In all the years that I have roamed the world covering cricket, I had never before left the press-box on the last day of a tour without a lump in my throat.But I felt no emotion except relief as 1 put the lid on my typewriter on October 10, the,In all the years that I have roamed the world covering cricket, I had never before left the press-box on the last day of a tour without a lump in my throat.But I felt no emotion except relief as 1 put the lid on my typewriter on October 10, the day the curtain came down at Nagpur on the short series between India and Pakistan, in which every Test was drawn.As I plodded the short distance to my hotel, I wondered why this time I felt no regret that another tour had ended and that a visiting team containing many fine cricketers, all of them very affable young men, was packing its bags to go home.I asked myself if I had become tired of watching cricket – or had I become cynical about it? At that moment I was face to face with a small statue of C. K. Nayudu that is the centre-piece of a traffic island just outside the shambles that is Nagpur’s cricket ground.I peered at the statue through the darkness and the eyes moistened, a sign that I had not wearied of cricket. If indeed I have become cynical, my attitude is only a reflection of the trend in modern cricket, of which the series just completed is a prime example.At least one side gave the impression that the whole project was forced oh them and that they undertook it without protest only because of the high financial returns. The Indian side tried its best, but their best did not match the standards of Test cricket because the components were rusty after a long lay-off.advertisementZaheer Abbas: Negative tacticsIndifferent Attitude: The Pakistanis seemed to treat the whole venture as nothing but a dress-rehearsal for their tour of Australia, and that a rehearsal without the principal star, Imran Khan, whose absence detracted from the tone of the series and, no doubt, affected the gates.Judging by the small attendances, except at Nagpur, the public was not at all turned on by the cricket that was played, and perhaps it is to the long-term advantage of the game in India that the paying customer has become more discriminating.If the yawning spaces in the stands at Bangalore and Jalandhar contained a message for the players and the board, then this damp squib of a tour will have served some purpose.In the old order, the major cricketing countries played each other no oftener than every four years. The rarity of Test matches gave them an aura and touring sides held a mystic charm which is now absent.I understand that an annual exchange of visits between India and Pakistan is projeced, the one just ended being the first of this regular series. The main benefit of playing so often, said the Pakistan board’s president, Air Marshal Noor Khan, is the removal of the acrimonious rivalry that prevailed during India-Pakistan Test matches in the past.That is indeed a laudable objective but the whole plan of an annual exchange contains the damaging element of overexposure. Furthermore, these regular Test matches between India and Pakistan would be subsidiary to other Test commitments that India might have in the same season, which would mean an involvement in at least eight or nine Test matches in most winters.Long-term Disaster: Test cricket on that scale will not remain an easily marketable product but before this is realised and the necessary adjustments made, untold harm will have been done to the game at those lower levels where Test cricketers of the future are cultivated and raised.Kirmani, Kapil and Shastri chase a miscued shot from Wasim Raja in the Jalandhar test: Going through the motionsIf our cricketers are to play an average of nine Test matches and half-a-dozen one-day internationals during the span of a domestic season, they are going to be less and less available to play club cricket and in the Ranji and Duleep Trophy competitions.The outcome of their absence from these lower and middle tiers of the structure of Indian cricket will mean slowing down of the process of development of the game’s learners which will be disastrous, as the demand for replacements and reinforcements is bound to increase from greater stress on established Test-players.Shastri: NaggingAustralian cricket is already feeling the pressure of an excess of international cricket and particularly the overs-limit version of the game. But having surrendered to commercial interests, it is powerless to rid itself of its current ills.I wrote in agony and anger about the administration of Indian cricket after the consecutive debacles in Pakistan and the West Indies. My views have not been tempered by the winning of the World Cup, a great distinction, but unrelated to excellence in Test cricket, which is the true hallmark of prowess.advertisementThose who love and understand cricket in its pure form have stopped glorying in the World Cup triumph and begun to contemplate our Test record since November 1981 – 23 Test matches without a win since the defeat of England on a dubious Wankhede Stadium pitch.Poor Strategy: Losses this time have numbered six and there would have been an addition to the list had rain not reduced playing time in Nagpur by more than three hours, and had Zaheer Abbas, Pakistan’s captain, not fought shy of winning.When the Pakistanis were not long arrived in India, Sarfraz Nawaz, whom they chose to leave behind, was quoted as saying that he was excluded from the tour party because he refused to subscribe to a policy of “playing not to lose”.Now Sarfraz has the reputation of being a bit of a rebel, given to extravagant pronouncements. Few, therefore, took his statement seriously. But it must be viewed in fresh light after the events at Nagpur where Zaheer Abbas was not only making sure he did not lose but, seemingly. even more certain that he did not win. in the manner of the friendship- spreading Chinese table tennis players in the days of Mao Tse Tung.It was either that or assume Zaheer Abbas is the most slow-witted, unimaginative captain in Test history. Not since Ajit Wadekar turned his back on the chance of beating the West Indies in the fifth Test of 1971, in Port-of-Spain, have I known a captain to spurn an opportunity gs Zaheer did at Nagpur.Zaheer’s approach was in marked contrast to that of Kapil Dev who, despite the fact that India were without Mohinder Amarnath and notwithstanding the lean form of all the other batsmen, save Gavaskar, took every risk to force a result and redeem a miserable, rain-ruined series.The Nagpur pitch had a history of being a rough “turner” and