1990 was a time when international sides would visit England in an even, shared out cycle. You’d see a different country (occasionally two) every summer and roughly 4 years would pass between each visit. They’d play a Test Series, a Texaco Trophy Series and several matches against a selection of the 17 first-class counties. Cricket was on the BBC, the sun always shone, and England appeared to be better at football than perhaps statistically they ever were.
Reeling off England’s next Test opponents, home and away for the forthcoming 5 years was quite a feat. It was achievable but you needed to know your stuff. Nowadays it seems to be a case of India (home) Aus (away) Aus (home) Ind (away) with a couple of other countries getting a tiny piece of the pie every so often to keep them sweet.
So it was that 31 summers ago India came to these shores for their first visit since 1986, (England went 4 years without playing India?? WHAT?) which incidentally was also the last time that the Indians had won an away Test Match, back in England’s annus horribilis, 1986. England off the back of their first home series win in 5 years (against New Zealand) welcomed an Indian side which paid homage to the greatest of all team sport clichés in that they were “a perfect mix of youth and experience”. Although as the summer wore on “perfect” may not have been the most apt adjective to describe their performances. Greats like Dilip Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri were nearing the end of their careers, whilst the precocious talents of Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble were just starting out.
Although 7 years earlier India had sensationally won the World Cup they were still very much seen as underdogs internationally, their domestic game wasn’t the money-making juggernaut that it is in 2021 with the IPL and its billions as far away from fruition as a Stuart Broad lbw review. West Indies, although on the wane were the kings of cricket on the field and off the field England and Australia ruled the roost. India were one of the touring sides that had to share an English summer with another nation, long before the days of a million and one different one-day tournaments and bi-lateral series were shoehorned into an already crowded domestic schedule.
The 1990 tour can be remembered as one of firsts and lasts, hellos and goodbyes. Records tumbled, runs flowed and there were some spectacular catches along the way, Sachin I’m looking at you.
It certainly wasn’t a great series to be a bowler. Angus Fraser was the only man to come out of it with any sort of credit, his unerring accuracy accounting for 16 Indian victims at 28 runs apiece. England’s next best performer was Eddie Hemmings, famously smashed out of the ground for four consecutive sixes by the legendary Kapil Dev to stunningly avoid the follow-on. The Indians meanwhile had no bowler take more than 7 wickets. Test Match debutant Anil Kumble the man with the best average….56.
There were 15 centuries in all in just 3 matches. Kapil Dev scored his final Test Match ton whilst Tendulkar scored his first, becoming the youngest Test centurion at the time. That India’s top scorer, Azharuddin, scored an incredible 426 in just 5 innings at 85 yet still amassed just shy of 350 runs fewer than England’s top scorer Graham Gooch is a phenomenal tribute to how good the England captain was at the time. The home side’s batting line-up had the comfortable familiarity of Gower, Smith & Lamb with new boy Michael Atherton cementing his opening berth alongside his skipper.
I don’t think we’ll see half as many runs in the 2021 series and I wager that we’ll forget the games twice as quickly. Sadly, it’ll all become a coloured tracksuit blur of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand and India. Surely the ECB could have squeezed in another short T20 series with yet another different country in there somewhere just to dilute everything just a little bit more?
The Hundred anyone?
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