The mystique of Abdul Qadir was too much for even the greatest to handle    Getty Images
The mystique of Abdul Qadir was too much for even the greatest to handle Getty Images

Abdul Qadir completed a rout of West Indians at Faisalabad on October 29, 1986. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when the world champions went through abject humiliation in the hands of the man who had reinvented leg-spin.

There was no stopping West Indies during their reign of supremacy between their series losses against Australia from 1975-76 and 1994-95. They lost a solitary series against New Zealand in 1979-80, but that was marred by multiple controversies. The juggernaut had rolled on, with four fast bowlers felling men and uprooting stumps, ruthless batsmen shredding the opposition into ribbons, and decimating oppositions psychologically as well as physically.

In short, they were unbeatable. Unstoppable. Indomitable.

However, there rose a power towards the second half of the 1980s that dared to face West Indies in the eye. They fought fire with fire; in Imran Khan and Javed Miandad they had two superstars who would have walked into any all-time Pakistan side; in Wasim Akram they had the finest rising talent of the era; in Saleem Yousuf one of the most combative street-fighters of the era.

And then, they had Abdul Qadir. The Wizard of the East, they called him. The Wizard of the Wrist would not have been an exaggeration either. Not only did Qadir make leg-break fashionable in a decade dominated by fast bowlers and all-rounders, he also foxed batsmen especially the hapless Englishmen to utter humiliation during the 1980s. He averaged 26.82 at home; the number dipped to 24.01 if one removed India from the oppositions.

There was also the run-up. Rahul Bhattacharya wrote in his wonderful book Pundits from Pakistan: Starting from a forty-five degree angle to the stumps, hands the ball in the left curling up alternatively to the tongue, the body rocking forwards on to the stretched and slightly bent right foot, then back again, and then a stutter!, and another!, and some momentum now, arms swinging like vines in a storm, a jerking parabola to the wicket, and on the seventh stride the body collecting itself into a twisted jump with, at one point, both arms pointing straight up and both feet off the ground, and then the snap-wristed release, the hair flowing behind and the tongue protruding ahead, what contortion, what climax!

But enough of that for now. Let us move on to Iqbal Stadium, where Imran won the toss and decided to bat. The West Indians were spearheaded by Malcolm Marshall as Michael Holding and Joel Garner were in the twilight of their careers. The support staff consisted of Patrick Patterson (only five Tests old, but rumoured to be quicker than Marshall) and Courtney Walsh. They also had a debutant called Tony Gray, who, with his 6 6 frame, nagging accuracy, and nasty bounce, was reminiscent of Garner. In other words, it was an attack as fearsome as any.

Marshall and co. terrorise Pakistan

It was a 23-minute struggle for the openers before Marshall ended Mohsin Khan s misery by trapping him leg-before. Rameez Raja went the same way, first ball, but the real blow came when Patterson found Miandad s edge. Pakistan were left in tatters at 19 for 3.

Mudassar and Qasim Umar hung around for a while, but not for long: Umar trod on to the stumps to give Gray his first Test wicket, while Marshall, bowling tirelessly, picked out Mudassar. Imran walked out at 37 for 5 to join Saleem Malik. True, there was some batting to come in the form Yousuf, Wasim, and Qadir, but what good were they against the pace battery?

Imran steps up

There was a reason for Imran being hailed by many as the greatest of his contemporary all-rounders. The pace was gone from his bowling, but the ability to run through sides was still there; on the other hand, his batting went up quite a few notches as age caught up with him.

He realised that the best way to go about him was to counterattack, and he did, as did Malik. Between them they added 53 in less than an hour (one must remember that West Indian fast bowlers, despite their mind-numbing performances, had atrocious over-rates) before a snorter broke Malik s arm, just below his wrist.

Qadir chipped in with a cameo but Yousuf fell for a golden duck; with Wasim also falling for a blob, Pakistan were reduced to 120 for 9 as Tauseef Ahmed walked out. Imran s responsibilities doubled: not only did he have to score runs, he also had to guard Tauseef, who, despite his tight off-breaks and Lionel Richie look, had zero batting talent.

