July 18, 2013

When Mushtaq's Pakistan nearly matched the mighty Windies

As Pakistan and West Indies played out a classic series in 1976-77, a schoolboy in India tracked the scores

Colin Croft: 33 wickets in his debut series © PA Photos

In a couple of previous posts here, I described tours of India by teams depleted by Kerry Packer's World Series: Alvin Kallicharran's West Indies and Kim Hughes' Australians. Today's post is about a series that took place in the same period, but it does not involve India.

I did not have access to radio commentary or television broadcasts for Pakistan's 1976-77 tour of the West Indies and could only follow scores via my newspaper's sports pages. And even those came late; because of the time differences involved, Indian newspapers only carried the tea-time scores from the previous day. The next day's newspaper would then carry the updated score along with the next (partial) score.

To date, I have not seen any live action from this series, and am not sure if it was even telecast. I had to satisfy myself with the few photographs and match reports that were published in Indian sports magazines. And yet, somehow, because I followed the series so obsessively, tracking every score update, the events seem especially vivid. To this day.

More to the point, this series became especially important for one central reason: it was the first time I became properly aware of the Pakistani cricket team, its players and their abilities. West Indies were by then a familiar entity; their names and reputations well known and established, thanks to their 1974-75 tour of India and India's tour of the West Indies in 1976.

Pakistan had made their presence felt - to this young fan - a few months previously when they had pulled off a 1-1 drawn series in Australia, thanks to a 12-wicket haul at the Sydney Cricket Ground by a young quick called Imran Khan. I dimly knew of Zaheer Abbas, largely on account of his two Test double-centuries in England, and I had heard of Majid Khan's century before lunch on the first day of a Test against New Zealand in Karachi. But, by and large, Pakistan was an unknown entity. This series would change that.

The series was also memorable for the debut of two West Indian fast bowlers, who in the absence of Michael Holding made more than adequate debuts: Colin Croft and Joel Garner. The pair took 33 and 25 wickets respectively (these figures included an amazing 8 for 29 from Croft on the first day of the second Test at Port of Spain).

West Indies won the second and fifth Tests; Pakistan won the fourth; the first and third Tests were drawn, so West Indies emerged 2-1 winners. But things could have been very different.

In the first Test, Pakistan scored 435 in their first innings, with Wasim Raja, batting at No. 7, making a brilliant 117 (like I said, I didn't see it, but the folks who did, including, supposedly, Gideon Haigh, say so). They then proceeded to squeeze out a 14-run lead and set West Indies a target of 306. West Indies were cruising along at 142 for 1, with Fredericks and Richards in fine touch. Sarfraz Nawaz dismissed both of them, triggering a slide that sent them crashing to 237 for 9 before the last-wicket pair of Andy Roberts and the debutant Colin Croft held on for dear life.

Thanks to Croft's bowling heroics, West Indies were comfortable winners in the second Test at Port-of-Spain. The third Test, as was often the norm in Georgetown in the old days, and still is today, was a draw. Pakistan did poorly in their first innings but weren't about to be fooled again in their second, as Majid Khan's 167 ensured a 500-plus score and a comfortable draw.

For reasons unknown, the teams returned to Port-of-Spain for the fourth Test. And here, Pakistan's captain, Mushtaq Mohammad, decided to put on an all-round show for the ages. Given its statistical stature, the quality of the opposition, the state of the series, and his own personal responsibilities, his performance will take some beating: with his side 0-1 down away from home, against one of the world's strongest teams, Mushtaq scored 121 and 56 and finished with figures of 10.5-3-28-5 and 31-9-69-3. (The storywriters wanted to give him a century and five-fors in each innings of the Test, but thought that would be stretching things.) Pakistan were comfortable winners by 266 runs.

Thanks to an early first-innings advantage, and a strong second-innings batting performance, West Indies won in some style in Kingston to wrap up the series. But Pakistan, of course, had not been disgraced. They had matched the hosts every step of the way with some brilliant individual performances: their pace bowlers had caused plenty of damage, and their batsmen had played some brilliant innings. West Indies, for their part, had found two new pace bowlers who would go on to terrorise the rest of the world. Pretty soon, both teams would succumb to World Series Cricket, but for now their best available outfits were on display.

