SK Flashback: Australia’s first tour of India in 1956
Looking back at Australia's first tour of India in 1956.
The focus of the entire cricketing world was on the recently-conducted auction for the Indian Premier League (IPL). The lucrative contracts and the chance to play with the best players in the world meant that all international stars hoped to be picked up by a franchise.
Indian cricket has come a long way with the country moving from the fringes of the sport to now being one of the major stakeholders in cricket. The incentive of an IPL contract and fame, along with lucrative brand endorsements, mean that players look forward to touring India and performing well for their national sides.
However, touring India wasn’t the priority in the past and teams would often look to avoid visiting the country, usually because of lack of infrastructure and competitiveness of the Indian team.
The Australian team is in India for the upcoming Test series and the team management knows the importance of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy over the T20I series at home against Sri Lanka where they fielded a second-string team.
In the build-up to the series, we look at Australia's first tour to India more than 60 years ago in 1956, and some of the key talking points from that series.
#1 Political pressure resulted in planning of the tour
In the early years of Test cricket, Australia were hesitant in helping out newer teams, and restricted their tours to mainly England and South Africa. While India had toured Australia in 1947 after the country received its independence, the Aussies hadn’t reciprocated and were reluctant to tour the Indian sub-continent.
But with Australia’s foreign policy of closely helping the developing nations in the Commonwealth, Prime Minister Robert Menzies was keen on conducting a cricket tour of the Commonwealth nations – looking to use cricket as a medium to increase the diplomatic and financial influence of Australia.
After the Australian cricket board (called Australian Cricket Board for International Cricket back then) rejected a tour invitation by India in 1953, Menzies wrote to the board and used his influence get them to rethink their foreign tour policy.
The prime minister played a key role in getting the team to make their first tour of the West Indies in 1955. He also got a trip to Pakistan and India planned after the 1956 Ashes in England, and the team made a stop in Asia after the England tour before heading home.