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I don?t recall my mind ever having any rest

Zaheer Abbas, the epitome of elegance from Karachi, scored a small matter of 583 runs from three Tests against India in 1978-79 and 654 runs from six Tests against the same country in 1982-83, writes Zaheer Abbas.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2004 00:48 IST

Zaheer Abbas: 1978-79 and 1982-83 series

Zaheer Abbas, the epitome of elegance from Karachi, scored a small matter of 583 runs from three Tests against India in 1978-79 and 654 runs from six Tests against the same country in 1982-83. Here, he reminisces about his triumphant battles against India's famed slow bowlers.

The way it all unfolded back in 1978-79 was quite satisfactory. But, frankly, no one was quite sure of what was in store before the start of that historic series that signaled the revival of cricketing ties between our two great nations. In the Pakistan camp, all the talk was about what was the best way to counter the famed Indian spinners Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Prasanna. On a much lesser scale, it was also about putting some shackles on the likes of Gavaskar, Viswanath and Vengsarkar.

The Faisalabad track, on which the first Test was played, was as docile as one could ever imagine. It was for no reason that a phrase was often heard in those days, "There is bad, very bad and then Faisalabad". In the years to come, Dennis Lillee was to call it "A bowler's graveyard", which it was. But in the context of that Pakistan-India series, I think it allowed the initial jitters on both sides to settle down, and paved the way for the exciting cricket that was to follow.

On a personal note, there was enormous pressure on me before the series got underway. The double hundreds at Edgbaston and the Oval had happened much earlier, but on Pakistani soil, I had never made a big score, not a century in any case. Adding to the pressure was the fact that I had been part of the 'Packer Circus' in the mid-70s and was not considered for national duty along with a few other colleagues of mine who were also on the Packer payroll. The 1978-79 series also marked my return to national duty. Then there was the pressure that always accompanies a series against India - and that too a series after 18 years!

My body must have slept during the nights, for that is a physical thing, but I don't recall my mind ever having any rest for the entire duration of that series, even after I had scores of 176, 96 and 235 in the first three innings of that series! My mind was always working on shot-selections against different bowlers and field-placements. It was like playing round-the-clock cricket, but a 2-0 score line with a personal contribution of a world record 583 runs at an average of around 195 at the end of the series made it all worthwhile.

Another memorable series against India came in 1982-83 when again, the first three innings in the series brought me scores of 215, 186 and 168. The Indian bowling line-up this time had a different look from the earlier one, and was more pace-oriented in the shape of Kapil Dev, though the spinning trio of Doshi, Manindar and Shastri also had a role to play. The scoreline this time was 3-0 and my personal contribution was 654 runs at around 130 per innings. It was all because of a mind that refused to rest!

It was only because my mind was working overtime in the two series that I was able to figure out that the best way to counter the famed Indian spinners was to remain totally uncommitted at the batting crease till the very last moment. In the face of a huge variety on display by the Indian spinners, it was just not possible to have a quick shot-selection, leave alone playing pre-meditated shots. Luckily for me, the strategy worked. I hope it will work for a Pakistani batsman in the coming series as well. India, beware!

First Published: Mar 14, 2004 00:48 IST