But Tauseef hung around, and Imran kept on scoring runs. He kept on shielding Tauseef, and when he eventually hit one back to Gray he had rushed to a 75-ball 61 with 8 boundaries. Pakistan were bowled out for 159; Gray, on debut, finished with 4 for 39 while Marshall had 3 for 48.

Wasim Akram could be unplayable even at 20    Getty Images
Wasim Akram could be unplayable even at 20 Getty Images

Wasim gives it back

Was it because Imran gave him the first share of the new ball? Did that boost Wasim s confidence? Gordon Greenidge began furiously with two boundaries before Wasim stopped his progress early in the innings. Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson carried the battle to Day Two, making sure West Indies did not lose another wicket before the score read 103.

Haynes fell first, and Richardson followed suit soon afterwards. With Viv Richards ill, West Indies had to promote Jeff Dujon, who fell for a golden duck. Tauseef s double-blow gave Pakistan a glimmer of hope, but Larry Gomes and Roger Harper grinded it out, and West Indies went into the lead with only four wickets down and Richards yet to bat.

Imran brought Wasim back, and he did not disappoint. Harper went first, the ball taking his edge and landing in Yousuf s gloves; Marshall walked out, only to return the same way. Gomes was there, of course, as Richards walked out and started collaring the attack, once again threatening to take the Test away from Pakistan.

Qadir removed Gomes after a breathtaking 31-run partnership, and Richards continued with the plunder before Wasim s triple-strike: he had Richards caught behind; Walsh hoicked at one to get a four and was trapped leg-before in the next; and the next ball saw Patterson fall the same way. West Indies lead was cut short to 89.

Wasim was the pick of the bowlers with 6 for 91 a perfect indication of things to come in future. The question remained could Pakistan make a match out of it with a man down?

They succumbed, but not without a fight

Pakistan had less than an hour to bat, which suited the West Indians perfectly: Marshall and Patterson took out Mudassar and Rameez respectively. Imran sent Yousuf as night-watchman; Mohsin and Yousuf saw out the day, and Pakistan finished the day on 28 for 2 still 61 runs behind.

The next morning was all about grind, and Mohsin curbed his characteristic style of batting. If anything, Yousuf took command, taking the attack back to the fast bowlers and scoring his first Test fifty. With the speedsters tiring, Richards had no option but to bowl Harper from one end. It was not until they were well into the second session that Walsh had Mohsin caught behind. Unfortunately, Yousuf fell to Harper soon afterwards, leaving Pakistan on 135 for 4: their lead was technically a mere 46.

Imran had held Miandad back, but not any longer. He joined Umar, and went on to bat for close to 3 hours for his 30. Umar batted even longer for his 48, and thanks to some dogged batting, Pakistan scored only 155 on Day Three. However, they lost a mere two wickets in the process.

Unfortunately, a triple-blow pegged them back next morning. Imran fought for a while, while Tauseef had an encore of the first innings; he fell with Pakistan 207 runs ahead as Wasim, despite being in full flow (he had hit a six off each of Marshall and Patterson), was left stranded.

And then there was a helicopter…

Suddenly, somewhat unexpectedly, there was a cheer from the crowd. A figure emerged from the pavilion, walking down the steps, past the sightscreen, his left arm cast in a plaster, Malik arrived in a green helmet. He walked up to the pitch, and to the astonishment of everyone, took a left-handed stance against Walsh: he would bat with only his right hand.

Walsh pitched it outside off. Malik missed it completely; had it been on the stumps, he probably would have been bowled. As Dujon gathered the ball, Wasim, determined to keep Malik off-strike, scampered towards the other end, turned around mid-pitch, and made it to the other end marginally as Walsh missed the run out.

There was a mid-pitch conference before Malik switched to batting with the other hand. He played Walsh s first ball, only to have the bat knocked out of his hands. As he grew in confidence, Malik even played a couple of shots, the most attractive being what can be called one of the earliest televised version of the helicopter shot that, too, a one-handed version.

Wasim went berserk at the other end and reached his maiden Test fifty. He was eventually stumped off Harper for an 82-ball 66. Malik played his hand: he kept out 14 balls, batted for 41 minutes, scored 3, and this was perhaps the most glorious bit about the innings remained unbeaten.

