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Forgotten series: Australia’s 1984 ODI triumph in India

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Roar Guru
6th October, 2022

The sagas of old great Test series get passed on throughout the years – even now you can flick through the scorecards of, say, the 1932-33 Ashes or the 1960-61 Australia-West Indies matches and imagine how exciting and dramatic those games must have been.

ODI series seem to have less of a narrative shelf life, unless they’re World Cups. We remember individual games – the underarm, Michael Bevan’s last-ball four, various streakers, etc – but series? Not so much.

Still, I thought it was time to shed some light on an ODI series that has, I feel, been unfairly forgotten: the 1984 Australian tour of India, aka The Ranji Trophy Golden Jubilee Series.

There’s a couple of reasons why this series was – or, rather, should be – memorable.

It was an Australian triumph – we beat India 3-0 with two games being washed out – during a rough period for our cricket, that was about to get rougher. We’d just been thrashed by the West Indies and were about to be thrashed by them again.

It was our first ODI series win on the subcontinent.

It was an overseas ODI series win after a number of disasters: the West Indies in 1984, the World Cup in 1983, Sri Lanka in 1982 (we easily won the Test but lost the ODI series) and Pakistan in 1982. It was Kim Hughes’ sole series victory overseas while captain (after unsuccessful ones in 1979 (twice), 1981, 1982 and 1983).

And it was with a squad of Australians who would mostly be banned from international cricket within a few months.


The series was cobbled together at relatively short notice – it happened in September but wasn’t firmed until early July. The Indian Cricket Board had invited the Australians for a five-match ODI series as as part of the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of the Ranji Trophy, the premier domestic competition in India.

The Australian team had a very packed schedule coming up, including five Tests against the West Indies, a WSC tournament, a World Championship Cricket ODI tournament in honour of Victoria’s 150th birthday (talk about forgotten ODI series!), and the Ashes.

But still, accommodation were made and a squad of players (chosen by a brand new selection panel of Lawrie Sawle, Rick McCosker and the recently-retired Greg Chappell) sent.

The squad was:

1) Kim Hughes (c)
2) Allan Border
3) Kepler Wessels
4) Graeme Wood
5) Steve Smith
6) Graham Yallop
7) Greg Ritchie
8) Geoff Lawson
9) Carl Rackemann
10) John Maguire
11) Rodney Hogg
12) Tom Hogan
13) Murray Bennett
14) Wayne Phillips

Everyone had been part of the recent West Indies tour, except Yallop, who had been injured and who replaced Dean Jones (who had only gone to the West Indies because of Yallop’s injury) and Bennett, who replaced Greg Matthews (who the selectors had gone off).

David Hookes was overlooked from the side that went to the West Indies, an indication the selectors had become sick of him (again).

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)


This was a good side. It lacked a bat and ball all-rounder (not needed in a Test side but essential in ODIs) but there weren’t that many around at the time. This was just before Simon O’Donnell established himself, though they’d tried Ken Macleay and I’m surprised they never gave Peter Faulkner a go.

They did have Wayne Phillips as keeper, which gave the batting extra depth and Kepler Wessels was a good fifth bowling option (curiously under-used in Tests). The selectors would be Hughes, Border and Hogg (often regarded as a firebrand moron, but an astute player). The manager was Bob Merriman.

India had a good team too – players like Dilip Vengsarkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri and Madan Lal. However, it was a tense time for the hosts: Dev, who’d led them to victory in the 1983 World Cup, had been replaced as captain after a series of failures by Sunil Gavaskar. This can’t have been helpful.

The Australians prepared for the tour over four days at the AIS in Canberra.

“I’ve got more enthusiasm for the game now than I’ve ever had in my life,” gushed Hughes before leaving for India.

“My philosophy is really simple. I will play the game as long as I’m loving it and as long as I feel I’m developing as a person. I think all the problems have strengthened me. I’m a lot, lot better person now than when I started out. I want the people of Australia to be proud of is, proud of the team.”

In the first ODI, under lights at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, Australia made 220 (Wessels 107, Hughes 72) – admittedly collapsing from 2-200. It was Wessels’ first ODI century. But the bowlers did well to dismiss India for 172 (Rackemann 4-41, Hogan 3-44, Phillips three catches and one stumping), winning easily.


“The Australian cricket team is at last unconditionally united,” beamed journalist Mike Coward, who was following the tour for Fairfax, and who perhaps wasn’t the best fortune teller. “This has become patently clear to observers after just four days of this brief visit to India.”

