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The Zaheer Abbas Dossier – 3

Kamran Wasti

The English Season 1979

Zaheer’s returns for the 1979 English Season are consistent if not spectacular – a total of 1304 runs at 46.57 from 17 games with 3 hundreds and a highest of 151 not out. The most outstanding innings he plays though against handy Somerset attack which although missing Joel Garner, includes Ian Botham as Gloucestershire make a gallant but vain bid for victory in a second-innings shootout. Chasing 264 in 51 overs, they end at 246 for 8 with Zaheer having scored 147 out of the 200 scored in his presence. His 101 against Glamorgan is similarly scored out of the 171 scored while he is at the crease. His one-day form for his country is also consistent averaging almost 44 with 8 fifties, mostly scored at rapid rate.

World Cup 1979

Rounds off his World Cup with a brilliant 93 in the semi-final loss against the West Indies as a strong Pakistani team fail to qualify for the final. He shares a 166-run stand with Majid Khan before his dismissal sparks a collapse of 9 for 74. The most memorable stroke he plays is a sweep off Collis King that falls way behind the boundary line. Ironically, the match is glorified as an impossible challenge mounted by a weak Pakistani team rather than a failed effort by a strong one.

He seems to be in fine form scoring a relatively fluent 36 against Canada before he is run out in a match that sees his Gloucestershire teammate Sadiq Muhammad win the match award for a slow 57. He then struggles against Australia before Gary Cozier catches him quite brilliantly off his own bowling diving to his left. Ian Botham snaps him up with an outswinger in the match against England during a Pakistani collapse of 6 for7 during a loss sets up a semi-final date with the West Indies.

On the whole, he has two outright failures, one good innings and one fluent one cut short against the minnows, Canada for a total of 148 runs at 37.00.

The Pakistan Season 1979-80

Plays four matches in the BCCP Invitation Tournament starting off with successful double of 57 and 111 against Lahore, the hundred being a patient fourth innings effort to lead PIA to win. Follows that up with a brutal 170 in one of the first-class games of the Pentangular Tournament, punctuated with 14 fours and six sixes as PIA drub Railways by 10 wickets. Fails in the last 4 innings, scoring a total of 31 runs as he is named in squad to tour India in 1979-80.

Pakistan in India 1979-80

The controversial omission of Mushtaq Mohammed and Sarfraz Nawaz is the highlight of the day. Asif Iqbal, the new test captain, goes public on the latter claiming that he is not indispensable. Mushtaq Mohammed would later maintain that his ouster was engineered by Asif Iqbal himself who seduced Zaheer Abbas (who had always coveted the captaincy), Majid Khan and Imran Khan into opposing his selection.

Zaheer’s first outing on the tour is a side game against Central Zone where he scores 68 and 44. He looks completely at ease in the first test scoring 40 in 51 balls and opts for batting practice in the second innings scoring an unbeaten 31 off 100 balls. Although he is cleaned up by Kapil Dev early in the second test, Zaheer scores a assured 50 in the second innings before scoring a hundred in the second side game he plays. That is about as good as it gets: Twin failures I the defeat at Bombay (2 and 11) and another at Kanpur (4) precede an apparent return to form in a side game where he scores 64 in a hopelessly one-side match in which the Pakistanis dismiss the East Zone team twice in a day. Fails in both innings at Madras more, falling to Kapil Dev on both occasions. After his first test dismissal by Dilip Doshi, Zaheer ends up falling to Kapil Dev or Roger Binny in every single innings that he plays scoring a total of 34 runs in five innings. 157 runs at 19.63 is a spectacular fall from the giddy heights of previous season and is justifiably dropped for the final test at Calcutta.

 

Australia in Pakistan 1979-80

Is hopelessly out of touch in the home series against Australia falling to the left-arm spin of Ray Bright on a turning wicket at Karachi. Fails to cash in even on a Faisalabad pitch Dennis Lillee identified as his final resting place: In a match where a thousand runs are scored for just 13 wickets, Zaheer labours to 19 off 92 balls before he mercifully ends up getting run out.

The English Season 1980

Has a poor English summer scoring 1296 runs 20 matches at 38.11, his worst return for Gloucestershire since 1973.  His one-day form though is much better as he averages 54 with the bat with 3 hundreds.