India equipped themselves to meet its needs by including three spinners, after a long, long, time. Among them was a new cap, Raghuram Bhat, orthodox left-arm, who staked his claim by taking six wickets in the Irani Trophy match at Rajkot, in August.Kapil Dev: Going for brokeExcept that rain delayed the start by three hours and ten minutes, every thing went according to India’s plan. Beating the law of averages, Kapil Dev won the toss for the third time in the series and elected to bat.The scheme was to bat with urgency and it was pursued vigorously except in times of grave crisis, such as when India declined from 92 for two on the first day to 103 for five within less than half an hour of the start of the second.Kapil Dev, batting with uncharacteristic restraint, and Ravi Shastri stabilised the innings with a partnership of 68 but some time before this stand was ended, Kapil Dev was trying to step up the scoring rate again and the effort was not abandoned when he got out. Thus India were all out for a not too good score of 245, 15 minutes before tea.advertisementThe negative aspect of Zaheer Abbas’s captaincy was already manifest at this stage of the match. When India were in the desperate position of 103 for five and Kapil Dev and Shastri had fallen back on defence, Zaheer did nothing to increase the pressure on them.Off-spinner Nazir bowled with a seven-man leg-side field which was set more to contain than oppress; Hafeez, their main strike bowler operated with no more than two slips and a gully and there was no experimenting with the leg-spin of Wasim Raja, which had proved so effective in the Jalandhar Test.Uninspired Game: It was impossible to reconcile the non-use of Wasim Raja with what Zaheer told me on the rest day. He said he would have loved to have Abdul Qadir bowling on this wicket. If he did believe that leg-spin was going to be a potent weapon in the going conditions then why did he not put on Raja even for three overs at a time when the batsmen were playing only for survival?Pakistan, after losing their first two wickets for 26, raised a total of 322. Miandad played a very responsible innings of 60, lasting 190 minutes and even Zaheer batted well within himself to make 85, strangely enough his highest score in nine Test matches on Indian soil.Nazir: Rich haulThe scoring rate was not exciting, but Pakistan could not be criticised overmuch in this respect for they did have to insure themselves against the dangers of batting last on a pitch not rated high for its durability. Moreover, they must have been unnerved by at least two, if not three, dubious umpiring decisions early in their innings.Just over eight hours’ play was left when India began their second innings with a deficit of 77 runs. Realistically, there was not enough time for India to win from this situation, but Indian guns started to boom as Hafeez and Naqqash both bowled unwisely short with the new ball.The first five overs of the innings yielded 27 runs and straight away, Zaheer Abbas ran for cover. Nazir was called up for what was the start of a spell of 50 overs without change from one end, a remarkable feat of endurance and control which was rewarded with a bag of five wickets for 72 runs.From the outset, Nazir bowled with seven men on the leg side, three of them on the boundary. At the other end, Naqqash or Hafeez bowled with a run-saving off-side field, their line directed well outside the off stump.Survival Tactics: In a spirit of challenge, Gavaskar once attempted to hit Nazir for six to mid-wicket, escaped being caught, and then decided to exercise more restraint. With his limited range of shots, Gaekwad was more easily contained and at the end of the day, India were 99 for one, Gavaskar being 50 not out.On the morning of the last day, Zaheer’s tactics differed from the previous day only in that he gave Nazir a more aggressive field which he had every right to have because his line and length were immaculate and because the pitch was giving him increased assistance.But at the other end, he bowled Naqqash and Hafeez in the same ultra-defensive way as on the previous day. Not surprisingly, Pakistan captured only two wickets before lunch while just 55 runs were added and one of these wickets was got from Yashpal playing a wild shot.Earlier, Nazir had ended Gavaskar’s most competent innings of 50 with a ball of particular viciousness. As the first half hour after lunch was ending, with India’s lead still below a hundred, Nazir removed Vengsarkar and Shastri in a matter of three balls and if at any time there had been a possibility of India winning, it was now totally eliminated.Gavaskar: ConfidentOf course, Sandeep Patil, the cavalier, was still there, but he was hard put to survive against the spin of Nazir, never mind go for the bowling. If ever there was an opportune moment to bring on Raja, it was now; but another 20 minutes went by before he was called on for his first bowl of the match. His advent may have been further delayed if Patil had not suddenly thrashed three fours off Hafeez.Turning Point: Patil’s torment increased the instant Raja came on, his nerve not helped by Kirti Azad getting himself out at the other end to Nazir. In Raja’s second over, Patil ran down the pitch in desperation, never got to the pitch of the ball, and was bowled by a googly.India were now 188 for seven and would have been 188 for eight after the very next ball had Madan Lai not been dropped at silly point. That missed chance proved to be the turning point. If Miandad fastened on to the chance, admittedly a difficult one, it would have been curtains for India because another two-and-a-half hours remained at the time and Raja soon afterwards was also to account for Kapil Dev.There was no stronger indictment of Zaheer Abbas’s captaincy than Wasim Raja’s performance which was also a hint to India that they might have been better off playing leg-spinner Sivaramakrishnan, who was in the squad, rather than Raghuram Bhat, who proved a disappointment, despite his capture of two important wickets.On the evidence of his maiden Test, Bhat’s main virtue is his steadiness. But he is too mechanical in flight and direction to be an interesting bowler, as left-arm spinners are, or to be a match-winner at Test level. The more deadly bowler on this occasion proved to be Shastri, whose high action enabled him to get plenty of bounce from this pitch.While India’s batsmen fumbled and faltered yet again, we anxiously scanned the scores from Hyderabad in the fervent hope that Gundappa Viswanath, playing for South Zone against the West Indies would rediscover the old magic. Alas, he was c Pydanna b Baptiste 12!