In a way it was symbolic, for the Indian government abolished the privy purse the same year. Ajit Wadekar, a man with no royal connections, was the new captain. Pataudi opted out of the tour. He would contest that this year assembly elections, but his withdrawal would be perceived by many as his refusal to play under Wadekar.
However, Pataudi’s absence did not matter. Wadekar led India to their first win against West Indies, not only in a Test match but also the series. The West Indies were admittedly going through a slump – they did not win a single series between 1966 and 1973 – but it was still an overseas win in one of the top countries.
However, the real hurdle was England, at that point the best team in the world (thanks to South Africa’s ban). Few gave India a chance despite that win in the West Indies. After all, India’s record in England read four draws, 15 defeats, and England had won 2-0 in Australia to regain the Ashes in 1970/71.
The challenge stretched beyond the field, for India, as a nation, were still grappling with poverty, hunger, and illiteracy. Barring the ones born rich, their cricketers needed a day job outside cricket. Most of their English counterparts, on the other hand, were professional cricketers.
Almost every member of the English team drove cars to cricket matches. In contrast, only six of the touring Indian cricketers owned cars. These did not include Gavaskar, Indian cricket’s newest superstar, or Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, who would emerge as the hero of the tour.
Most Indian cricketers on the tour hailed from the middle class – the contemporary Indian definition, that is – where running water was not available in many households. They traveled by bus or local train, which were almost always crowded, for their daily cricket practice.
The British were aware of India’s problems. While the Indians were on that 1971 tour of England, John Pilger opened his interview of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with ‘could an Indian, hungry and without hope, really regard himself as a member of a democracy?’
To bridge the discrepancy (to some extent, at least), Wadekar and manager Hemu Adhikari negotiated with the BCCI. The ridiculous daily allowance of the cricketers was trebled.