How it feels to watch footage of the epic West Indies-Pakistan 1987-88 series today

The leading batsman in the world came up against a world-class attack that challenged him Getty Images

Thirty-five balls. That's it. Not even six overs, from a series of nearly a thousand overs; just under six minutes of highlights from 14 days of play. That is the sum total of what you can watch of one of the greatest Test series of all time, between a GOAT side and nearly the very best side Pakistan have produced (the '90s sides had more talent but this '80s precursor was harder to beat).

Years and years of searching for any measly visual scrap of Pakistan's monumental 1987-88 tour to the Caribbean and this is all that has come of it: five minutes and 53 seconds of highlights of the final day of the series - in Bridgetown, Barbados. Until a month ago, when it was put up on YouTube, all anyone owned of it were their own memories, of following the series on radio or through newspaper reports. And memories, we all know, are among life's most unreliable documenters.

For a long time I hoped that one day, somehow, comprehensive footage of this series would emerge. Years ago, when I made inquiries about whether there was footage available of the series, I was told by a couple of media people in the Caribbean that it would be difficult to find, that it may be hidden away in some musty corner of an old-time broadcaster's office. I clung to that. Soon after watching this clip, energised, I emailed that legend of broadcasting and journalism, Fazeer Mohammed.

Badmazing news folks: according to Fazeer, the series wasn't even broadcast in full in the Caribbean. Apparently, from the mid-'70s until England's tour in 1990 - broadcast on Sky - Tests in the region were never broadcast in full. Local broadcasters would record the day's play but only use clips for their sports news that evening.

Let that sink in. There's a treasure chest of giants and their legendary feats and era-defining wins, never to be opened, unseen by anyone other than those fortunates at the grounds on those days. It's so ephemeral it hurts.

Now, at last - and at least - we have this, a great series, captured by what seems to be a phone recording a TV screen. And you know what? The footage is compelling simply because for so long there wasn't any. Now there is, and it has gatecrashed what was tenderly built in our imagination. But the footage is also underwhelming precisely because it is gatecrashing our imagination, and imagination is a difficult thing to live up to.

Nineteen eighty-eight doesn't feel as long ago as 31 years (old man, alert), but this cricket looks really old. The quality of the footage doesn't help, a fading print wrung through a smartphone and put out on social media, and though I think it isn't in black and white, it almost appears to be.

And so it feels much further away, for instance, from the colour and shimmering modernity of the 1992 World Cup than just four years. This could be 40 years before that tournament.

The camera angles don't help, diagonal and far and high back at the right-hander's straight long-on or fine third man, almost as if this was never meant to be shown - which, I guess, it wasn't. Even that Michael Holding over to Geoff Boycott is this angle, shot, according to Fazeer, from the members' area at the old Kensington Oval. The only way we know how special that over is is because the people who were there tell us: otherwise YouTube most definitely doesn't.

But in this footage, it's also evident that cricketers are cricketers in that old sense, in which they explicitly aren't athletes. Nobody's attacking balls in the field, nobody's sprinting or diving, pulling off boundary relay catches, and there are fumbles everywhere. It's Pakistan in the field, admittedly, so the obvious dig is that this could be them yesterday, the day before, or in 1957 - that is just the timelessness of their badness.

But it is true that the cricket comes across less gladiatorial than the mind has it, lacking the oomph that undoubtedly this series had. It could just be that these particular set of highlights is not especially well done, missing the very point, which is to bring out what was special in the day.

Abdul Qadir bowling leg-stump filth at one end, for example, is not that. Difficult to say that it's not instructive, though. This was a famous last day, which began with West Indies needing 112 to win with five wickets in hand, protecting an unbeaten home series record that stretched back to 1974 (and would go on till 1995) against a Pakistan side that would have cemented itself as indisputably the best side in the world if they had won. And yet Imran Khan, fearless, attacking Imran Khan, is allowing Qadir, of all his favourites, to bowl 17 stumps outside leg stump? Maybe he always was more pragmatic than we realised.

Imran only appears for two deliveries. The action is still energetic, but these were literally the last days of his bowling. Though he would continue to bowl about 26 overs per Test after this, he would take fewer than two wickets in each of his 15 remaining matches.

There's a timeless bit of class from Wasim Akram, though, as he clean-bowls Viv Richards. Even from this angle you can tell that from round the wicket he's doing things batsmen aren't used to. Richards was likely beaten on the inside edge, shaping to go over square leg, but the footage is such that we can continue secretly wishing insisting it's on the outside edge.

It is the one moment through which this series feels great; a kid on the road to greatness, against a bona fide great. They had duelled this series, Akram growing some swagger and putting it up against the guy who invented swagger. He got him three times out of four, but Richards scored runs, and at the end, after Akram tried a little too much swagger, he let him know who was boss, waiting outside the dressing room to "take this outside". Being scared, Akram discovered, was also part of growing up.

Full marks, also, for capturing the moment, or its immediate aftermath, that would have gone viral today: the infamous punch Qadir threw at a baiting fan. It did happen and here is, kind of, proof. Qadir was frustrated, because you know what else happened? The umpires.

For years Pakistanis have been convinced they were robbed of two legit dismissals in this innings, of Winston Benjamin and Jeffrey Dujon. Radio told us so on the day, and everyone else since has reinforced it. Now in this clip, vindication. Even from this angle, Benjamin was lbw and Dujon was caught bat-pad. This being 20 years before DRS came along shouldn't have mattered - they were plumb.

It's sad to think that there might not be that much more footage - if any - of this series. It's frustrating because we live in an age where, even without the right TV subscriptions, we can instantly consume any clip anywhere online - even in cricket, which still treats watching the game as a right to be earned, rather than as a vehicle of inclusion through which the sport grows.

But on second thought, maybe it's fine if there isn't much more footage, lest our judgement of it be coloured by the cricket we watch today, which is many more times evolved. Stay in the mind as you are, infinitesimally lesser each day as memory fades, distorted yes, but at least bespoke. Occasionally it can be enriched by an anecdote, like Ramiz Raja's awestruck rendering of Javed Miandad's bloody-minded decision to play all short balls with his body, injuries be damned.

Some things can do without de-mythologising.