The West Indies in Pakistan 1980-81

Although he scores 42 and an unbeaten 95 in the two ODI innings against the tourists, Zaheer suffers an astonishing failure against the West Indies, scoring just 57 runs at 14.25 in 3 tests. There are times when he is seen moving towards the leg-stump slogging wildly. Getting hit my Sylvester Clarke on his head, the clonk audible even in those pre-microphone days, prompted Imran Khan to write in his first autobiography how he felt at the time that Zaheer was finished.

Since the 1978-79 series against India, Zaheer has had four successive series failures. Even his relatively successful series in New Zealand is all due to a chancy 135 where he is dropped 4 times.

Record since the Indian series:

Matches Inns Not Out Runs HS Ave 100 50 Ducks
14 24 3 553 135 26.33 1 2 1

The average has dropped from a peak of 45.05 attained in New Zealand to 38.84.

The Pakistan Season 1980-81

Things improve significantly on the domestic front where Zaheer is in fine form scoring 1066 runs at 133.25 with 5 hundreds and 4 fifties. Scores a round 100 not out in each innings against Railways after the West Indies have left to hint of better things to come. Leads PIA to win in the inaugural Wills Cup scoring 395 runs at 56.43 in a consistent, in unspectacular, run.

The English Season 1981

Forgetting the horrors of 1980, Zaheer gets into his groove with an incredible unbeaten double of 215 (out of 325 scored in his presence) and 150 (out of 221) against a Somerset attack featuring Ian Botham and Joel Garner. Three weeks later, he takes two hundreds off Northamptonshire (135 out of 240 and 128 out of 213) with Kapil Dev leading the attack. The final figures are 2306 runs at almost 89 with ten hundreds. The one-day form is less spectacular but that is secondary as Zaheer has whale of a time with the bat.

Pakistan in Australia 1981-82

Struggles to come to terms with the pacy Perth wicket, falling to Mick Malone in both innings. Is given a working over against the test match attack of Geoff Dymock and Jeff Thomson at Brisbane, where his final return of 84 from 134 balls is misleading before he declares himself unfit during the game against Victoria at Melbourne and becomes unavailable, controversially, for the first test at Perth. By doing so, Zaheer managed to survive the disaster at Perth where Pakistan were bowled out for 62 in the first innings and ended up losing the match by 286 runs, their second biggest defeat at the time. He returned to play on an unusually benign Brisbane track where he scored 80 but was outdone by Greg Chappell, a player of similar style, who scored a clinical double hundred. He fell for a duck in the second innings as Pakistan lost the series by collapsing spectacularly once more. In the dead rubber at Melbourne, Zaheer ground his way to 90 to help Pakistan win a test on a slow, low wicket. It was interesting to note that both captains, Chappell and Javed Miandad, agreed that the wicket should be dug up as it gave no chance to the team batting second.

In the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup, Zaheer played two good innings against Australia: a hundred which was the first by a Pakistani since Majid Khan scored 109 against England in 1974 and a scientifically planned 84 off 109 balls with no boundaries. Other than that he barely crossed 150 in the rest of the innings.

Sri Lanka in Pakistan 1981-82

Sri Lanka’s first overseas rubber was marred by the revolt against Javed Miandad. Zaheer was part of the rebels who boycotted the first test. The squad for the second test initially included four of the rebels who then backed out again after lack of clarity BCCP’s stance. Zaheer, ironically, was the only one of the lot who publicly expressed his desire to captain Pakistan. Following Pakistan’s near-defeat with a second string team against Sri Lanka (playing their third test), Javed Miandad announced his intention to quit the captaincy after the series which saw Pakistan play its full-strength team at Lahore in which Sri Lanka were beaten by an innings and 102 runs with Zaheer scoring a dazzling 134 off 148 balls. Imran Khan though was the outstanding player of the match with a haul of 14 for 116, a Pakistan record that continues to stand.

The Pakistan Season 1981-82

Boosted by a big hundreds, scores a  further 249 runs at 62 though he gets just six innings in 8 first-class games. Overall, a return of 383 runs at 76.60 is satisfactory but not sensational as the sample size is too small.

End of Part III

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