In 1969-70, the Australian cricketers embarked on a revolutionary tour to India and South Africa. Not since the 1956 tourists to England returned – on the way home – to play in both Pakistan and India, had Australian players been required to play major series’ on two vastly different continents in terms of conditions and culture.
Surprisingly, the ACB only allocated fifteen positions for the tour party when sixteen or seventeen might have been preferable.
However, with a fourteen man B team touring NZ in early 1970, fifteen it was.
The team was as follows:
Batsmen: Bill Lawry(c-V), Ian Chappell(vc-SA), Keith Stackpole(V), Ian Redpath(V), Doug Walters(NSW), Paul Sheahan(V), Jock Irvine(WA).
Keepers: Brian Taber(NSW), Ray Jordan(V).
Pacemen: Graham McKenzie(WA), Alan Connolly(V), Eric Freeman(SA), Laurie Mayne(WA).
Spinners: John Gleeson(NSW), Ashley Mallett(SA).
The Aussies despatched India 3-1 in five gruelling tests. The players struggled against riots, dietary problems, umpiring debacles, heat, conditions and culture.
Chappell topped the batting averages with over 46. Stackpole and Walters also reached the 40’s. In the bowling, Mallett led the way with 28 wickets, Mckenzie 21 and Connolly 17.
Among the best Indians were F.Engineer (k), A.Mankad, A.Wadekar (vc), G.Viswanath, Nawab of Pataudi (c), A.Roy, E.Solkar, S.Venkataraghaven, E.Prasanna, B.Bedi, S.Guha, M.Amarnath (12th man).
The Australians arrived in South Africa with the series billed “The World Championship” as Australia held the Ashes, and had beaten the previous best, the West Indies. South Africa had beaten Australia in 1966-67.
The Aussie players arrived from India weary, but looking forward to playing in a country with similar conditions and culture to their own. However, the Indian leg of the tour had debilitated the Aussies more than anyone could have appreciated.
In the series against South Africa, they were smashed 0-4 by a red-hot opposition. Key Aussies completely lost form. The best batsman in India – Chappell – averaged just 11.50 runs per wicket. The best paceman – McKenzie – totally disintegrated with one wicket in three Tests for 333 runs!
Redpath was the only batsman to average over 40, with Walters the next best with 32. Connolly (20) and Gleeson (19) were the leading wicket-takers. Surprisingly, Mallett was given only one Test in which he took six wickets.
The South Africans stood at the heady summit of world cricket in 1970, only to plunge into the abyss of miserable isolation until 1992.
What a team that 1970 combo was:
Barry Richards, Trevor Goddard, Ali Bacher (c), Graeme Pollock, Eddie Barlow (vc), Lee Irvine, Denis Lindsay (k), Tiger Lance, Mike Procter, Peter Pollock, John Traicos, Pat Trimborn (12th man).
Procter batting at number nine – ridiculous! They had batting depth down to Peter Pollock at number ten.
Lone spinner Traicos was joined in the bowling attack by five pacemen of various speed and persuasion – Procter, P.Pollock, Goddard, Barlow & Lance.
It was definitely one of the best XIs in the history of the game. The only weakness being the lack of a top-line spinner.
While the Aussies were being belted in SA, the ACB selected a fourteen man B team squad to tour New Zealand. It was:
Batsmen: Sam Trimble(c-Q), Geoff Davies(vc-NSW), Derek Chadwick(WA), John Inverarity(WA), Greg Chappell(SA), Geoff Watson(V), Tony Steele(NSW), Alan Turner(NSW).
Keeper: John Maclean(Q) – just pipping Rod Marsh(WA).
Pacemen: Dave Renneberg(NSW), Alan Thomson(V), Dennis Lillee(WA).
Spinners: Terry Jenner(SA), Kerry O’Keeffe(NSW).
In the summer of 1970-71, Australia’s misery continued as they lost the Ashes to England.
But from that B team to New Zealand – G.Chappell, D.Lillee, A.Thomson, T.Jenner and K.O’Keeffe made their official test debuts along with R.Marsh, who leap-frogged over both Maclean and Taber.
A new and exciting dawn of Australian cricket was about to emerge.