India vs England Test Flashback: The 1976/77 Vaseline Gate

India vs England Test Flashback: The 1976/77 Vaseline Gate

BCCI sent the ball for a lab test to prove there was vaseline on it.

John Lever
John Lever. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection via Getty Images)

England’s Test assignment in 1975 and 1976 resulted in defeats as Australia beat them 1-0 in the 4-match series and a 3-0 defeat to Windies in the 5-match series at home. Towards the end of 1976, the English team travelled to India and were soon on top of their game. They won the first Test match in Delhi by an innings and 25 runs and followed it with a 10-wicket win in the Kolkata Test to take a 2-0 lead in the 5-match Test series.

England made a good start in the 3rd Test match hosted in Chennai scoring 262 in the first innings. England pacers made the hosts struggle on a track where Indian bowlers toiled for 126 overs to dismiss them. John Lever, who took ten wickets in his Test debut in Delhi, took a 5-fer to wrap India up for 164. By end of the 3rd day, England were 44/1 in their 2nd innings extending their lead to 142 runs. Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi accused England of applying grease to the ball that kept the shine on ball intact.

John Lever
John Lever. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Mike Selvey, a part of the squad, recalled while interacting with The Guardian that Lever and Bob Wills were troubled by the sweat running into their eyes. They wanted to apply Vaseline to their eyebrows to take the sweat away from their eyes as Boxers do. Since there was Vaseline, they took Vaseline-impregnated gauze from Bernard Thomas, the England physio and put that on their foreheads. The strategy didn’t work as the strips kept falling off during run-ups and the Vaseline on those strips was already in contact with the ball.

Speaking to a Reuters Reporter, Bedi added that he found something wrong on the ball in the Delhi Test where Lever took a 7-wicket haul and also said that he warned the umpire to look for signs of grease on the ball. The Indian cricket board sent the ball for laboratory analysis which reported there were traces of Vaseline over the ball. The controversy kept unfolding as there was a rest day after the 3rd day’s play.

Bishen Bedi
Bishen Bedi. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection via Getty Images)

The match resumed with placards from Indian crowds for England and Lever calling them cheaters. Media of both the countries took a lot of interest in this controversy with England team in the spotlight. The press rallied to Lever’s house and all this pressure led to his father suffering a heart attack. The Test continued and England won the game by 200 runs after dismantling India for just 83 in the 2nd innings.

Unsure of what conclusion they should draw with regards to the Vaseline strips, BCCI forwarded the matter to the MCC. The Lord’s committee was satisfied with the explanations presented by the team manager Ken Barrington and captain Tony Greg pronouncing that their actions were not deliberate. The series continued after this controversy and India won the 4th Test in Bangalore by 140 runs. The 5th Test in Mumbai ended in a draw and England claimed the series 3-1.

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