Far away in India, a young schoolboy had received some inkling of what would lie in store for the Indian team when they would tour Pakistan in 1978. That series, an especially formative one in my cricket upbringing, is what I hope to write more about anon.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • riz309 on July 21, 2013, 4:36 GMT

    The tour of India in 1986-87 which was mared of poor Umpiring even though Pakistan won that series 1-0 but could have done better if the Umpires were not biased was a major reason why the great Imran Khan pushed for the idea of introducing Neutral Umpiring which made his stand much stronger when later Pakistan visited the West Indies in 1988 that was the era where Imran Khan was at his Peak and having Abdul Qadir beside him the WI traditionally poor at handling leg-spin Pakistan was on a verge for an up set in WI if we had Neutral Umpires then West Indies still one of the exiting team to watch.

  • gojjo on July 19, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    after the series even Vivian Richards was forced to admit in a comment that Wasim Raja'a audacity to hit sixes almost to the height of the palm trees was something breath taking and e had not seen anyone do that before. There is a picture of Raja on one leg hiting a cover drive albeit there is a picture of him bowled by croft with his body doubling over with the bat swinging high over his left shoulder and the stump flying out of the ground. The vintage pakistan cricket magazine The Cricketer had these pictures and might sill be available with the Dawn Group of newspapers whom owned the cricket magazine

  • khiladisher on July 19, 2013, 18:46 GMT

    Imran was a great captain who knew the importance of Neutral Umpires for World Cricket because most of the wins by them at home came with massive complaints about their umpires and the wins tainted by poor umpiring. The 1982 series vs India that Pakistan won saw bad umpiring at its worst-with Indian Batsmen given out LBW-a staggering 23 times and Pakistani batters just 6 times.It was tough to watch the umpires dish out rank bad decisions one after the other.The Indian team that became World Champions 4 months later would sure have been toughened up by that umpiring error ridden tour.

  • mgzak on July 19, 2013, 17:06 GMT

    I was a mere 14 yr old cricket fan in those days and did not miss a ball in a 5 day test match. In those days, there were always 2 test matched played at the Queens Park Cricket Club in Port of Spain since there was always a packed house numbering as much as 30,000 spectators. I remember Colin Croft's 8/29 in the second test in which he was unplayable. The ball zipped off the seam and he was quick.....really quick. I also remember in that test match Imran trying his best to bowl out WI in the second innings chase...his shirt was ripped at the back. The women in Trinidad were drooling over Imran. In the fourth test, I remember Majid playing a shot that still sticks with me. Croft was bowling from the northern end and he bowled a length ball going down the leg side and Majid helped it for 6 over fine leg ...yes fine leg with the most elegant of glances. Incredible shot. I also remember Haroon Rashid who was such a fine player and faded. Great series with great players on both teams.

  • gojjo on July 19, 2013, 17:02 GMT

    I was twelve years old and remember watching live at around 8 - 9 pm in Karachi the last few WI wickets falling to Wasim Raja in the 4th test win for Pakistan. Wasim Bari and another Pakistani player were involved in a near drowning accident at the beach just before the 4th test (if I correctly recall). Wasim Raja's record of 17 sixes for a series (the most) was eventually equalled by Kevin Pietersen in his debut series in England's Ashes win of 2005 - most of those 6s were perhaps against Warne. Javed Miandad's position in the team was precariously placed as he was seriously threatened by Haroon Rasheed - I wonder if Javed was even dropped at some point in the series. Unfortunately for Haroon and perhaps fortunately for Javed the Packer circus beacame a blessing as the next series played in Pakistan was with the touring Englishmen devoid of big names and Mudassar Nazar scored the lowest test hundred and Javed also settled in with Haroon just fading away on the away tour to England

