Gavaskar: Chasing a recordThere are two lessons to be learnt from the first encounter of the short series between India and Pakistan, at Bangalore.The first is that playing Test cricket in India in September is tantamount to defrauding the public. The other is that playing conditions for a series, if,Gavaskar: Chasing a recordThere are two lessons to be learnt from the first encounter of the short series between India and Pakistan, at Bangalore.The first is that playing Test cricket in India in September is tantamount to defrauding the public. The other is that playing conditions for a series, if they are going to be at great variance with convention, should be formulated and circulated in advance to all concerned and should be discussed by the rival captains before the start of the series.Misunderstanding of the playing conditions and different interpretations of them by the two sides very nearly precipitated a major crisis in cricketing as well as diplomatic relations between the two countries. This was caused by the incident during the closing moments of the first Test which, for the first four days, was played in the most pleasant and relaxed atmosphere known in any Indo-Pak Test.Weather Conditions: But for the outrageous weather of the first three days, this Test match could have developed into a most enthralling contest. There was proof of it in the piquant flavour of the small portion of cricket that was served up in the form of the first innings. But let a review of the events of the match wait until the two vital side issues – the tour programme and the playing conditions – are put into perspective.Four years ago, when the Australian side led by Kim Hughes started its tour in the south zone in September, both the first and second Tests, played at Madras and Bangalore, were wrecked by heavy rains.advertisementDespite that experience and the known threat of interference by rain, the current series was arranged for the same time of year. Incidentally, the one-day international at Hyderabad, the pipe-opener of the short tour, only escaped the vagaries of the weather. Dark clouds looked over Fateh Maidan as the winning hit was made.What happened at Bangalore was that the city’s cricket lovers, amongst the most knowledgeable in the country, were deprived of an opportunity of watching a full Test match, and as only a few took a gamble with the weather and paid their rupees in advance, the finances of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) took a hefty blow.Inadequate Facilities: No doubt the KSCA would have resisted the board forcing down their throat a September Test if they did not already have a pistol held to their heads. After staging six Test matches in the most efficient manner, with due respect and regard for the game’s traditions. Bangalore was deprived of its status as a regular Test venue and the Test just concluded could be its last for some years.Under the circumstances, the association could be excused its reluctance to invest in covering facilities more efficient and elaborate than tarpaulin sheets. These were vulnerable, particularly as the rainstorms often struck with great suddenness.However, to be fair, it was never the pitch that caused any delay to resumption of play. It was always the outfield and even here, delays were reduced to minimum by the swiftest mopping up operations anywhere in the world.The rain, frequent and heavy on the first three days, reduced playing time in the whole match by more than seven hours and hence it was hardly surprising that on the last day, it was dying a slow lingering death.Palling Game: At tea, India, 13 runs behind on the first innings, had crawled to 73 for no loss from 33 overs in 130 minutes’ batting. Both sides had dragged their feet a bit. It was all a big yawn and the end was awaited with great longing.The Pakistanis dropped their guard a bit after tea. Gavaskar, 37 not out at the break, played a couple of hearty shots at Iqbal Qasim and got to his 50 just before the start of the 20 mandatory overs. The pitch was easier than at any time in the match and suddenly, there appeared a glint in the little man’s eye.Gavaskar detected an opportunity – under circumstances of no pressure – of gaining a little more ground on that other little man. Sir Donald Bradman, whose 29 centuries are the highest number scored by any mortal in Test cricket. Gavaskar’s tally then was 27 and the 28th was now there to be picked, like a ripe peach.Initially, Gavaskar showed only the slightest bit of extra haste. He was 51 at the start of the mandatory overs and after ten, he was no further than 64. There was still some doubt whether he was making a serious assault on the magic figure. He declared his intentions by cutting loose now and plundering 23 runs in the next four overs, Anshuman Gaekwad assisting by giving him as much of the strike at possible.advertisementMiandad: Swashbuckling performanceAt the end of that fateful 14th over Zaheer enquired the time of the umpire and being told that it was just gone 4 o’clock, he turned on his heels and started to make for the pavilion, followed by his troops. The umpires tried to stop the exodus, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Gavaskar and Gaekwad stood in their respective creases.The crowd kicked up a fearful din but the Pakistanis, disregarding umpires’ orders or crowd reaction, went into their dressing room and stayed there. Officials of the KSCA went in to reason and negotiate with them and were told that the playing conditions required that a total of 77 overs had to be bowled in a day and that requirement was fulfilled.At last, the ground authorities were able