Sunil Gavaskar © Getty Images
Sunil Gavaskar © Getty Images

Sunil Gavaskar scored two hundreds in the same Test for the second time in his career on November 19, 1978. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when some quixotic leadership made the Little Master’s efforts go down the drain.

Owing to the political and military turmoil in the intermediate period, it had taken India and Pakistan 18 years to play a series. The last decided Test between the two sides had been over a quarter of a century back. When India finally arrived in 1978-79, it was expected to be a ‘goodwill’ series of sorts.

Mushtaq Mohammad, the teenager who had played in the previous series between the two countries, was now in charge of the Pakistan side. It was also the first time many of the all-time greats would be playing against each other: over the next decade the contest would reach a fierce stage.

The first Test at Faisalabad witnessed the debut of India’s greatest all-rounder: Kapil Dev emerged on the scene as a genuine pacer and forced Sadiq Mohammad to summon a helmet almost immediately. However, the much-famed Indian spin trinity conceded a lot of runs and in the end it was an evenly contested draw.

India were drowned in the second Test at Lahore thanks to some fierce fast bowling from Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz and an emphatic 235 from Zaheer Abbas. Though the top four men in the Indian batting line-up all scored hundreds in the second innings, India collapsed; chasing 126 in about 100 minutes Pakistan won with fifty balls to spare.

Pakistan needed only a draw to win the rubber in the last Test at Karachi. India had to win. Given the failure of their spin trinity and the success of the Pakistan fast bowlers, India decided to replace EAS Prasanna with Karsan Ghavri. The change also bolstered the batting line-up.

Day One: A Sunny Day

After Bishan Singh Bedi won the toss for the first time in the series and elected to bat on what seemed to be a batting pitch, and Sunil Gavaskar set about business as usual. He was determined to make the occasion count: an Indian defeat was probably the thing he had hated the most. Despite the fact that he had scored an 89 and a 96 earlier in the series, that much-coveted hundred had still remained elusive.

His partner Chetan Chauhan dominated proceedings before he fell to Sarfraz for 33 after adding 58 for the opening stand. Surinder Amarnath strode out and scored 30 in his easy, fluent style before Iqbal Qasim dismissed him. One run later Gundappa Viswanath walked back for a duck.

Dilip Vengsarkar hung around grimly, battling against the three-pronged pace attack (Sikander Bakht being the third). However, a partner was all Gavaskar had needed as he took complete control of the proceedings. He played the pace with ease, and added 47 with Vengsarkar at a decent rate.

Vengsarkar fell to Sikander in the final session, but Mohinder Amarnath hung around, remaining unbeaten on 6. India finished with 195 for 4. The key, however, was Gavaskar, who had remained unbeaten on 96 after a hard day’s battle.

Day Two: Even-Stevens

Gavaskar duly brought up his first hundred against Pakistan in no time. But both Sarfraz and Imran combined to remove both men at the crease. Sikander then accounted for Syed Kirmani, and at 253 for 7 with only two non-batsmen — Bedi and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar — to bat India seemed to have lost their way despite being 131 for 1 at one time.

Kapil joined Ghavri: the pair put up a fine display of how the Pakistan bowling could be tamed. While Ghavri kept out the danger with his some well-judged singles, Kapil tore into the attack with an amazing display of strokeplay. The pair added 84 in no time before Ghavri fell to Sarfraz for 42; Kapil had gone past his fifty by then.

Kapil was eventually last out for a 48-ball 59 with 8 fours and 2 sixes, scored out of only 91 during his stay. He had already made his mark as India’s answer to fast bowlers all over the world: he had now arrived as a rollicking batsman as well. India were eventually bowled out for 344; Sarfraz finished with 4 wickets while Imran had snared 3.

Majid Khan and Mudassar Nazar had a solid opening stand in response. Just when it seemed that they would bat out the day Kapil ran through Majid’s defence; he had scored 44. Mushtaq sent in a night-watchman in the form of Wasim Bari, and Pakistan finished the day on 92 for one, 252 runs in arrears, with Mudassar on 39 and Bari yet to score.

