India beware the Bangalore jinx
Pakistan couldn't have picked a better venue in India on which to play a must-win Test: they've played four Tests at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore and not lost once. More significantly, they've twice won the crucial final Test here - in 1986-87 and 2004-05 - after lagging behind for most of the tour.
Younis Khan, standing in as captain for Shoaib Malik, said he had told the team in Kolkata while they were battling to draw the second Test, of how Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq batted nearly an entire day to draw the Mohali Test in 2004-05. As Pakistan bid to level the series, Younis would do well to remind his team of the victory in Bangalore in 2004-05.
"We still try and draw inspiration from our performance in that match [in Bangalore, 2004-05]," Younis said. "We asked them [India] to bat on the fourth day, but didn't get a single wicket. The target for India was around 300 [it was 383], which wasn't that big, but we were brave and positive and that is why we won that day."
India began that final day in 2004-05 needing 358 to win but lost ten wickets for 189 runs as the Pakistan team, labelled by some as the weakest ever to tour India, levelled the series 1-1. It was a tremendous victory, for Bob Woolmer was new to his job as Pakistan coach and the team was without its spearhead, Shoaib Akhtar, who had pulled out of the tour with a hamstring injury
That series in 2004-05 has several parallels to this one. India had dominated for the majority of the first two Tests. In Mohali, Pakistan ended the fourth day with a lead of 53 with only four second-innings wickets in hand. Akmal and Razzaq, who had begun batting on the previous evening, played nearly the whole of the fifth day to save the Test. However, in the next match in Kolkata, Pakistan conceded a slender first-innings lead despite hundreds from Younis and Mohammad Yousuf and were dismissed for 226 chasing 422 in the final innings to give India a 1-0 lead.
Pakistan had to win the final Test and Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq, under pressure after losing a home series to India in 2003-04, scored 267 and 184 to take Pakistan from 7 for 2 to 331 for 2. Pakistan ended their first innings on 570 and, with time running out on the fourth day, Pakistan showed their urgency by scoring at more than five an over in the second innings and declared to set India a target of 383. The next morning, Pakistan's spinners skittled out India to complete a 168-run victory. The series was shared 1-1 but the manner in which Pakistan won the final Test prompted the Bangalore crowd to cheer Inzamam and boo the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.
"I see the series as one that got away," India's then coach, John Wright, said at the time. "When you're expecting a victory and don't get it, it leaves an empty feeling."
Younis, whose place was under doubt at the start of the series, had ended it with 508 runs at 101.60. "I have never played with fear; pressure does not affect me," Younis had said. "If I get dropped tomorrow, I will go and play cricket somewhere else, and continue to enjoy it."
That was the second time Pakistan piped India at the post in Bangalore. The first was under Imran Khan in 1986-87, when the first four of the five Tests were dull draws on lifeless tracks. The pitches were prepared to blunt Pakistan's fast bowlers and the Indian batsmen often scored heavily to put the pressure on their Pakistan counterparts but the series was still up for grabs when the teams reached Bangalore.
The administrators, desperate to break the deadlock, prepared a pitch favourable for spin. Pakistan collapsed for 116 in the first innings - Maninder Singh took career-best figures of 7 for 27 - but their spinners Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed took five apiece to restrict India's first-innings lead to 29. Javed Miandad was sent to open the second innings and Pakistan accumulated 249 with Ramiz Raja top scoring with 47. Chasing a target of 221, India were at 99 for 4 before the rest day, and though Sunil Gavaskar scored a technically-supreme 96 in his final Test innings, Pakistan completed a 16-run win on the last day. Tauseef and Qasim once again set up the win, taking four wickets apiece.
Qasim, who had made the team ahead of Abdul Qadir only because Javed Miandad and Mudassar Nazar convinced Imran, later revealed how Bishan Singh Bedi helped improve his performances. "I was struggling to get wickets in a low-scoring Test," he told Mid-Day in 2004. "Imran kept glaring at me from mid-off after every wicketless over on a pitch ideal for the spinners."
It was a wicket, the Wisden Almanack reported, on which even an offspinner could bowl bouncers, and Bedi told Qasim: "The more effort you put in, the more it will turn. And neither will you hit the stumps, nor will you get an edge." Qasim concentrated on hitting one spot on a length the next day and said "it worked magic" for him.
George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo