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Sunil Gavaskar starts off for his 10,000th run

March 7, 1987. While Sunil Gavaskar stood on the threshold of the 10,000 run landmark, crowd trouble at Ahmedabad prompted a hold up in play. The Pakistani fielders re-emerged with most of them wearing helmets. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the eventful day of one of the dullest Test match.

Of Epic and Ennui

It was a memorable Test on multiple counts. And at the same time one of the dullest ever played.

That was the Test that saw the scalinimg of the Everest of batsmanship.  After 16 years of splendid service to the game, on the third afternoon of the Ahmedabad Test match, Sunil Gavaskar late cut Ijaz Faqih and ran down the pitch with his bat raised high. For someone who did not watch the scoreboard while batting, Gavaskar was well aware of the runs against his name. He was edgy as well. He had every right to be. He was about to become the first man whose collection of Test runs ran into five figures. That brace he got with the fine deflection got him his 10,000th Test run.

It was also a remarkable match for the man off whose bowling the runs were scored. Flown in as reinforcement just before the fourth Test as a backup for Tauseef Ahmed who had been taken ill, Faqih batted almost a full day to score 105 from No 8. And when he was put on to bowl, he castled Krishnamachari Srikkanth with his very first delivery. Both these feats were hailed as master-strokes of the Pakistan skipper Imran Khan.

However, in spite of the quirky success of Faqih, and the approach of the momentous landmark of Gavaskar, the extraordinarily attritional cricket by the Pakistanis frustrated the spectators from Day One. By the time the great Indian opening batsman was approaching the threshold of 10,000, the crowd had all but spoilt the occasion with some ugly show of dissent.

Snail’s pace

Pakistan had gone into the game without Javed Miandad, out due to a strained back.  Ahmedabad had seen only Test before this, resulting in a low-scoring defeat against the West Indies in 1983. That Test witnessed another heroic Indian performance, where Kapil Dev bowled unchanged to take a career-best 9 for 83.

The wicket looked under-prepared, leading to a lot of speculation. When India went in with four spinners in Maninder Singh, Shivlal Yadav, Ravi Shastri and Gopal Sharma, the Pakistanis feared the worst. As a result, after winning the toss and electing to bat, they proceeded to score at a pace that would have put the greatest 19th-century stonewallers to shame.

Rizwan-uz-Zaman, hailed by Imran as the new Gavaskar, laboured for his 5 runs over 75 minutes. Rameez Raja batted two-and-a-half hours for 41 and Younis Ahmed, playing his first series in 18 years, crawled for over three hours for his 40. As a result Pakistan ended the first day at 130 for 3 after 86 overs. Not exactly the best advertisement for the five-day game in a land crazy about limited-overs cricket.

The next day brought little relief. Saleem Malik put the persevering crowd to sleep with a 20 scored over three hours and 12 minutes. All this defensive cricket back-fired, and at one stage Pakistan found themselves struggling at 176 for 6. But Imran and Faqih dug in and the innings ran into the third day, consuming 188 overs for a return of 395. Faqih broke the tedium from time to time, reaching both 50 and 100 with sixes off Maninder, but the overall pace of the innings seldom improved.

By now, after watching the blade of Faqih for five-and-a-half hours, the spectators were at the end of their tether.

The trouble

According to Tushar Trivedi, official scorer of the Ahmedabad Test, “It was the post-tea session of the third day of the match when the crowd suddenly started abusing Pakistan players. There was a section in the crowd that hurled bottles at the Pakistan fielders.”

Trivedi agrees that the dull cricket was one of the main reasons for the crowd trouble. “‘Pakistan batted extremely slowly and this got the crowd worked up. Only 130 runs were scored on the first day, and the second day was hardly any better. The crowd was especially unhappy with two players, Ijaz Faqih and Younis Ahmed. Faqih had got a hundred, but batted very slowly. Ahmed was sluggish as well.’’

Ahmedabad has a history of communal discord. However, the former scorer does not quite agree that it had anything to do with the team being Pakistan. According to Trivedi, “The crowd probably reacted because they were being deprived of quality cricket. I am quite certain they would have done this to any team and not just to Pakistan.”

The spectators were not content with throwing bottles. They chipped out pieces of concrete from the stands and threw them at the players. Imran later showed the press one of the stones thrown at the players in the outfield. It was the size of a cricket ball.

According to the captain, Rizwan-uz-Zaman and Abdul Qadir were struck by the missiles. With the situation worsening, and the handful of Gujarat Cricket Association volunteers and the motley crew of policemen having no clue how to deal with the situation, Imran took his players off the ground.

Entreaties and helmets

The crowd, however, showed no sign of cooling down. The administrators decided to call Gavaskar in from the ground. The legend spoke on the public address system in Gujarati, asking the spectators to stop attacking the Pakistan fielders. The Indian skipper Kapil Dev too joined the appeal, underlining that the Pakistan players were guests of honour. After these entreaties from the icons the crowd was pacified.

After about 50 minutes Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam coaxed his players to return to the ground, but Imran was not satisfied. He ordered them back to the dressing room.

And after a while, they did emerge, but there was now a dash of irony about the  whole thing. Half a dozen of them wore helmets as they took up their positions. It was a sight to behold, men fielding at cover, mid-off, mid-wicket and long-leg in helmets.

However, that was not the end of crowd trouble.  When Gavaskar reached his landmark, the spectators made a mockery of the police cordon and the moat around the ground as they rushed in to congratulate their hero. A further 14 minutes of play was lost due to this interruption.

At the end of the day’s play, Imran told the press, “The only reason we did not walk out was firstly we want to win the Test, and secondly we don’t want to sour things up when the series has been played in such friendly terms.”

Well, what followed did not really synchronise with Imran’s claims that he wanted to win the Test match.

What followed?

There were some other landmarks in the Test.

When Yadav dismissed Iqbal Qasim to end the first Pakistani innings, he became the 11th Indian bowler capture his 100 Test wickets. On the fourth morning Qadir dismissed Kiran More to claim his 150th Test scalp.

Dilip Vengsarkar was going through a prolonged phase during which, in the words of Harsha Bhogle, he could score a Test hundred in his pyjamas while brushing his teeth. After rescuing India with a 111-run partnership with Gavaskar, he batted through the drama of the 10,000-milestone, crowd trouble and helmeted fielders, and serenely notched up his 15th Test century. And Kapil Dev lent a sprinkling of speed to an excruciatingly slow scoring game by hammering a 52-ball 50.

But, contrary to Imran’s claims of going for a win, Pakistanis were intent on sucking out the little life that remained in the game. A hostile spell from Wasim Akram saw the last three Indian wickets fall for one run and earned them a lead of 72. However, they showed no inclination to throw the match open with quick runs.

On the final day they scored 33 runs in the morning session,  Younis batting through 73 minutes of the first two hours and going into lunch at a personal score of 2 not out. Rizwan painstakingly scored 58 over five hours . In all only 111 runs came in the day and when the match stopped after 10 of the final 20 mandatory overs, it was a relief for the handful of devotees who stayed back.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 395 (Rameez Raja 41, Younis Ahmed 40, Manzoor Elahi 52, Imran Khan 72, Ijaz Faikh 105; Shivlal Yadav 4-109) and 135-2 (Rizwan-uz-Zaman 58) drew with India 323 (Sunil Gavaskar 63, Dilip Vengsarkar 109, Kapil Dev 50 not out; Wasim Akram 4-60).

Man of the Match : Ijaz Faqih.

(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 http://twitter.com/senantix)