Sunil Gavaskar’s 28th Test hundred was perhaps the most inconsequential of his 34 © Getty Images
Sunil Gavaskar’s 28th Test hundred was perhaps the most inconsequential of his 34 © Getty Images

September 19, 1983. As the Bangalore Test match was drawing to its lifeless end, all of a sudden there was ridiculous stand-off in the middle. Zaheer Abbas wanted to end the match. Sunil Gavaskar wanted to score a century.  Arunabha Sengupta recalls the day when Pakistan came close to forfeiting a Test match.

The end was so farcical that it beggared belief. Especially when one considers the sombre seriousness associated with a Test match.

Life had been mercilessly squeezed out of the game by the afternoon of the third day,  part of it by the elements and the rest by insipid cricket.  And just as the yawn of a game was dwindling to its thankful closure, it was caught up in incredible drama. Captain Zaheer Abbas wanted to end the game, some would say rather churlishly. And Sunil Gavaskar refused to allow the umpires to end the match because he was within touching distance of another hundred.

Rain and Snail’s Pace

Whatever excitement was in store had been there in the match was squeezed out by the afternoon of the second day and the morning of the third. The rest of the Test was a tale of nothingness, as many of the India-Pakistan matches of the past often were. Neither side wanted to take much of a chance, and as a result, the run rate never quite went beyond 2.5 per over. And then there was rain.

The innocuous bowling line up of Pakistan was sans stalwarts like Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz. Yet, surprisingly, after a rain-curtailed first day, it made inroads into the Indian batting on the second morning.

Mudassar Nazar had castled Anshuman Gaekwad and Mohinder Amarnath the previous afternoon. Now he got Yashpal Sharma snicking one to Wasim Bari. Sandeep Patil was removed by Tahir Naqqash and skipper Kapil Dev by Azeem Hafeez. Finally Tahir brought one back to trap Gavaskar leg before, ending a painstaking 169-minute knock of 42.

India were struggling at 85 for 6. Zaheer, the Pakistani captain whose dour, defensive frame of mind had shielded the thinnish bowling department, suddenly discovered a chance to deal a surprise blow.

In truth, the Indians were done in by poor batting and quixotic selection. In the last Test they had played, in St John’s some five months earlier, Ravi Shastri had amassed an enterprising century and Dilip Vengsarkar had counterattacked fiercely against the hostile West Indian bowlers to score a 103-ball 94. For reasons best known to the selectors, now both of them were out of the team, leaving a rather ordinary middle order to face the Pakistani medium pacers.

But then, with the batsmen back in the hutch, Roger Binny and Madan Lal, two gutsy fighters down the order, put together a stand of 155 in four-and-a-half hours. The Indians were saved from nasty embarrassment, and by the time their innings got over by late afternoon of the third day, there was but little chance of any result.

Not that too many men of either side were looking to force the issue. Pakistan scored a tad faster than the Indians, but only a tad. Javed Miandad ploughed his way to 99 before being superbly held by substitute Krishnamachari Srikkanth.

The interesting bit of Miandad’s batting was generated less by his strokeplay and more by the way he kept taunting Dilip Doshi. Whenever the ball went into the outfield to the rather slow-moving Indian spinner, Miandad called out, “Two, it’s only Doshi.” Finally, umpire MV Gothoskar had a talk with the vice-captain Wasim Bari at the other end. When that did not help matters, he issued a warning to the batsman.

The Pakistan innings ended with a 13-run lead just after lunch on the final day, Iqbal Qasim’s 85-ball 9 effectively smothering the final breath out of the game. With absolutely no chance of any result, Gavaskar and Gaekwad walked out to open the second innings.

The quest for a ton

Gavaskar, down with bronchitis the previous days, had not fielded during the Pakistan innings.  According to his account in Runs ‘n Ruins he had been given some medicine by Dr Kartar Lalvani and it had worked. He was wobbly during the first few overs, but then gradually his strength had returned.

The Pakistanis were going through the motions by now, with Zaheer repeatedly asking umpires Gothoskar and Swaroop Kishen what the rules said about ending the match. They informed him that it was 77 overs for the day, but on the final day it was four-and-a-half hours followed by 20 mandatory overs.

Gothoskar’s biography The Burning Finger mentions: “I told him [Zaheer] in India all the mandatory overs had to be bowled. In England if there is no hope of a result, the mandatory overs need not be completed. In India, one has to consider the feelings of the crowd which is very volatile and can be easily aroused.”

