On this day in 1971: India beat West Indies for the first time Test cricket

Exactly on this day 53 years ago in 1971, India won their first-ever Test against West Indies. The victory was not only historic but also a watershed moment in Indian cricket. Before that 5-match tour of the Caribbean, India had drawn 11 Tests with them and had lost 12. Nothing describes India’s struggle against the West Indies in those times better than the fact that they never even managed to take the first-innings lead against the Caribbean outfit.

On their previous tour of the West Indies, India had suffered a humiliating 0-5 whitewash. So, when the Ajit Wadekar-led side took the lead in the first innings and made their fancied hosts follow on in the first Test at Kingston, it was celebrated as a big win. Buoyed by the performance in the series opener, India came up with a historic effort in the second Test and won it by seven wickets. The monumental win decided the series in India’s favour as the following three Tests ended in draws.

The historic win

India reached Port-of-Spain for the second Test with their confidence sky-high. The visitors had a debutant in the form of a 21-year-old called Sunil Gavaskar, who would go on to become one of Test cricket’s most decorated openers. Coming to the game, the home side won the toss and decided to bat first on a pitch that assisted spinners. After failing to do well in the first Test, West Indies batsmen once again struggled against India’s spinners.

Erapalli Prasanna and Bishan Singh Bedi wreaked havoc, taking four and three wickets respectively to help India bowl out West Indies for just 214 despite Charlie Davis’ unbeaten 71. Debutant Gavaskar then gave a glimpse of his immense potential with a classy fifty and shared a 68-run stand with fellow opener Ashok Mankad. He also shared 96 runs with Dilip Sardesai before departing for 65. In-form Sardesai, on the other hand, went on to make the most of his form.

After playing a monumental 212-run knock in the previous game, he scored 112 in the second Test and shared a crucial 114-run stand with Eknath Solkar (55) as India scored 352. That innings is also remembered for Jack Noreiga’s nine-wicket haul. With a big lead of 138 runs in their kitty, India were firmly in the driver’s seat before West Indies clawed their way back. Their top three Roy Fredericks (80), Rohan Kanhai (27) and Charlie Davis (71*) took them to 150 for 1 before they suffered an inexplicable collapse.

The collapse was triggered by Fredericks’ run-out. West Indies kept losing wickets at regular intervals and lost their last eight wickets for just 111 runs to get bowled out for 261. Srinivas Venkataraghavan was the pick of the bowlers for India, taking a five-for. Needing 124 runs to win their first Test against West Indies in 25 attempts, India got off to a solid start with Gavaskar and Mankad adding 74 runs for the first wicket. There was a bit of a scare when the hosts picked up three quick wickets for just 10 runs to reduce India to 84 for 3 but an unbeaten fifty from Gavaskar helped India register a historic win.