What was so special about this spread of 12-13 years? Well this period saw most fiercely competitive battles on field…. cricket wasn’t a pacifier, rather it was a proxy war fought without artillery but had its share of blood and sweat. Before this period, there was a lull and after this period there was no ‘real'(test) cricket for a good 10 years or so, but when the ice melted, things were never the same again…………….. “The umpiring in the test matches used to have an element of bias towards the home team usually, but when India played Pakistan they tended to be more patriotic” -Imran Khan on his case for umpires The focus of the topic is the test match encounters that happened when the play resumed between the two nations post the emergency syndrome in 1977/78 in what was supposed to be a friendly series to knit together the two nations- something that is hard to even contemplate let alone realising it….especially when both parties are not willing to yield a bit, but not missing any opportunity to draw the first blood any which way. The most remarkable point about this period is the fear of losing …agreed that was there before even in the fifties as well as sixties…..but this was different….it was war without artillery….hmm…when the ball out of Imran’s hand is aimed to take the Indian head off or the bat that Gavaskar wielded to defend every set of aggression from the opposite camp who needs artillery? It started with India touring Pakistan in 1977/78…it was Mushtaq Mohammad’s Pakistan against Bishen Bedi’s India.It was in the wake for the Kerry packer series where the cream of Pakistan had deflected to, no wonder the norms were eased when the nemesis were on their way. A strong home side with Imran and Sarfaraz backed by Mudassar Nazar and a batting line up boasting of the asian Bradman-Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal(the last phase of his career),Javed Miandad,Mushtaq himself, and just for the record count Mudassar Nazar one more time…..on the other side it was an Indian team that had a very strong batting line up that comprised of gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Vishwanath, mohinder Amarnath……while the spinning trio of Bedi-Chandra-Prasanna did play and Kapil Dev was making his debut in that series. “….we were winning a one day match comfortably on that tour while the fear of losing had Mushtaq and his men resort to unfair tactics, where even a radar might have had difficulties in picking up the ball….the match changed into a bloody military coup. On complaining to the Pakistani authorities we were asked to find taller men to bat” -Bishen bedi’s take on 1978/79 tour to Pakistan India went on to lose the series 2-0 in the three test rubber after managing to draw the first. The pitches in the series were very flat and the sides piled up runs, the one that managed to fail doing so lost, it happened to be India though on two occasions. While Zaheer Abbas piled runs, there were contributions from the bats of Miandad and Asif Iqbal for Pakistan,while Gavaskar and Vishwanath had to do the honours for India.. The series in 1978/79 is believed to be the one where Sarfaraz Nawaz passed on the wisdom on reverse swing that was to redefine fast bowling to his partner Imran Khan. It is noted to have been a top secret owing to a rivalry between Imran and Sarfaraz, but when Imran was being belted against arch rivals…..it came out. Pakistan visited India for a series in 1979/80 and spinning wickets were expected and they were overcooked to assist India’s strength. India had bid adieu to it’s great spinning trio by then and Dilip Doshi entered the scene. Kapil Dev rose to the occasion to bowl outstandingly well and the Indian batting was up to the mark to win the series of six matches 2-0…having said that it could have easily been 3-0 had India got a few more overs in the second test match at Delhi. From Pakistan’s perspective, Sikandar Bakht did very well and even scalped 8 wickets in an innings and had 11 wickets in that particular match- was more important as Imran got unwell in the middle and sarfaraz did not play the series, while Iqbal Qasim made his presence felt. Pakistan batting failed on critical junctures and India did take sweet revenge to what they suffered back in Pakistan. Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal quit cricket in Eden Gardens in the country where he was born and where he played the game he was saying a good-bye to for the very first time……for the record, he even played for Hyderabad in Ranji trophy before moving to Pakistan. “..It was crazy-the amount of reverse swing……Sarfaraz once bowled Kapil Dev with all his stumps uprooted, we had no clue” -Maninder Singh on the 1982/83 series in Pakistan Over to Pakistan in 1982/83…….one phenomenon to sum up the series=VICIOUS REVERSE SWING. The degree to which the Pakistani bowlers especially Imran were able to reverse the ball was phenomenal. The art passed on to him was well and truly mastered and there were dry and flat tracks to negate Indian spin and assist the reverse swing (agreed that it’s in the air, but the dryness of the surface helped to scuff up the ball early) .While Pakistan team returned home after the humiliation they received from India, they received threats for their lives-a fact that is to give an Idea regarding the seriousness of preparations that must have gone in. There was a change in command as Imran became the captain. Imran picked up 40 wickets in the six test rubber and contributed with the bat as well…..If 1981 was Botham’s ashes, 1982 was imran’s revenge. Indians were clueless on the new art of bowling while Pakistanis used it well to their credit.It was not a low scoring series as