This explanation does not reflect very well on the rules of an international game. It is not ideal to have two set of rules for Tests in two different countries, especially when the difference was caused by crowd reactions. Besides, in India itself, throughout the 1980s Tests were called off by the 10th mandatory over or even earlier.

However, this was what was told to Zaheer and he was not very happy about it. He continued asking the umpires about the rules. According to Gavaskar, “If it was his intention to disturb the concentration of the batsmen, then he failed.”

By tea, India had not lost a wicket and by the time the 20 mandatory overs were scheduled to start, they were 97 for no loss. Gavaskar had just got to his 50 in 156 minutes.

The Pakistan bowling was struggling under a burden of obligation by now. Most of the work was done by Tahir and Mudassar. And sensing the chance to force his way to an easy hundred, Gavaskar opened up and started playing a few shots.

Ten overs down the line, Gavaskar had progressed to 64. Gaekwad dutifully rotated the strike, and the legend made most of a disgruntled attack.

Gavaskar needed the hundred rather desperately, mainly, as he confessed, to boost his confidence. His  previous series, in the West Indies, had seen him score 240 runs at 30.00 in spite of another inconsequential 147 not out scored on the final day of a rain-washed Georgetown Test. That had been followed by India’s victorious Prudential World Cup campaign in England where his contribution had been 59 runs at 9.83.

After the 10th mandatory over the master opened up further, a flurry of boundaries taking him to 84 by the end of the 14th.

Zaheer walks off

And now, the clock ticked past the scheduled close of play. Zaheer reasoned that 77 overs had been already completed for the day, and no result was possible by any stretch of imagination. He simply walked off with his players without a word to the umpires.

This placed Gothoskar and Kishen in severe dilemma. They asked the batsmen whether they wanted to end the game, and obviously Gavaskar said he did not. The two Indian openers remained standing in the middle. The confused spectators were getting agitated, unsure about the reason for the stoppage.

The umpires left the ground to confer with Zaheer, manager Intikhab Alam, and the Karnataka Cricket Association members. Only the two batsmen were seen sitting on the field as the discussions went on. The Indian captain tried to bring his batsmen in, but they refused. According to Gothoskar, “After the Pakistanis left the field, Gavaskar refused to leave the ground and dissuaded his partner Gaekwad from leaving the field, despite repeated entreaties of his skipper Kapil Dev.”

Ultimately, the umpires decided to issue a warning. If the Pakistanis did not come out and bowl the six remaining overs, the Indians would be declared winners. It would be the first forfeited Test match, way before the headstrong Darrell Hair would end the England-Pakistan match at The Oval in 2007.

Hence, the Pakistanis trooped in, without any sign of willingness. And they proceeded to bowl the remaining overs.   Zaheer himself rolled his arm for an over. The bowlers trundled in from both ends without any perceptible change in the field.

Finally as Mudassar started the final mandatory over, Gavaskar took strike on 99. The first ball was struck to the boundary, giving the great man his 28th century, taking him within one ton of Don Bradman’s record. By the time the ball had crossed the boundary line, Zaheer was already walking off the ground with his players. There was no intention of bowling the five remaining balls, and neither, it seemed, were the Indians too eager to face them now that the hundred had been reached.

Gothoskar writes, “[during the 23 minute break after the 14th over] One of the Board officials asked us to tell Gavaskar to retire from Test cricket if he had to ‘scrounge’ for his Test centuries in this manner … It left a poor taste in the mouth, but the unsophisticated Indian crowd was overjoyed, because Gavaskar was now only one short of Bradman’s record.”

In Runs n Ruins Gavaskar is not too apologetic about the circumstances of the hundred. He ends his account of the innings with the words, “Some of the Pakistani players were critical of (Zaheer’s) action, which they felt was unnecessary and unsporting. As far as I was concerned, the break gave me time to relax and get my strength back. The century did not give me much joy but it did bring back a great deal of confidence, a commodity without which any cricketer is lost.”

Brief Scores:

India 275 (Sunil Gavaskar 42, Roger Binny 83*, Madan Lal 74; Tahir Naqqash 5 for 76) and 176 for no loss (Sunil Gavaskar 103*, Anshuman Gaekwad 66*) drew with Pakistan 288 (Javed Miandad 99, Wasim Bari 64; Kapil Dev 5 for 68).

Man of the Match: Madan Lal.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at