For the first time in four tours of the West Indies, Pakistan failed to distinguish themselves. They struck back spiritedly after going two down to tie the five-match one-day series, but they could not summon the same resilience in contesting the three-Test rubber, which was not quite the battle of giants it was expected to be.
On a pitch in Port-of-Spain that was decidedly poor, but which should have been less disadvantageous to Pakistan than West Indies, they lost the First Test in three days, by the overwhelming margin of 204 runs. In the Second, in Bridgetown, where they had always run West Indies close in the past, the gap was just as wide - ten wickets in four days. But for adverse weather, the Third, played on an amiable pitch in Antigua, might have ended in another rout. A dropped chance probably saved Pakistan from the follow-on. But the series produced a lot of entertaining cricket and its most heartening feature was the large attendance at every Test.
On the night the Pakistanis arrived in Grenada for their last match before the First Test, four members of the team - Wasim Akram, the captain, Waqar Younis, the vice-captain, Aqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed - were arrested on a beach, and charged with constructive possession of marijuana. They claimed they were frogmarched to the police station and taunted by officers and onlookers. The charges were dropped but the manager, Khalid Mahmood, maintained that the business had left the team without the mental and physical strength to play a series and further stated that the players wanted the rest of the tour called off. However, Wasim said the thought had not entered his mind. He was bitter about the incident, though: "We are accused of things wherever we go," he told a newspaper. "Last year in England it was ball-tampering and now this, which was 20 times worse. We are not bad human beings. We don't make trouble. All we are is good cricketers. Why are some people jealous of that?"
After negotiations, it was agreed that the start of the First Test be put back by a day to give the Pakistanis time to get over the trauma. Indeed, if the Pakistanis were depressed by the events in Grenada, their spirits should have been restored when on the first day they shot out West Indies for a mere 127. But that was to be their only taste of supremacy in the series.
There were other factors, more pertinent, that caused Pakistan's eclipse. Lack of experienced players in the tour party - the omission of Salim Malik and Shoaib Mohammad had raised some eyebrows - became a greater handicap because none of the remaining battle-hardened members of the team lived up to their reputations. Ramiz Raja's form dried up by the time the Tests began. Javed Miandad, troubled by injuries, lacked the footwork and reflexes which had made him such a formidable batsman. He batted as if from memory. Wasim was jaded and so lacked control that he did not have the confidence to run in to bowl at full throttle. Lack of self-assurance was most apparent when he was reluctant to bowl, as was Waqar, on the second day of the First Test, when West Indies blades were flailing. This was also when Mushtaq left the field, no longer able to bear the pain in his back.
Pakistan were hit very hard by injuries. Aqib, it would seem, had come on the tour without recovering from stress fractures in his back. Neither he nor Mushtaq completed the tour. In view of the known uncertainty of West Indian batsmen against wrist-spin, Mushtaq's absence significantly altered the balance between the two sides. Aamir Sohail, seen to advantage in the one-day series and in the First Test, was carrying an injury by the Second. Rashid Latif, the first-choice wicket-keeper, missed the first two Tests. Two catches that his deputy, Moin Khan, dropped in the fourth over of the Second Test put Pakistan in an irretrievable position.
The itinerary, too, was to the tourists' disadvantage. With the three Tests scheduled back to back, there was no scope to rest the injured or to bring their replacements into form. Shakeel Ahmed and Nadeem Khan played the final Test without having had any cricket for nearly three weeks. Indeed, most of the party had toured Australia, New Zealand, Sharjah and South Africa without playing more than two first-class matches - one against Queensland and the Test against New Zealand.
Inzamam-Ul-Haq made Pakistan's only century in the Test series. But the true batting success was Basit Ali. He was new to international cricket, not having taken part in the earlier tours, yet from day one looked a mature batsman as well as an accomplished one. He was elegant and powerful in his attacking shots and possessed the skill to find gaps for ones and twos. Asif Mujtaba was consistent and resolute without being prolific. Waqar was Pakistan's most successful bowler, but was often expensive through being erratic in length. The fielding was indifferent. As for the captaincy, Wasim should have been given an easier first assignment. His own poor form diminished his authority.
For West Indies, the series came at the end of a busy winter. But the spirit cultivated in the side by their new captain, Richie Richardson, kept them buoyant. It must be said, however, that they were not fully tested. The facts that they suffered only one collective batting failure in the series and that they scored well over 300 runs on one day of every Test masked the brittleness of their batting. Brian Lara, Phil Simmons and Richardson all took turns to play innings of great brilliance, and Carl Hooper's 178 not out in Antigua was a masterpiece. But at the root of every other big West Indian total was Desmond Haynes, disciplined and responsible, but never dull.
There was not one bowler of the six West Indies called on who did not leave his mark on the series. If a tired Curtly Ambrose was not as explosive and devastating as he had been in Australia, he always struck vital blows. The main wicket-taker was Courtney Walsh, always willing and always a threat. Winston Benjamin, recalled after four years, also bowled fierily. Although the fast bowlers were all effective, Hooper, with his off-breaks, was an integral part of the West Indian attack, and in the Trinidad Test he was a match-winner with five for 40. Given ample runs to buy his wickets, Hooper bowled in attacking mode and, after Walsh, was the highest wicket-taker. In fact, had it not been for his contribution with the ball in the first two Tests, he might not have survived to play his memorable innings in Antigua; his scores in the first two Tests were 9, 0 and 15.
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