to bring the Pakistan team management and the umpires face-to-face for a discussion and the umpires pointed out to them that the 77 overs clause applied only to the first four days and that proceedings on the last day were governed by that law of the game which insists that at least 20 overs should be bowled in the last hour.With the match being in the state it was, this law seemed absurd, but the umpires were right. At all times, the laws of the game take precedence over local playing conditions. Had the Pakistanis not relented and gone out, the umpires would have had no alternative but to award the match to India on default.However, the ramifications of such a conclusion to the Test match would certainly have been serious beyond imagination. The Pakistanis would either have packed their bags and gone home immediately or they would have had to face hostile receptions from crowds wherever they played their following matches.Furthermore, the aftermath would have been another long pause in cricketing contact between India and Pakistan and relations between the countries generally would have been soured.Playing conditions of Test matches in all countries except India provide for a match to be stopped half-way through the last hour if both captains are agreed that a result cannot be reached, as was the case in Bangalore.Mentally conditioned to this convention, Zaheer wanted to call it a day. But there have been recent examples of play being continued only to allow a batsman to get a hundred. It happened in Karachi, earlier this year, for Mohinder Amarnath’s benefit and, not many weeks later, for Kapil Dev’s, in Trinidad.Splendid Beginning: Though it was apparent even after the first day that the match would be drawn, the two sides played with great keenness and enthusiasm. After all, any moral ascendancy gained in the first encounter would serve them well in the battles that lay ahead of them.The tussle in the only innings of consequence was truly enthralling and as so often happens, the thrilling situations were brought about by indifferent batting. India won the toss – Kapil Dev’s first in six Test matches – and were bowled out for only 275.advertisementBinny: Tenacious standThey could not be criticised overmuch for their patchy batting for the majority of the team had played no first-class cricket since the end of the World Cup, barring the Irani Trophy match just before the Pakistanis arrived. They were clearly not match-light.On the eve of the Test, the pitch had looked very hard but it sweated under the covers and the ball tended to move about a little off the seam. Moreover, Mudassar Nazar, whose military medium has won Test matches before, made the ball swing as well in the heavy atmosphere.Batting conditions were not hostile, but there was just enough help for the bowlers to discomfit a side not performing at concert pitch. Despite a tenacious 42 by Gavaskar, only his second highest score in his last six Test matches, India were 85 for six at one stage.Erratic Batting: They achieved the comparative respectability of 275, thanks to a record seventh-wicket stand of 155 between the all-rounders, Roger Binny and Madan Lal. At the end of the second day, the day before the intermission, they had taken the score to 191 for six, which was not alarmingly large. When the match resumed, Pakistan were bowling with the second new ball which was only eight overs old and yet Zaheer Abbas, to his disadvantage, gave his pace bowlers defensive fields and kept Azim Hafeez bowling right through the morning to slow down the tempo.Like India, Pakistan too batted erratically, but at least one of their batsmen in the higher order, Javed Miandad, played a major innings, a superb one of 99 which was ended by his own arrogance. Pakistan still would have fallen some way behind India but for a staunch eight-wicket partnership of 44 between Wasim Ban and Iqbal Qasim.The pitch had become even more true while Pakistan batted but the ball still swung sometimes and Kapil Dev and Madan Lal bowled well, accurately and intelligently to prevent Pakistan from getting on top.If any bowler troubled Javed Miandad during his masterly innings of 99, it was left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi, and that in spite of the pitch affording even less help to the spinners than to the seamers. Coming back to the side after being dropped halfway through the series in Pakistan and then left out of the West Indies tour, Doshi nearly had Miandad edging him twice in his very first over. Still, Kapil Dev soon took him off.Great Potential: In a later stint, Doshi brought about the downfall of the left-hander Wasim Raja, who had looked extremely dangerous while making 39. Yet, at the end of the match, Doshi again found himself out of the Test squad which seemed most unjust.There are many more Test matches ahead of India this season and once they get into the swing of things, they should be batting to their recent high potential. Within its limitations, the bowling did well in the first Test, but it is not good enough to bowl a side out twice in a Test match.The Pakistanis share this weakness with India. Even without Imran, a superlative all-rounder who was in magnificent batting form for the last half of the English season, Pakistan are without doubt a formidable batting side, capable of building colossal totals.But the bowling, minus Imran and Sarfaraz Nawaz, looks moderate. Perhaps it is just good enough to contain the opposition in the right conditions, but lacks the firepower to win a Test match. Until another time, when they are more fully equipped, Pakistan will probably be happy to go home drawing the series.