Much the same Pakistan side that had totally outplayed India at home a year earlier, and won the series 2-0, went down by the same margin in a tense, controversial rubber of six Tests. The result could have been 3-0 for India, after a brave second innings recovery, were close to winning the second Test. However, Pakistan dominated the dead final Test, which was drawn.
The marked turn of fortunes in a year was wrought by several factors, of which India's advantage of playing at home was the least significant. The most prominent reason for India's ascendancy was the development as an opening bowler of Kapil Dev who, with 32 wickets, was the leading wicket-taker of the series for either side. And with an abundant infusion of new players, India were stronger than twelve months earlier, much of the added strength coming from greater mobility in the field and superior catching.
Although his approach was cautious. Gavaskar marshalled his forces well. He stayed in command until the series was clinched in the fifth Test and then relinquished the captaincy as he was not available for the forthcoming tour of the West Indies. (This was cancelled at the last minute because of the unavailability of players on both sides.) Viswanath captained India in the final test.
India selected their sides for the six Tests from only twelve players and fielded the same eleven for the first four. As the series immediately followed the one against Australia which, in turn, was so closely preceded by the England tour, many of the players had been together for over six months and team spirit and morale were therefore high.
With Pakistan, the opposite was true. For reasons which were never clear, but which undoubtedly stemmed from a clash of personalities, the Pakistanis toured without Sarfraz Nawaz, their main wicket-taker against India in the previous series. There was also a very apparent division of loyalties within the party. Discipline was low, with the players distracted by commercial and social interests. However, the Pakistanis, whose only win on tour was against a weak East Zone side, would not come to terms with their shortcomings. Instead, they looked elsewhere for the cause of their failures. They alleged bias on the part of the umpires and in Bombay, during the third Test, they accused the ground authorities of doctoring the pitch after the match had started. After a stormy fourth Test, in which Sikander Bakht kicked down the stumps after having an appeal disallowed, Asif Iqbal talked of calling off the rest of the tour. Although such an action would have had severe repercussions, both at political level and in the cricket world, the Indian players would not, they said, have been too sorry. The atmosphere on the field had been soured and standards of conduct had dropped to deplorable levels.
Pakistan seldom batted to anywhere near their full potential, and their bowling was always inadequate. The handicap of Sarfraz's absence was accentuated by a persistent injury to Imran Khan, who had damaged a muscle, alongside the rib box. The injury made itself manifest during a torrid opening spell in the second Test, which Pakistan nearly lost but might well have won had Imran not broken down. Favourable conditions helped Sikander Bakht take eight wickets in India's first innings and were tailor-made for Imran. Still unfit, Imran was a passenger in the third Test and missed the fourth, when conditions again suited pace bowling.
Only two Pakistani batsmen, Javed Miandad and Wasim Raja, were at all consistent. Playing always in a positive, challenging manner, Raja was prone to lose his wicket through reckless shots, and yet he topped Pakistan's Test aggregates and averages with 450 runs (average 56.25). Only Gavaskar, with 529 runs for India, scored more runs in the series. For all that, when Majid Khan's lack of form necessitated a reshuffle of the batting order, Raja was dropped down rather than promoted and was less able to give Pakistan full benefit of his rich form. Miandad invariably looked to have the measure of the bowling, but quite often got himself out when looking well set. Too often he was leg-before coming across to hit the ball through mid-wicket.
In the 1978-79 series in Pakistan, India were unable to bowl Pakistan out even once in three Tests. This time they did so seven times in eleven innings, each time for totals under 300 and twice for less than 200. Apart from Raja and Miandad, not one batsman averaged even 30. The most notable failure was Zaheer Abbas who, a year earlier, had made scores against India of 176, 96, 235 not out, 34 not out and 42. In India, a 40 in the first Test and 50 in the second were followed by 2,11,5, 0 and 15 and he lost his place for the final test.
Majid and Asif Iqbal were almost as disappointing. Majid, always vulnerable outside the off stump, had only one score of more than 20 in the first four Tests. Asif's form, after 55 and 64 in the first two Tests, declined with the fortunes of his side, Mudassar Nazar made a typically dogged 126 in the first Test - Pakistan's only century of the series - and then faded away. Imran never really buckled down to the task of scoring runs. Some purpose was served by bringing Sadiq Mohammad in to open after the third test, and reserve wicket-keeper Taslim Arif rose to the occasion in the final Test by scoring 90 and 46 on his début.
Despite his affliction, Imran took nineteen wickets in the series, at 19.21, figures which stress the difference his full fitness would have made. Sikander Bakht, despite missing the first Test, did the most damage with 24 wickets in five Tests. A lot was asked of him in Imran's absence, which is why his form tapered away after the fourth Test. But until then Sikander took at least five wickets in the first innings of his three Tests and had a haul of eleven wickets in the second test.
Ehtesham-ud-Din, the third seamer, was not a bowler of any pace but always very accurate. If there was any help on the conditions, his sure aim always brought results. The spinners were disappointing. Iqbal Qasim shone only at Bombay, on a powdering pitch, and Abdul Qadir, the leg-spinner, had only two wickets to show for his three appearances. The fielding varied in quality but Wasim Bari, behind the wicket, was as sound as ever.
Several in the Indian ranks, too, did not play to potential. This was understandable for, in the five months prior, they were engaged in the Prudential Cup, the tour of England, including four Tests, and a series of six Tests against Australia. There was an unmistakable mark of staleness about their performance. Chauhan had a poor series, and by his standards Viswanath was quite undistinguished. Gavaskar made his quota of runs, but without looking his best. Nevertheless, the Indians played with character and determination and the sum of moderate contributions sufficed to meet the challenge. Among the bowlers, Kapil Dev was outstanding. Next in order of merit came Doshi, the left-arm spinner, but the other three main bowlers all paid a high price for their wickets. Ghavri looked tired; Binny, playing in his first series, bowled the isolate good spell, but lacked the experience to bowl economically on slow wickets; off-spinner Yadav's line was not always exact, although he did suffer from Gavaskar giving him little scope to gather confidence.
For all that the Pakistanis' comments on the umpiring were in bad taste, there was no doubt that it was deficient in standards. It has been remarked on adversely by the Australians as well. The Indian Board must take steps to improve it and one way would be to induce former first-class players to take up umpiring. As elsewhere, umpiring in India is no longer a financially unattractive occupation.
Test matches - Played 6: Lost 2, Drawn 4.
First-class Matches - Played 12: Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 9.
Win - East Zone.
Losses - India (2).
Draws - Board President's XI, Central Zone, India (4), North Zone, South Zone, West Zone.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Central Zone v Pakistanis at Jaipur, Nov 11-13, 1979
Tour Match: Indian Board President's XI v Pakistanis at Vadodara, Nov 16-18, 1979
Tour Match: North Zone v Pakistanis at Amritsar, Nov 29-Dec 2, 1979
Tour Match: West Zone v Pakistanis at Pune, Dec 11-13, 1979
Tour Match: East Zone v Pakistanis at Guwahati, Jan 10-11, 1980
Tour Match: South Zone v Pakistanis at Hyderabad (Deccan), Jan 24-26, 1980