and the (false?) dawn of Graeme Hick. The Worcestershire man topped England’s batting and bowling averages for the series with 52.50 and 25.25 respectively. He was the only visiting bowler to average under 40 and his 8 wickets were 4 more than anyone else managed.
The poor performances were briefly forgotten and overshadowed by the prawns which sidelined Gooch from the 2nd Test. The dreaded “foreign food” did for the captain but in truth England were the own worst enemy for the rest of the series. Never looking likely to win a Test and succumbing to their first whitewash in India.
Gatting dropped the sort of catch you’d be disappointed to see your 4-year-old son miss and a terrible run out between Stewart and Atherton a particular highlight.
The hosts undoubtedly had their stars, Kumble was unplayable at times finishing the series with ending up with 21 wickets and Vinod Kambli who hit a magical double century in the Third Test prompted one of the funniest one-liners ever from Mike Atherton.
Chris Lewis had bowled to Kambli earlier in the tour and suggested he could, “get him out whenever I want”, with the Indian nearing 200 Athers said, “now might be a good time”. This gallows humour is fun to look back on but at the time it was no laughing matter.
England’s 2021 vintage are infinitely more prepared and whilst they may still lose all the Test Matches it certainly won’t be for the same reasons that their predecessors did 3 decades ago.
Follow me on Twitter at: @80s90sCricket