  • khiladisher on July 19, 2013, 16:23 GMT

    The Team of 1972 to 1980 was awesome,almost winning in West Indies,Pakistan once more coming close to winning in 1988,with the series finally ending 1-1.It is a travesty of justice that Pakistan are yet to win a test series in the West Indies. Coming back to the Great team of 1970s with a very deep batting line up and very good bowling had only 1 bad series in the period 72-79(1972 series in Australia,which they lost 3-0).They arrived in India in the Winter of 1979 to play a 6 match test series expecting to win easily,however the Indian batting line-up led by Sunny Gavaskar,Vengsarkar,Vishwanath,Chauhan,Yashpal Sharma,Sandeep patilwith Kirmani and Kapil coming in at 7and 8 proved far superior and India won the series 2-0 on the back of Great Batting and the coming of age of Kapil Dev as a World Class Swing Bowler ably supported by the medium pace of Roger Binny and Karsan Ghavri and the spin of Yadav and Duleep Doshi.Pak batting struggle continues to 2013.

  • ICF_Lurker on July 19, 2013, 15:39 GMT

    Great article.

    1. As a Indian cricket fan who grew watching cricket in 80s I am always surprised as how Pakistani fans think Pakistan team of late 80s suddenly became a great team, and perhaps lay the credit to the great Imran Khan. Fact is Pakistan ascend started in 70s. Personally I have always thought it was down to 2nd tier players like Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal and Wasim Raja who always fought fire and held the fort giving Imran all the time he needed to develop.

    2. Wasim Raja and Asif Iqbal are unsung heroes of Pakistan. Still remember how Raja was smoking gaanja in the stands, then went off to bat and hit the West Indies pacer for a six. Must have been some character!

  • dummy4fb on July 19, 2013, 11:03 GMT

    Syed I remember that 88 series where Pakistan drew a three match series 1-1. This was mainly thanks to Imran's, then captain, heroics with the ball and Javed's with the bat. Pakistan won the first test and came close to winning the second. The third was hard fought with WI sneaking home by 2 wickets. But if they had DRS in those days Pakistan would most likely have won the series 2-0 as an appeal for a catch off the edge by a WI batsman (Dujon I think ) was turned down by the umpire. (Replays showed that the edge was genuine as I recall )

  • harshthakor on July 19, 2013, 8:53 GMT

    Infact historically A West -Indies Pakistan test match or series is the ultimate battle.History of the 1977 series repeated itself in terms of intensity in 1988 and in 2000 with Pakistan almost pulling off historic wins.Few teams were as evenly matched as Pakistan and West Indies in 1977.

    The 1st test match at Barbados was an epic.The pendulum continuously swung either way In the1 st innings Pakistan scored 435 and in reply West Indies scored 421 after being precariously placed at 167-5.In the 2nd innings Pakistan were 158-9 just 172 run s ahead before a record 133 run last wicket partnership took them to 291 and ahead of 306 runs.From 142-1 the Calypsos collapsed to 217-8 and then finished at 254-9.

    Asif Iqbal's centuries on a fast track at Kingston was a sheer classic where he revealed his mastery against great pace bowling.Majid Khan's 167 at Georgetwon was one of the best match-saving innings and Wasim Raja's batting in the entire series is one of the best ever in West Indies.

  • harshthakor on July 19, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    Full marks to Pakistan for displaying such great fighting spirit.Their comeback in the 1st test at Barbados after facing imminent defeat was remarkable,like a great army.At this point of time Pakistan was on par with West Indies and Australia and I would rate this team as one of the best of all time in test cricket.Imagine containing Majid Khan,Zaheer Abbas,Javed Miandad,Imran Khan ,Mushtaq Muhammadand Wasim Raja in one unit with Wasim Barii batting last man.

    At his best Imran Khan was ferocious and troubled the likes of Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd.He revealed his great prowess on batting tracks.On pure ability Pakistan should have won the series.Mushtaq Muhammad proved he was great all-rounder and leader.Wasim Raja negotiated great pace bowling as well as any great batsman of his time.

    In another context winning this series had an important historical impact on West Indian cricket led by Clive Lloyd.In the end Pakistan's boats were burnt.