The Chinnaswamy Minefield of 1987- “We have Conquered the Hindus!”


As per the Dawn of Pakistan, Abdul Hafeez Kardar was in the Commentary Box, when Roger Binny was caught behind by Saleem Yousuf on Tauseef Ahmed’s delivery. Pakistan had just won the see-saw fifth test, and with it the series, by 16 runs. This is when the first and very influential captain of Pakistan, later the President of the PCB, someone who is regarded as the father figure of Pakistani cricket, exclaimed in joy, “we’ve conquered the Hindus!”.  This is the mindset with which our arch foes play their cricket. Only the Dawn mentioned this incident (and recalled this 30 years later in an article as well). Perhaps Indian publications were too embarrassed to mention such blatant show of bigotry, especially since the Indian narrative was all about promoting the Indo-Pak bonding over playing Holi in the hotel. Guess who did not join in the tomfoolery? Kiran More maintains that Imran kept aloof because he was shy. There are no prizes for being naïve.

Though that Chinnaswamy pitch of 1987 was regarded as a minefield, a rank turner, an unprepared or an underprepared offering, yet no one called it inappropriate, or unfit for test cricket. No one whined liked the English habitually do in the subcontinent. Four previous tests coming into that decider had been high-scoring draws, and a result-oriented wicket was quite desirable. Batsmen need to apply basic survival skills like not pressing forward on every ball to keep away from those balls that do not turn. When off-spinners start hurling balls that might bounce above your shoulders, it becomes all the more difficult. Uneven bounce can be quite treacherous, it ultimately got the great Sunil Gavaskar out in his last test outing after the legend had provided a batting masterclass. No one from Pakistan got a fifty in the match. Vengsarkar got a 50, whereas second highest score in India’s chase was 26. India got 27 extra runs in their second innings, 22 of them bounced over wicketkeeper Saleem Yousuf’s head for byes.  Sunny stayed at the wicket for 264 balls in his second innings, the next longest was Imran’s 100 balls stay on the crease. The spinners in the two sides- Maninder(10), Qasim(9), Tauseef(9), Shastri(5) and Shivlal Yadav(2) claimed 35 wickets between them.

Both captains were foxed by the green top, and anticipated seaming wickets- Imran played Saleem Jaffar in place of Qadir, whereas Tauseef Ahmed, now fit, also returned; Kapil drafted Roger Binny ahead of offie Gopal Sharma. Interestingly, Jaffar (a specialist fast bowler) did not bowl even a single bowl in the match! Even Imran Khan did not bowl in the second innings.

Pak won the toss, but the top order batsmen soon realised that it was turning square, and began hitting out – from 2/60, they tumbled to 8/74, the wrecker- in- chief being Maninder Singh, who finished with figures of 7 for 27. Iqbal Qasim, Tauseef Ahmed and Saleem Jaffar added 42 runs for the last two wickets and extended the total to 116.

In reply, none of the Indian top order batsman, except Vengsarkar, who scored 50, could make their starts count. From 4/126, India folded for 145, a lead of paltry 29 runs. Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef took five wickets apiece. Tauseef claimed 5 of the Indian top six; Sunny, Shrikkant and Amarnath being clean bowled!

Wily Imran sent Miandad to open with Rameez, and the duo added 45 valuable runs to wipe off the deficit. Most batsmen got in, but could not carry for long. Wicket kept falling at regular intervals, but Pakistani batsmen showed enough sense to hang around for their life. Wicketkeeper Saleem Yousuf and Tauseef Ahmed added 51 valuable runs for the ninth wicket.  Maninder did not prove to be very penetrative in the second innings, but managed to take three wickets to take his match tally to ten. Pakistan folded for 249, leaving India with a target of 221 to win the fifth test and the series. Iqbal Qasim’s valuable 19 and 26, and Tauseef’s 15* and 10, and the key partnerships they stitched were to prove to be the difference between the two sides.

Wasim Akram sent Shrikkant and Amarnath packing in successive balls to leave India tottering at 2/15. Sunny played with a lot of caution, negotiating turn and uneven bounce with aplomb, and added 49 runs for the third wicket, before Tauseef claimed both Dilip Vengsarkar and Kiran More in quick succession. India ended the third day on 4/99; still requiring 122 runs to romp home, with Gavaskar (52*) and Azhar still at the crease.

Day four was the rest day. Qasim and Tauseef bumped into Bishan Singh Bedi at the hotel reception. Bedi was not pleased with how his protégé, Maninder, had tried too many tricks on the third day. The legendary spinner maintained that since the wicket was doing its bit, the spinner should have bowled straighter, and not tried too hard. Pakistani spin-twins took the clue. I would not have held this story in credence, had I not found a recent piece in which Iqbal Qasim himself has retold this anecdote. The next day, Qasim took two lovely catches off his own bowling to send back Azhar(5/123) and Shastri (6/155), then bowled Kapil Dev (7/161), and finally got rid of Sunny with a good length ripper that bounced a tad too awkwardly. Did the ball brush Sunny’s wrist? Did he benefit from a turned-down appeal a short while earlier? Rizwan-us-Zaman took the catch in the slips, and India slipped to 8/180. Sunny had held strong for 264 balls, and 5 hours 20 minutes. Shivlal Yadav followed soon after, bowled by Tauseef. Roger Binny hit one out of the park, but was caught behind not much later. India lost the battle of nerves, folded for 204, and lost by 16 runs.

Tauseef and Qasim took 4 wickets apiece in the second innings, and five each in the first. These, along with their valuable runs and partnerships, helped Pakistan nosedive ahead of India in this close finish. Sunny was destined to miss out on a well-deserved hundred and lose his farewell test, and with it the series. This Bangalore heartbreak is quite like the Chennai disaster that struck Sachin Tendulkar and India, 12 years later.

#bangalore1987 #sunilgavaskar #IndiaPakistan #kapildev #imrankhan #iqbalqasim #tauseefahmed #manindersingh

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