In Pak you will get a wicket only when it’s clean bowled
Maninder Singh is one of the few Indian cricketers to have played Tests on two separate visits to Pakistan, an oddity when you consider the decades that separate any two visits by an Indian team across the border. He looks back at his two visits in the 80s — 1982-83 and 1988-89 — and has a few surprises in store.
NO CHANCE OF LBWS
I was only 17 when I was picked for my India debut in1982-83, that too in Pakistan. I picked up only three wickets but was played in five Tests and eight years later, on my second visit, did little better — only two wickets from three Tests. The wickets were placid and umpiring was the kind of stuff to turn a bowler into a philosopher.
In one of the matches, I fell to my knees after yet another appeal for leg before was turned down. Umpire Shakoor Rana egged me on ‘‘Chal, chal bowl kar. Yahan clean bowled par hi tujhe wicket milega (Get up and bowl, you will only get a wicket when it’s clean bowled).’’ The man is no longer alive and I don’t feel any bitterness — actually, I laugh when I look back at the incident.
Similarly in 1989, Javed Miandad went on the back foot to cut me, the ball came in and hit him plumb in front but the umpire was unmoved. After some time, I just became numb. I knew it was pointless even to appeal. You become resigned to your fate.
It was so blatant. Whenever the Pakistani team took the field after a break, the ball would start doing strange things. I also felt it was never the same ball used after each break. Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz would come out and make the ball talk; it used to move all over the place. The ball would cut back and hit the batsman in the midriff and chest. Everyone knows GR Viswanath was once out shouldering arms to a ball.
Imran Khan was genuinely quick and the “made up” ball only made things worse for us. After a while we stopped protesting. The reverse swing made them unplayable. The thing with reverse swing is it cuts back so late that batsmen find it very difficult to adjust to the pace.
JIMMY LED THE FIGHTBACK
The obvious man was Jimmy Amarnath, who scored runs by hundreds on that tour (1982-3). I think there were three centuries by him. I realized what a big heart he had. I think he realized early that attack was the best form of defence against those bowlers. The ball would swing prodigiously but he was like a rock.
Another milestone on that tour was Ravi Shastri proving himself as an opener. Ravi was senior to me but he wasn’t bowling all that well on the tour but he’s always been able to grab at chances coming his way. So when he got the chance to open the innings, he smashed 128 runs. There were some streaky shots at the start of his innings, a few shots dangerously cleared the slip cordon but the thing is, he got a century in the end. He never looked back.Kapil paaji had become the model of consistency in line and length. He had tremendous control over his outswingers but I feel if he had acquired that reverse swing, he also woud have ended with 40-plus wickets like Imran.
THE SPIN OF THINGS
My spin partners were Dilip Doshi and Ravi Shastri. Ravi, as I said, struggled but Doshi was marvelous. I just loved watching him bowl.
He had such nagging control and had good variation. I just liked the way he approached his run-up and worked on batsmen’s minds. People were unfair when they termed him a defensive bowler.
I guess Bishan Singh Bedi was still fresh in everybody’s mind and Doshi was always drawn into a comparison with him. They were two completely different bowlers. Doshi was attacking in his own way — like Anil Kumble, squeezing the batsmen dry and then working on their frustration.
FRIENDSHIP OFF THE FIELD
I clearly remember the hospitality in Pakistan. It was outstanding. The atmosphere was just too good. We were welcomed with open hearts. I also was amazed at the understanding of the game among common people. They knew their cricket for sure. There were parties and official dinners.
But all this extended only outside the cricket field. You didn’t get any support at the ground — the conditions were rather hostile. It can also get very lonely in Pakistan.
A long tour definitely can be taxing. My advice to the Indian team is, stick closer to each other and show the same intensity they showed in Australia. If they can do that, they would have done well.