The current West Indies vs Pakistan contest doesn't measure up to the quality and excitement of the 1976-77 one in the Caribbean

Wasim Raja in a rare moment of misjudgment, is bowled by Colin Croft; (Right) The 1977 Pakistan team. Pics/mid-day archives
Wasim Raja in a rare moment of misjudgment, is bowled by Colin Croft; (Right) The 1977 Pakistan team. Pics/mid-day archives

Decades ago, a Pakistan vs West Indies Test series used to attract a vibrant following that stretched well beyond their respective regions. Not any more. And going by the quality of cricket the West Indies are dishing out in the ongoing Test series in the Caribbean, it will take something magical to get the followers mighty excited.

Pakistan have not been too spectacular either. Last August, they became the No. 1 Test team in the world. They lost that top billing in less than two months to India and now have slipped to No. 5 while West Indies are only superior to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Imran Khan's Pakistan were probably the only team that could seriously challenge the dominance of the West Indies and the 1-1 margins in the 1986-87 and 1987-88 series bear testimony to some terrific cricket played out between Viv Richards' army and Imran Khan's warriors.

The West Indies vs Pakistan Test rivalry on Caribbean soil began in 1957-58, the series in which Hanif Mohammad and Garry Sobers scored their epic triple hundreds. West Indies won 3-1.

The following year, Pakistan hosted the men from the Caribbean and the contest ended 2-1 in favour of Pakistan. Both Tests were drawn in 1974-75 when Clive Lloyd's team were there after their tour of India.

Then came the 1976-77 series in the West Indies - 40 years ago - when Mushtaq Mohammad's team became only the second from Pakistan to tour the West Indies, then led by Clive Lloyd. The hosts won 2-1 and Tony Cozier, that encyclopedia of West Indies cricket, wrote in Sportsweek's World of Cricket, "If the general standard of the cricket, particularly the batting, was somewhat below expectations, the interest never waned through the five Tests. Situations changed with such dramatic frequency that even the most commanding advantage could be counted for little."

The series was open till the final Test at Kingston, Jamaica where the West Indies made it 2-1 after drawing first blood in the second Test at Trinidad. Pakistan won the fourth Test in Trinidad (in those days, Port of Spain hosted two Tests in a series) after the draw in Georgetown. Captain Mushtaq scored a hundred and followed it up with 56 in the second innings. His leg breaks fetched him eight wickets and he joined Garry Sobers as the only cricketer to score a hundred and claim five wickets in an innings twice.

This was the series in which Joel Garner and Colin Croft started their international careers due to the injuries to Michael Holding (shoulder) and Wayne Daniel (back). Garner and Croft proved lethal for the Pakistanis as did the slightly off-colour spearhead Andy Roberts.

Two batsmen who tried to hook him without success were left with unforgettable experiences - Sadiq Mohammad tried the shot in the third Test at Guyana and was hit on the jaw and Imran, who decided fight with fire against the premier West Indian fast bowler in Kingston, felt the bouncer kiss his cap (no helmets in those days), beat wicketkeeper Deryck Murray and bounce twice en route to the boundary. The fact that he could have been dead had the ball hit him was not lost on the future megastar, who considered himself very fortunate to be living on that hot day in Kingston.

The Pakistanis may have been relieved to get off that field. It was so hot at Sabina Park that Imran, in his autobiography, revealed that his boots "sounded as if I'd put my feet in a bucket of water." He claimed 6 for 90 in a hostile spell and when he came to bat, a section of the crowd, according to Imran, yelled, "blood, blood."

Majid Khan, who had scored a majestic 167 in the third Test at Georgetown, was hit on the face twice by Roberts and on each occasion, sent the next ball to the ropes. He scored 530 runs in five Tests. Asif Iqbal played Pakistan's innings of the match when he scored 135 in the second innings, chasing 442 for victory. Imran was tempted to call it Asif's innings of a lifetime, but did not do so because Asif had belted out similar hits in Adelaide and Sydney against Australia a few months before his Kingston effort.

However, the batsman whose contribution in the series can never be over-estimated was the late Wasim Raja. He kicked off the Test series in Bridgetown, Barbados with an unbeaten 117, top-scored in the second innings with 71, and did so again in the next Test at Trinidad with 65 and 84, where West Indies won by six wickets. His run tally for the series was 517.

Rameez Raja, who is on commentary duty in the Caribbean for the ongoing series was only 14 when brother Wasim was belting sixes (14 in the series) against the West Indian quicks. Since he is at the Kensington Oval, Rameez will do well to find someone who watched his brother put on a record 133 runs for the tenth wicket with Wasim Bari.

It was yet another rescue act witnessed at Barbados, because only the previous day, Bari had been saved from drowning by a lifeguard at sea. Ironically, Wasim started the tour as a reserve player.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com