Hughes said, “I’ve felt really relaxed for the past three or four months simply because we have a group of fellows and there is a genuine feeling that they are committed and happy.”

Australia played an extra batter for the second ODI at Trivandrum, capital of Kerala, on what Wisden called “a pitch barely adequate for cricket at this level.” The match was called off due to rain but not until Australia dismissed India for 175, with more excellent work from Rackemann (3-7) and Hogan (4-33).

The third game, at Jamshedpur, only lasted for five overs before being called off as well (Rackemann still taking 2-3). The match started three hours late because the truck carrying the Indian and Australian players’ clothes and equipment had gone missing, which is the sort of high comedy badly missing from cricket these days.

For the fourth ODI, Australia restricted India to 6-206 (Lawson 3-25, Hogan 2-40). Australia easily chased this down within 43 overs for the loss of three wickets (Border 62).

Allan Border

(Credit: Ben Radford/Allsport via Getty Images)


In the fifth and last game, in front of a sellout crowd at Nehru Stadium in Indore, Australia replaced Hogan with Murray Bennett. Hogan had played so well I think this was done to give Bennett a game – it was his 28th birthday and his dad was travelling with the team in the hope of seeing his son play.

India batted well to make 235 (Shastri 102, Maguire 3-61, Bennett 0-37), but Australia got that within 40 overs, led by Smith (56 off 54 balls), Phillips (33 off 23 balls), Yallop (42) and Ritchie (59).

To wrap it up/rub it in, Australia won a game against Bombay (now Mumbai) by five wickets, Border taking 3-33 and scoring 70.

It had been a real team effort. Wessels won man of the series but everyone got runs and wickets (except Hogg who had to return home early when his asthma played up).

Coward called the tour “a triumph for Hughes, who meticulously planned each of the matches and ensured that this young team played the limited over game at a much more sophisticated level.”

“This Australian team has made a most favourable impression on me,” observed Gavaskar graciously. “Their attitude was very impressive. They were very, very determined.” He felt Australia could challenge the West Indies in the one layers, although not necessarily the Tests.

The tour ended with a gala banquet at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai to celebrate the Ranji Trophy, with the Australians among a guests who also included superstars of Indian cricket such as Vijay Merchant and Gundappa Viswanath.


Hughes accepted a replica of the Trophy to take back to Australia (wearing Merriman’s clothes – there had been a laundry mix-up). The Australians won prize money of 25,000 rupees, most of which they donated to a home for crippled children in Ahmedabad.

A report on this evening from Coward added casually: “some of the players will stop over in Singapore before returning for the Australian season”.

In hindsight, this would be the most impactful element of the tour.

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Those players were meeting with South African cricket officials to discuss touring in that country, then banned from international sport. By the end of the Australian summer, it was revealed that Wood, Smith, Yallop, Rackemann, Maguire, Hogg, Hogan, Philips and Bennett had signed to go to South Africa.

Bennett, Phillips and Wood would change their minds but the others didn’t and they would eventually be joined by Hughes and Wessels (along with a number of other players).

By the time Australia toured India in 1986, only Border and Ritchie from the 1984 squad were left. When Australia returned to India compete at the 1987 World Cup, it was just Border.


Still, I like to think the experience of the 1984 trip helped Border on that brilliant 1987 campaign. Because in hindsight, the Ranji Trophy Challenge was (arguably) a sort of turning point in our one-day cricket. Australia’s Test team would be notoriously weak until 1989 but not its ODI side, not after 1984.

We fought well against the West Indies in the WSC competition in 1984-85, beat England 2-1 in 1985, won the 1985-86 WSC comp at home against New Zealand and India, and of course took home the 1987 World Cup. There were blips of course (eg 1986-87 WSC), but following the 1984 Ranji Trophy Challenge, Australia was no longer an overseas easy-beat in one-day cricket.

The tour also gave some indication that Kim Hughes could lead a successful Australian side overseas. I wonder how he might’ve done had he not resigned the captaincy in 1984-85… he would’ve had pressure to do so, maybe overwhelmingly crushing pressure, especially with Greg Chappell whispering in his ear all the time, but if he’d held on until the South African defections became apparent maybe that would’ve brought him time. Or not.

On the downside, the tour reinforced the idea that Wayne Phillips was an ideal wicketkeeper. Maybe at ODI he was – but in Tests it was damaging to Australia and Phillips.

Still, a pleasant memory, at least for Australian cricket fans, particularly admirers of players like Smith, Hughes and Hogan, who had their last chance to star for Australia at ODI level.