Zaheer Abbas brought out the best that he had to offer. There was marked change in the setups of both sides-more for India……Ravi Shastri and Maninder Singh were brought in to strengthen spin and there was an attempt to reinforce pace/medium pace front as Balwinder Sandhu and the MRF guru T.A. Sekar were drafted as well. From the Pakistan side, Abdul Qadir was a newbie to India-Pakistan encounters, so was Mohsin Khan as an opener and Salim Malik in the middle order….while Sarfaraz was back, having put aside the monetary issues. The result-Pakistan thrashed India 3-0 (twice by an Innings and more) while everyone from the Pakistani side chipped in with loads of runs, Mohinder Amarnath was the sole lightening for India with occasional resistances here and there. Ravi Shastri cemented his place with a century in testing conditions in the final test to save India from more mauling…more importantly as an opener. Indian team returned with a lot of shame and dishonour to their credentials, but winning the world cup soon after did ease things up…..the series loss did see the captaincy handed over to Kapil Dev from Sunil Gavaskar. Now it was Pakistan’s turn to come to India in 1983/84, with a rude shock that saw Imran out of cricket for a good year and a half-reason: Shin bone stress fracture. So Pakistan toured India sans Imran-the man who was the difference between the two sides the previous series. While India were pressing hard for a series win, slow tracks coupled with very defensive ploys from Pakistan resulted in a drawn series. Pakistan in their position would have grabbed that result any day, while it was frustrating for India. Zaheer Abbas as a captain was defensive, but effective. India did have a balanced team that was a replica of the world cup squad with Anshuman Gaekwad as the only outsider-he has a double century to his name though in the test match at Jalandhar. It was a critical period for India as a nation under emergency and soon was the prime minister assassinated. “The Sharjah six had a lot of impact on the Indians(negative), Javed(Miandad) had started to develop this liking for India as opponents while India were paranoid about him. This was the reason I sent him to open the innings in the final test of the series where the test was still in balance and so was the series” -Imran Khan on his tactics for the 1986/87 tour final test Pakistan visited India again in 1987-this was a very memorable series as Sunil Gavasker hung up his boots thereafter and also crossed that 10000 run barrier in the fourth test at Ahmedabad ….on the other side the pill was bitter for India as it lost the series-Pakistan beat India in India for the very first time and the team received unprecedented welcome when they left. Coming to the action, Imran was at the peak of his prowess and had decided to quit the game after the World cup which was to be played later that year. Pakistan was greeted with square turners and they were prepared for that-evident from the fact that the first test match India played three left arm spinners in Shastri, Maninder Singh and Shivlal Yadav (note that Pakistan had all right handed batsmen) while Pakistan had Tauseef and Qadir to counter. They also faced a very hostile crowd this time around. To the delight of a lot of Indians, the wristy Mohammad Azharuddin played the series as well. Oh yes….. and there was Wasim Akram too. The series was very well fought and the entire series rested on the final day of the final test where India had to chase down 221 and it was Gavaskar’s last test and he fought the hardest that he could ……India lost by 17 runs while Gavaskar missed his 35th ton by four runs….entire India was heartbroken and in disbelief……it was sweeter than a world cup victory for Pakistan (they were deluded of one uptil then….were the favourites for the 1987 edition) The 1989/90 test series could very well be described as the final chapter in this period of intense rivalry as India and Pakistan did not play a test match against each other for the next 9 years. The leader in Imran Khan had almost reached the status of a dictator (not new for Pakistan!) while Wasim akram emerged as a lethal bowler and Pakistan uneveiled the tear-away Waqar Younis…abdul Qadir was an established spinner now and so was the Pakistani batting line up. While India was a developing unit with captaincy in the hands of the very uncertain Kris Srikkanth and Kapil Dev denied the honours….there were a few who believed that Kapil paaji had passed his prime. Sanjay Manjrekar emerged as a fine technician on that tour, he had a very successful tour apparently-one century and one double apart from other useful contributions and the tour is best remembered as the debut series for Sachin Tendulkar-the one that put him on the map and the one that made that kid a man. India were greeted with green tops and hostile spells, but managed to survive both. India was a very unsettled unit and a drawn series was a good result for their standing. The series had another intresting story with it……Mohammad Azharruddin was struggling during that time and went to Zaheer Abbas to fix his play, Zaheer advised him to change his grip instead and that transformed the luck as well. The drawn series was symbolic of the competitiveness that the teams brought to the ground and the fierce intensity and grit that made these battles legendary. For two enemy nations it was a profitable bargain…..fighting on the cricket field with no lives lost….even-stevens still. It did give the spectators excitement, thrills and moments of joy and grave disappointment……the game got into the blood with this rivalry……have India and Pakistan play any sort of match anywhere, it still shows.