India arrived in England for their 1974 tour as a team that was coming of age in international cricket.
The ebullient captaincy of ‘Tiger’ Pataudi in the late 1960s together with the emergence of their four-pronged spin attack made them formidable opponents on home soil. Under new skipper Ajit Wadekar they had beaten England home and away and even returned from the West Indies with a series win under their belts. But the 1974 tour would see all that new-born confidence destroyed in a 3-0 whitewash that brought Wadekar’s captaincy and career to an abrupt end. At the heart of it all was a crushing defeat at Lord’s.
India weren’t too worried by their defeat in the opening Test at Old Trafford. Conditions had favoured England’s seamers, but for the second Test at Lord’s the pitch was expected to be a belter and the weather was set fair. By the end of the first day, they knew they had a hard slog ahead. England won the toss and reached 334 for 1; Dennis Amiss unbeaten on 187 and John Edrich approaching his century. Misfortune also struck the tourists when spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar broke a finger in the field. Both Amiss and Edrich fell early the next morning, but hundreds from Mike Denness and Tony Grieg took them to a colossal 629 all out. Without Chandrasekhar, India’s remaining spinners Bishan Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna got through a combined workload of 115.2 overs.
As lunch approached on day three, the match looked to be heading for a draw; India were 131 without loss. But Sunil Gavaskar and Farokh Engineer fell to Chris Old either side of the interval, and while several of the batsmen got starts, they lost wickets frequently to reckless shots. India were bowled out for 302 shortly before the close, Old claiming 4 for 67. Still 327 ahead, England enforced the follow on.
India had to bat out six sessions to save the match. They didn’t even manage one. The fourth morning dawned to very different conditions from the sun-baked days that preceded it. The sky was grey, the atmosphere heavy with humidity and the pitch had sweated under the covers overnight. Geoff Arnold began the day with two booming outswingers, then swung his third ball back in to trap Engineer lbw. Old then bowled Wadekar, before Arnold had Gundappa Viswanath and Brijesh Patel caught behind. India were 14 for 4. Gavaskar managed to hang around for 49 minutes before another Arnold inswinger accounted for him. By the time he had returned to the dressing room and unbuckled his pads, another two wickets had fallen. The innings had become a procession of wickets and it ended after just 17 overs - India dismissed for 42, defeated by an innings and 285 runs. Old claimed 5 for 21, Arnold 4 for 19.
Wadekar immediately led his team off to the nets. It was no use. Another defeat by an innings at Edgbaston gave England a 3-0 series win. Ajit Wadekar was sacked as India’s captain and never played another Test.