It was March 1987, three decades ago, when Pakistan snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to win their first ever Test series in India. In days of home umpires, famous for their loyalties to the ‘home’ team, Pakistan had to swim against the tide at Bangalore, which they indeed did and emerged triumphant.
India, the then world champions, were virtually unbeatable at home. On the other hand, the mighty West Indies, under the captaincy of Sir Viv Richards had just left Pakistan after a closely fought series.
The concept of ‘neutral’ umpires was presented when two umpires, V.K. Ramaswamy and P.D. Reporter, officiated in two of the three Test matches.
India failed to compliment ‘neutrality’ when Pakistanis arrived for a five-match series. Four Tests ended in high scoring draws. Tauseef Ahmed and Javed Miandad, who missed out the fourth Test at Ahmedabad, were back for the final Test at Bangalore (now Bengaluru). Imran Khan elected to bat on a spinning track on 13th March 1987. Pakistan managed a paltry 116 in the first innings, bamboozled by spinner Maninder Singh who captured 7 wickets.
Although Saleem Malik top scored with 33, the last wicket stand of 18 between Tauseef and Iqbal Qasim proved vital as it took the visitors’ score past 100.
In reply, the home side was well set at 102-4, but some brilliant work in the outfield reduced India to 145, restricting their lead to just 29. Pakistan’s spin twins Tauseef and Iqbal ripped through the Indians with 5 wickets apiece.
After lunch on the second day, Pakistan started its second innings with Ramiz Raja and Javed Miandad. It was the second time in his career that Miandad had come out to open the innings, the previous occasion being in 1982 at Lord’s where, too, Pakistan had emerged victorious.
The pair put on a valuable 45 runs before Javed was dismissed for 17. Despite chants and appeals going against them, ‘Imran’s tigers’ roared on. Saleem Malik put on 32 for the third wicket with Ramiz, and the same amount of runs with night watchman Iqbal Qasim for the fourth wicket to keep the scoreboard ticking. The day ended with Pakistan reaching 155 for five, gaining a lead of over a hundred.
The case for neutral umpires was really strengthened when a half-hearted appeal tempted umpire Ramaswamy to raise his finger. Standing his ground, Iqbal Qasim showed his bat to the umpire, which made him reverse the decision.
The second innings eventually ended on the third day at 249. An undefeated 41 from wicket-keeper Saleem Yousuf strengthened Pakistan’s position, as he put on 51 runs for the ninth wicket with Tauseef. Maninder managed 3 more wickets, completing ten-wicket haul in the match.
Needing 221 to win, Sunil Gavaskar started the proceedings with dashing opener Kris Srikkanth. With just 15 on the board, India lost Srikkanth and Mohinder Amarnath on successive deliveries to Wasim Akram. A mini collapse by Tauseef was averted by a fighting Gavaskar and India ended day three at 99-4.
16th March was a rest day, and both Pakistan spinners had a chance meeting with former Indian skipper Bishen Singh Bedi. During chit-chat, Bedi pointed out that his protégé Maninder Singh could have been more successful had he tried ‘not to spin the ball too much’.
The ‘rest day’ did it for spinners and they did the rest the next day. On the fourth day, Iqbal tried ‘not to spin the ball too much’ and held remarkable return catches off Azharuddin and Ravi Shastri, reducing India to 155-6.
Skipper Kapil Dev too left six runs later. Gavaskar, who earlier got a charmed life when the umpire turned down a catch from a diving Rizwan-uz-Zaman, was ironically caught by Rizwan in the slips; off Iqbal Qasim, when the target was still 41 runs away. He was dismissed four runs short of what could have been his 35th century.
This also turned out to be the last Test of the legendary batsman, who became the first player to score 10,000 Test runs.
With Tauseef removing Shivlal Yadav, the fate of the match hung in balance. At 192-9, Binny hit a massive six off Tauseef, reducing the target and bringing the crowd to its feet.
Tensions ran high, but Tauseef had been in similar situation just 11 months ago in Sharjah when he was asked to take a single off the penultimate ball to give Javed Miandad the strike which he duly did. He then witnessed Miandad’s amazing six sinking India and destroying Chetan Sharma’s career. Could he do it again? The crowd was partisan here and Tauseef was required to do more than just tap and run to the other end.
India was inching closer. Tauseef went in, bowled a faster one, and had Binny caught behind when the score was 204. The visitors had pulled off the impossible by 16 runs. Pakistani players were hysteric, jubilant as Tauseef performed a sajda to celebrate a most improbable victory recorded in Pakistan cricket history.
Pakistan won the Bangalore Test, and with that the series. The spin duo took nine wickets each in the match. Former captain A.H. Kardar, the man behind Pakistan’s only win in India prior to this match was in the commentary box and it is said that he couldn’t control his emotions and blurted out, ‘We have conquered the Hindus.’
Despite their heroics, it were not Tauseef or Iqbal but Gavaskar who was named man of the match for his innings which failed to save India.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017