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Letters from India - MCC's 1964 tour Published: 05 March 2014

MCC touring party to India, 1964
MCC touring party to India, 1964

Undoubtedly one of the highlights at Lord’s this summer will be the visit of India for a Test match in July.

With the arrival of India for this Test, and for a Women’s ODI in August, I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit an MCC tour to India through some quirky and interesting material held in the Club's archive.

In 1963/64 the England team travelled to India to play five Test matches where, as remarkable as it might seem to a modern cricket fan, the result of the series was 0-0.

The matches were played between 10 January and 20 February 1964, under the banner of MCC, and the tour was managed by future MCC President David Clark (who sadly passed away in 2013).

The captain of the tour was MJK Smith, while his opposite number was the Nawab of Pataudi jnr - known around the cricketing world as 'Tiger' - son of the Nawab of Pataudi snr, who had played for England between 1932 and 1934.

It was just the fifth time MCC had toured India, and as this list of health precautions shows, the squad were taking no chances while in the subcontinent:

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I think it seems sound advice for anyone planning to go abroad in the near future - particularly point 11! I’d also suggest that, as athletes, the cricketers shouldn’t have been eating ice cream in any case…

This list is supplemented by requests for the players to be vaccinated against smallpox and cholera.

The touring party also received a list of areas in India where prohibition was enforced, should they have wanted to go out for a drink:

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During the tour, the MCC team received a short visit from Gubby Allen and Billy Griffith - the President and Secretary of the Club at the time. Their visit included several functions, as well as taking in the second, third and fourth Tests.

The pair’s visit was so popular that a young girl named Sundari Rukmangadan sent verses of cricket poetry to Allen, under the heading 'Welcome to India Mr GO Allen'.

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Titles of the poems include: 'Longest Innings', 'Welcome to India' and 'Merited Victory.' Although they largely referenced the tour, one poem entitled 'The BBC', might be considered by that organisation for future promotional activities:

'Got the powerful strong transmission,
To broadcast programmes with precision
So, long live the British Broadcasting Corporation,
To serve the Humanity with latest information'

Miss Rukmangadan was sent a letter by the British High Commissioner in New Delhi, promising her that Allen would receive her verses. I wonder if Miss Rukmangadan is still as passionate about cricket?

At the end of the tour, the team were given mementos by MCC and this letter reveals the kind of gifts they were to receive:

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The files also include a draft of Clark’s 12-page Manager's Report, in which he reserved special praise for the Indian Board of Control and the British High Commission for their assistance throughout the tour.

Clark lamented the fact that the touring party only managed to win one match out of ten, and that illness impacted on the team’s performance in the Tests at Bombay and Madras.

Indeed, much of the correspondence between Clark and MCC focussed on injuries, which led to Colin Cowdrey being called up to join the tour just prior to the Third Test in Calcutta.

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Clark recommended that future tours to India should consist of no longer than ten weeks, and that tinned food should travel with the players to avoid wastage.

As manager of the team, Clark also advised that touring squads chosen in the future should not include any "primadonnas".

Indeed, in his reports Clark was full of praise for the entire team and did not have a bad word to say about any of his men, despite poor performances on the field.

Clark managed another MCC team in 1970/71, which won the Ashes in Australia. He later became President of MCC in 1977/78, and Treasurer in 1980.

He  accepted an invitation to become an Honorary Life Vice-President of the Club in 1991.


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