Exclusive: Batsmen now lack temperament on turning tracks, says Tauseef Ahmed
Tauseef has been appalled by the pitch critics who have failed to raise a single question on the modern batsmen's technique
Unlike Lionel Richie, his famous lookalike, there has been no recorded history of Tauseef Ahmed’s talent for music. But for the connoisseurs of the art called spin bowling, Tauseef was an artist who made the ball sing and he turned Pakistan’s fortunes around in Bangalore on a treacherous pitch in 1987.
That Bangalore Test became a part of cricketing folklore for arguably the greatest innings played by a batsman on a rank turner.
As the wickets fell at the other end with the two wizards, Tauseef and left-arm spinner Iqbal Qasim, making the ball turn and bounce viciously, Sunil Gavaskar almost singlehandedly took India to the brink of victory with an epic 96 in what was the last Test innings of his life
“That pitch had so much turn and we were bowling really well. But Gavaskar still managed to play all the turning balls with the bat, taking the bat-and-pad dismissal out of the equation. I was amazed by his skills and temperament because it was an impossible thing to do in the fourth innings on that wicket,” Tauseef told Khaleej Times over phone from Karachi.
Now 34 years later, raging turners have kicked up a storm in the India-England series. But Tauseef has been appalled by the critics who have failed to raise a single question on the modern batsmen’s technique to play spin on such tracks.
And the 64-year-old Tauseef defended the right of the bowlers of his ilk.
“Yes I have heard (Ravichandran) Ashwin. He is absolutely right when he defended the turning track. Every team enjoys the home advantage. Do Australia and England make turning tracks when our teams visit them? No, they make wickets for their pace bowlers. So why do they complain when they have to face our spinners on turning tracks. I think the whole controversy over the pitches has been pointless,” the former off-spinner said.
Ahmed then opened up on the difference between the Ahmedabad pitch and the one in Bangalore where he shared 18 wickets with Qasim to eke out a 16-run win for Pakistan as India were bowled out for 204 in the fourth innings, despite that Gavaskar epic.
“In Ahmedabad, the pitch had turn and you could see that from the start. Even Joe Root took five wickets! But in Bangalore, everyone failed to read the pitch before the start of the match. Both teams thought it would help pacers. And when the first ball from Maninder Singh, who took seven wickets in the first innings, pitched in the middle stump and turned to the slip cordon, only then did our captain (Imran Khan) and seniors realise that they got it wrong by playing four pace bowlers on that track,” Ahmed recalled.
“Once they realised the pitch was a vicious turner, all the pressure was on myself and Iqbal. We just tried our best and luckily won the Test. It was the final match of the series as the four previous Tests ended in draws.”
Qamar Ahmed, a veteran Pakistani journalist, remembered how the devastating loss to bitter rivals Pakistan in Gavaskar’s last series sent shockwaves through the cricket fraternity in India.
“I was covering that match for The Times (London). There were dramatic scenes even in the press box as several senior Indian cricket writers were overcome with emotions, struggling to put their thoughts into words on their typewriters,” said Ahmed who also played first class cricket and became the only bowler to have dismissed the three famous Mohammad brothers of Pakistan cricket -- Hanif Mohammad, Mushtaq Mohammad and Sadiq Mohammad -- in domestic matches.
Ahmed agreed with Tauseef that the explosion of T20s has robbed modern batmen of the chance to learn the art of building an innings on a difficult wicket in the five-day format.
“There are only four batsmen now in world cricket, Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Joe Root. Only these four have the temperament to tackle bowlers consistently on difficult surfaces,” said Ahmed.
Tauseef then had the last word.
“Having a turning track is one thing, but getting turn is quite another. In Asia, we have turn in our hands, in our wrist and in our fingers,” he said.
“The value of good spinners will never die down. But what has been dead is batsmen’s temperament and it’s all because of T20 cricket. That’s why it’s now difficult to find a batsman like Sunil Gavaskar!”
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