Day Three: Miandad, Mushtaq dominate

Ghavri had Bari caught-behind early in the day before Mudassar and Zaheer got together to put up a 49-run partnership. Then Chandra removed Mudassar for 55 and almost immediately followed up with Asif Iqbal. After a short stand Zaheer fell to Bedi, and suddenly Pakistan were reduced to 187 for 5, still 167 runs behind.

Mushtaq eventually walked out to join Javed Miandad. It was a tailor-made situation for them. Both men thrived under adverse situations; both had earned reputations as no-nonsense street-fighters; both were fierce runners between the wickets; and once settled down, both could dominate any attack under any condition.

Miandad was cautious to begin with while Mushtaq dominated proceedings; as the captain started playing his strokes the confidence rubbed on to his younger partner, and the pair added a hundred in quick time. By stumps, Pakistan finished at 339 for 5, a mere 5 behind India’s score: Miandad remained unbeaten on 80 and Mushtaq on 77.

Day Four: A draw on the cards

India began well on Day Four with Ghavri removing Mushtaq before Pakistan could even erase the deficit. Miandad duly scored his second hundred of the series and was caught-behind off Kapil for a round hundred with 8 fours and a six; and Chandra ran through Imran’s defence just when the batsman had started to look dangerous with three towering sixes.

At 408 for 8 India seemed to have fought their way back into the Test, but Sarfraz, Qasim, and Sikander all fought back, and Pakistan stretched their lead to a formidable 137. Both Kapil and Chandra finished with 3 wickets apiece.

Disaster almost struck when Gavaskar edged the first ball of the Indian innings to Bari. The Pakistanis appealed but the umpire turned it down. The Little Master had himself confessed later: “I was caught at the wicket off the first ball I faced in the second innings of the Karachi Test.” Given the unequal treatment dished out to the teams by the umpires throughout the series, however, Gavaskar had refused to walk.

Chauhan was not as fortunate — a snorter in Sarfraz’s second over took his glove and went to Bari and he fell for a duck. Mohinder, promoted at No. 3, edged one off the same bowler, but Zaheer dropped the catch in the slips. Seizing the initiative Mohinder crawled back to form.

Both batsmen crossed their fifties, and Mohinder was eventually bowled by Imran just before stumps for 53. Bedi sent in Kirmani as night-watchman, and India finished the day on 131 for 2 with Gavaskar on 67 and Kirmani on 1. They needed a mere 6 to make Pakistan bat again.

Day Five: Grit, collapse, and carnage

Kirmani hung around for a while the next morning before falling to Imran. It was then that disaster struck. Within no time India were reduced to 173 for 6 from 122 for 1. Lunch was still about half-an-hour away when Ghavri walked out to join Gavaskar. India had only one recognised batsman in the form of Kapil to follow.

Gavaskar went to lunch at 98 not out, having gone past Polly Umrigar’s career tally of 3,631 runs to become the highest run-scorer for India. With Mushtaq providing Imran and Sarfraz with a breather, Gavaskar cut loose against Sikander and Qasim, plundering runs at ease. He became the first Indian to score 2 hundreds in a Test on twice. Suddenly India seemed to get away from the Pakistanis with Gavaskar well past his hundred and Ghavri holding fort at the other end.

Mushtaq had no option but to recall his fast bowlers. Both Imran and Sarfraz went flat out, but nothing seemed to work. Sarfraz then came round the wicket and found Gavaskar’s edge: the great man had scored 137 in 240 balls with 20 hits to the fence. Despite that, at 246 for 7, India seemed to have saved the Test.

The job accomplished, Mushtaq replaced his fast bowlers with his spinners. The new ball was due at 261, but Mushtaq wanted to provide Imran and Sarfraz some rest. The move almost backfired as Kapil plundered runs at ease, hitting 2 massive sixes.

Delayed by 5 overs, the new ball did the trick with Mushtaq’s opening pair removing the last 3 wickets in the space of just 3 runs. Kapil’s 34 was scored out of a team score of 53; he had taken India to 300 and it seemed that he had done just enough to save the Test.

Sarfraz had bowled brilliantly throughout the innings, picking up 5 wickets while Imran had backed him up with 3 more. Pakistan were set 164 to score in 100 minutes.