Despite being brutal with his pace, relentless in his aggression, and a professional at heart, Marshall had probably suppressed a smile. He had, after all, come out to do the same at Headingley in 1984.

Qadir runs through

West Indies were expected to score 240 in four sessions. It was not going to be a challenge, especially with Richards fit and ready to lead the hunt. They received a major blow when Imran trapped Haynes leg-before for a 3-ball duck; he also removed a threatening Greenidge; but most importantly, he took Wasim off early and introduced Qadir.

Qadir came round the wicket; the ball pitched in the rough, well outside Gomes off-stump, and spun back sharply; the southpaw tried to cut, but the ball had come too close to him. The stumps were shattered. The floodgates had opened.

Richards walked out. He saw the first ball off, but the second pitched on leg-and-middle and turned sharply; Richards tried to smother the spin; the ball turned, struck the bat, and dipped well short of forward short-leg. Rameez, in a display of amazing reflex, dived forward to take the ball inches above the ground.

Richardson managed a single at the other end, bringing Dujon on strike. Imran bowled straight and fast, the ball kept low, and hit Dujon s pads in front of the stumps. Harper resisted for a while, but with Imran and Qadir tightening the noose, he played at one outside off: the ball bounced more than he expected, and Shoaib Mohammad, on the ground for Malik, dived to his left and came up with a spectacular catch at silly point.

A phase of intense contest followed, with neither Richardson nor Marshall willing to give in to Imran and Qadir. Richardson, batting without any headgear (the trademark maroon hat would take some time to appear) even hit a boundary, and the pair added 13, which turned out to be the biggest partnership of the innings.

Qadir switched to round the wicket, and one of his balls pitched viciously from the rough. It hit Richardson on his glove, and Rameez took yet another great catch, diving to his right. Poor Gray was no match for one that turned sharply from outside leg to hit off-stump. Imran bowled a straight delivery on the stumps, and Walsh, for some inexplicable reason, shuffled across and was bowled.

Marshall and Patterson played out the day, finishing on 43 for 9. They added ten more on Day Five before Marshall, somewhat ambitiously, tried to hit one over Qadir off his bowling, only managing to hit it back to him. West Indies the mighty West Indies had been bowled out for 53 in 25.3 overs: it was West Indies lowest score at that time, and still remains the lowest score by any side in Pakistan.

Imran had played his part, bowling unchanged throughout the innings with figures of 4 for 30. It was, however, Qadir s magic that had broken the back of the West Indian line-up (with assistance from the close-in fielders); the calibre of handling leg-spin on a turning track eluded the greatest side of the era as was proved by their inability to cope against Narendra Hirwani at Chepauk a season later.

 

What followed?

– West Indies had their revenge at Lahore with a resounding 10-wicket victory. Reduced to 9 for 3 by Marshall in the first half hour, Pakistan never recovered and were bowled out for 131. West Indies managed an 87-run lead (Imran and Qadir shared 9 of the 10 wickets), but that was enough for Walsh and Gray to lead to a victory by an innings and 10 runs. It remains the lowest score by Pakistan at home.

– The third Test at Karachi was a drawn affair, though West Indies had the upper hand: set to chase 213, Pakistan finished on 125 for 7 from 78 overs.

– The Faisalabad score remained West Indies worst till 1999, when they were bowled out for 51 against Australia at Queen s Park Oval. Five years later, they succumbed to 47 against England at Sabina Park, which remains their lowest.

– Despite their supremacy, West Indies could not manage to win the next two series against Pakistan: both series (1987-88 and 1990-91) ended in 1-1 draws. Against other sides, they won 20 Tests and lost 4 (1 against each of England, Australia, India, and New Zealand).

Brief scores:

Pakistan 159 (Imran Khan 61; Tony Gray 4 for 39, Malcolm Marshall 3 for 48) and 328 (Wasim Akram 66, Saleem Yousuf 61, Qasim Umar 48, Mohsin Khan 40; Courtney Walsh 3 for 49) beat West Indies 248 (Richie Richardson 54, Desmond Haynes 40; Wasim Akram 6 for 91) and 53 (Abdul Qadir 6 for 16, Imran Khan 4 for 30) by 186 runs.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)