Kapil Dev (left) and Sachin Tendulkar… Did they face-off in an the CCI-Pakistan game in 1987? © Getty Images
Kapil Dev (left) and Sachin Tendulkar… Did they face-off in an the CCI-Pakistan game in 1987? © Getty Images

Brabourne Stadium hosted a match between Cricket Club of India (CCI) and Pakistanis on January 20, 1987. As per his autobiography, Sachin Tendulkar mentions fielding for Pakistan as a substitute and attempting to catch Kapil Dev. Abhishek Mukherjee tries to validate the statement.

Pakistan toured India in 1986-87 to play a somewhat strange series. While the first four Tests were high-scoring yawnathons, the fifth at Chinnaswamy was played on a rank turner. It had turned out to be a cliff-hanger in which Pakistan had triumphed by 16 runs to claim what is their only series win in India till date.

Along with 5 Tests and 6 , Pakistan played six 6 matches on the series: against Andhra Pradesh Governor’s XI at Hyderabad, against CCI at Brabourne Stadium, against an Indian XI at Delhi, against a Board President’s XI at Faridabad, against India Under-25s at Wankhede, and against Delhi at Kotla.

Just like all of us growing up in the 1980s, Sachin Tendulkar has memories of the match. In fact, his memories were substantially stronger than ours: in the 40-over contest between the Pakistanis and CCI, the 13-year old Tendulkar was named one of the substitute fielders. He ended up fielding for Pakistan!

There was nothing extraordinary about the match. The tourists batted first; the Pakistanis reached 102 for 1 but squandered the start; Ravi Shastri and Lalchand Rajput claimed five wickets between themselves for the cost of 46; and a 13-year old Nilesh Kulkarni (how tall was he then?) clean bowled Saleem Yousuf in the 40th over to round things off. The tourists were bowled out for 189 with a ball still to spare.

CCI lost Rajput early, but Roger Binny and Mohammad Azharuddin eased into a 133-run second wicket stand. Though the two men and Dilip Vengsarkar departed, Sunil Gavaskar and Shastri saw things off comfortably with a ball to spare. Azhar was named Man of the Match, and that was that.

So far, so good. Tendulkar has also fond memories of the match, fielding as a substitute. He writes in Playing it My Way: “Two Pakistan cricketers, Javed Miandad and leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, had gone off the field at lunchtime. I was asked to substitute and was deployed at wide long-on by skipper Imran Khan. Within minutes Kapil Dev hit a skier and, despite running in 15 metres, I wasn’t able to reach the ball…I don’t know whether Imran Khan remembers the occasion or has any idea that I once fielded for his Pakistan team.”

There is a catch, though. Let alone bat, Kapil did not play the match, and neither did Qadir! The CCI scorecard does not mention a No. 11 batsman, and while it is likely that Kapil had neither batted nor bowled in the match to avoid unnecessary stress, the incident is entirely about his batting!

Was it some other match Tendulkar was talking about? Two of the other five matches were at Delhi, one at Faridabad, and one at Hyderabad. I still checked, but could not find Kapil in any of them. Of course, there was a match at Wankhede, but Kapil, then 28, would certainly have not been a part of the Under-25s.

Did the incident really happen, then? If yes, when?

Let us, for once, consider that Tendulkar was talking about the two matches Imran Khan’s XI played in India two seasons later (1987-88). The matches were played against Sunil Gavaskar’s XI on November 19 at Gwalior and against Indian XI on November 20 at Brabourne.

Let us, for once, assume that all this happened in the second match. Tendulkar’s accounts of the next season, however, read like this: “However, that season I did get a little taste of the Ranji Trophy, as a substitute fielder — and also of international cricket, while fielding at the Brabourne Stadium for a Pakistan team against India!”

Now, this does not tally with exactly what had happened during the season. Tendulkar had played all seven matches for Bombay in this season’s Ranji Trophy including the hundred on debut against Baroda at Wankhede. When did he field as substitute then?

Brief scores:

Pakistanis 189 in 39.5 overs (Mudassar Nazar 51; Ravi Shastri 3 for 35) lost to Cricket Club of India 190 for 4 in 39 overs (Roger Binny 63, Mohammad Azharuddin 80) by 6 wickets.

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