Mushtaq sent an early message across by sending the cheeky Asif instead of the sluggish Mudassar to open batting with the belligerent Majid. When Kapil dismissed Majid early in the innings, Mushtaq promoted Miandad ahead of the injured Zaheer. When the mandatory overs started Pakistan still needed 137 for a victory.

Bedi brought on Mohinder when Ghavri went for a few runs, but to no avail. After seeing off a few balls, Asif and Miandad exploded: deft placements, quick singles, and imaginative strokeplay saw 97 being added in 9 overs, and suddenly all the good work done by Gavaskar, Kapil, and Ghavri seemed to have gone down the drain.

Seldom had the Indians seen batting this creative and ingenious and running-between-the-wickets this electric. The partnership was almost a decade ahead of its time. Asif and Miandad based their partnership on two simple rules: to play as few dot-balls as possible and to place the ball instead of hitting them hard. It broke a lot of Indian hearts, but as a partnership it was revolutionary.

Mohinder eventually broke through, having Asif caught-behind for 44. With 46 still left for a win, Mushtaq played another masterstroke by promoting Imran. It was then that Bedi attempted a questionable tactic: he tried to lure Imran by making him go for the big hits and getting dismissed in the process.

Imran had come out when Pakistan required only 46 to win the Test. There was no way India could have won the Test. Even if Pakistan had lost a couple of wickets attempting to hit out, they would easily have played out time with a batting line-up that went down to as far as No. 8.

Bedi kept an aggressive field and kept on tossing the ball up to Imran. He did not even try to kill time by bringing in the fast bowlers and slowing the game down, making an effort to ensure the Test ended earlier. In the 16th mandatory over Imran decided that it was time to go for the kill and took Bedi for a four and 2 sixes. Pakistan won the Test with 7 balls to spare.

Pakistan won the series 2-0. Gavaskar’s twin tons, just like Vijay Hazare’s over three decades back, had gone in vain. He had scored 447 runs at 89.40 the next highest scorer, Viswanath, managed only 249. Had Gavaskar had a better support, India might have gone away with a drawn series.

However, India were probably hurt to a bigger extent by the fact that their spin trinity had finally seemed to have approached their expiration date. Bedi finished with 6 wickets for 449 (at 74.83), Chandra with 8 for 385 (at 48.12), and Prasanna with 2 for 251 (at 125.50).

[Trivia: For the only time in India-Pakistan Tests the same batsmen top-scored in either innings for both sides. While Gavaskar scored 111 and 137 for India, Miandad top-scored with 100 and 62 not out.]

What followed?

– Prasanna never played another Test while Bedi was sacked as captain immediately after the series. Both Bedi and Chandra finished their Test careers next year in England.

– Gavaskar, leading India in the next Test against West Indies at Bombay, top-scored with 205. He thus equalled the world record of top-scoring for his side in 4 consecutive completed innings. Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul (5) has bettered this record.

– Gavaskar’s excellent run spilled over to the next series and even later. He scored 1,014 runs at 101.40 in a 78-day span from October 16, 1978 to January 2, 1979, eclipsing Wally Hammond’s record of scoring a thousand runs in 124 days (Graham Gooch later went past Gavaskar in 1990, reaching the 1,000-mark in 62 days).

– The phase also included another twin ton – this time at Calcutta against West Indies. This made him the first player to score 2 hundreds in a Test thrice (a record that has subsequently been emulated by Ricky Ponting).

– India would win their first Test and series in Pakistan in as late as 2004.

Brief scores:

India 344 (Sunil Gavaskar 111, Kapil Dev 59, Karsan Ghavri 48; Sarfraz Nawaz 4 for 89, Imran Khan 3 for 75) and 300 (Sunil Gavaskar 137, Mohinder Amarnath 53; Sarfraz Nawaz 5 for 70, Imran Khan 3 for 76) lost to Pakistan 481 for 9 decl. (Mudassar Nazar 57, Majid Khan 44, Javed Miandad 100,  Zaheer Abbas 42; Bhagwat Chandrasekhar 3 for 97, Kapil Dev 3 for 132) and 164 for 2 (Javed Miandad 62*) by 8 wickets.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at He can be followed on Twitter at