4th march 1992, 9th march 1996, 8th June 1999, 1st March 2003. The next date to be added to this sequence was the 30th of March 2011 when India faced Pakistan in a World Cup game (ODI world cup). The tradition continued – we defeated our neighbors on the western front. But in all these years, an India-Pakistan World Cup match is termed bigger than the world cup itself. Each match has its own history. we have our own memories associated with each of these matches. India beating Pakistan in ODI World Cups. Here is how I remember these encounters.
1992: the frog jump – For the first time, India play Pakistan in a World Cup. Governments mull over security arrangements. The tension between two countries remains where it has always been. Experts say it’s India’s batting versus Pakistan’s bowling – India has a very strong batting line up on paper whereas Pakistan has a strong bowling lineup on the ground. Supporters say, even if you don’t win a single match after this, DO NOT LOSE THIS ONE. Sponsors bask in the financial glory.
India drops Shastri because he was batting slowly. But Srikanth doesn’t let us feel Shastri’s absence. He scores 5 off 39 and as Moin Khan takes a catch, Imran Khan gives Moin a glare as asking – “Why Moin Why? When will you learn to readbetween the lines?”
Sachin takes India to 216 but is it enough? Pakistan’s chase starts. Haq is given LBW even before Kapil turns towards the umpire in his appeal. Shastri says in the dressing room. “He is a dead duck,” he says. Another wicket falls. Sohail and Miandad start rebuilding. Suddenly Miandad starts jumping. He does it thrice. Everyone is in a state of shock. Pakistan’s sports minister rue “He is in a wrong profession. We have just missed a gold medal in high jump.” Richie Benaud says “Javed, Javed” as if he is getting embarrassed by an old friend of his. I don’t know about their friendship but Javed surely looks too old to do something like that. Forget the immaturity of the act, he looks too old to even jump like that.
India win. Almost all of us say “This was our World Cup. We have won it. To hell with the World Cup, we don’t care if we don’t win anything else in the tournament.” The Indian team oblige and don’t win anything else in the tournament barring their match against Zimbabwe. Pakistan win the cup that matters.
After the match, Harsha Bhogle is being interviewed by a major magazine. “There was a Banner about Khalistan. People did ask me about it,” he says. “I avoided the question as it could have started a controversial debate.” India-Pakistan has never been just a cricket match. It will never be.
Image of the match – The Miandad Jump
1996: the mistake of the Trojans – Once again, it looks like Sachin versus the rest of the world. So Pakistan also shift their entire focus on Sachin. They lose focus on Siddhu. He scores 93. These days, whenever I think of filing a PIL against him for tormenting his countrymen with his commentary, it’s that innings which stops me from doing so. So much focus do Pakistan have on Sachin that they don’t even know Jadeja is playing. Jadeja makes them pay. Heavily.
Their chase begins emphatically. A Score of 84/0 in 10 overs in 1996 is like watching a colored, HD 3D Blue Ray DVD in 1930. Anwar gets out but Sohail keeps hammering away. He bludgeons Venkatesh Prasad to the cover boundary. Then he does a Troy act. He sledges Prasad.
In the movie Troy, the Trojans flatten the Greeks. The Greeks accept the defeat and start preparing to sail back home. The Trojans a surprise attack on the Greeks, who are already dusted, to destroy their morale. Hector opposes this. He argues, “They are going back home. They are divided over the purpose of coming here. If you attack them now, you will not only unite them but also hand over a very important weapon – reason to stand up and fight back.” The Trojans don’t listen and attack. The rest is history. Hurt your enemy but don’t give him a reason to fight back. If his reason to fight back is bigger than your reason to fight him, you will lose.
Until now, Sohail was feasting on Prasad’s slow pace. But his words irk Prasad and give him a reason to bowl faster. He does, maybe for first time in his life. Prasad is India’s Achilles. The Rest is history.
Miandad gets run out. Tony Greg says on air, “This is probably the last time we have seen this cricketer on a cricket field.” For once, prophecy about the retirement of a Pakistani player comes true.
India win. But they lose in the Semi Final.
Image of the match – The Sohail sledging and then his stumps.
1999: the practice match – At the toss, the Pakistani captain says, “I think this will be a good practice match for us.” One of the commentators says on air, “He has committed a huge mistake. Not by thinking that it will be a good practice match for them but by thinking itself. Some jobs should be left to sane minds”
Sachin plays well. Dravid and Azhar score half centuries. India scores 227 – again a less than safe score.
The chase begins. India keep chipping away with wickets. They bowl really well. They field really well. They don’t give away an inch. Mohanty tries to bowl an inswinger. He bowls a wide. He tries again. He bowls a wide again. Gavaskar says on air “Why is he trying to bowl in-swingers? It is fine for a change but all he has managed to bowl are wide balls.” Incidentally, those two wide-balls remain the only extras given by Indian bowlers in the entire match. How’s that for discipline? At 76 for 5, the match looks to be over for Pakistan. In comes Moin Khan and looks to be winning it for Pakistan. Prasad bowls a short ball to him. He is caught at fine leg by Sachin. Sachin’s way to celebrate tells us – it was a ploy suggested by the great man himself. Wasim Akram is the last man out – caught by Kumble at mid-wicket. Before players walk or in fact run out of the ground, it is full of spectators. They lift their Achilles – Prasad – and carry him out of the ground. Does Prasad looks overwhelmed by this gesture? No, he doesn’t. He tries to look overwhelmed but in reality, Prasad looks scared. Only politicians can look overwhelmed when they are surrounded by a mob supporting them.
Image of the match – nothing in particular. The events out of cricket were more disturbing. We were fighting in Kargil.
2003: the upper cut – You might have seen Basic Instinct many times. But all you may remember from the movie is you-know-what. Mr. Devegowda might have given many speeches in his life but all we remember is him sleeping in the parliament. There have been numerous scams in India but its the Bofors scam which will never be forgotten. Sometimes, a small event becomes the image for lifetime. Sometime a small event in a match becomes the match itself. For this match, it was THAT over (or the upper cut).
India are chasing 274. Akhtar is scorching forward to bowl to Sachin. “I will blow him to pieces”, might be going through his head. He is wrong. Not in what he’s thinking but why he’s thinking at all. The upper cut over third man, the straight drive passed mid-on and the flick of the wrists. If you are a cricket crazy person, you can actually fantasize these strokes to do “you know what”. Razzaq drops him at mid-off. Akram says “!!!#$#$$$%#, jaanta hai tune kiska catch chhoda hai?” The crowd is shouting at the top of its voice. Suddenly, it becomes silent – just for a few seconds. May be it was a collective break to rest their throats. Afridi appeals for a LBW against Kaif. The umpire says not out. Afridi says something which I cannot write here but you can imagine. In a freak coincidence, Afridi says THIS exactly when the crowd was silent. The entire crowd gets to hear what Afridi says. His words echo like the aakashvani.
India are cruising. It is all going fine till Sachin faces his biggest tormentor – the injury. The physiotherapist treats him. The match resumes after the break. First ball after the break and he is gone – caught at point while fending a bouncer by Akhtar. Pakistan’s wicketkeeper hurls some expletives at him. Sachin doesn’t respond. He never does. I feel like breaking the Pakistan’s keeper’s head. But that will result in me breaking my TV. My roommates stop me saying we will have a better answer for their keeper. Dravid and Yuvraj give him that better answer. We win.
Image of the match – the upper cut
2007: the invisibility – India crash out of the World Cup before being eligible to play Pakistan. Pakistan refuse to move ahead in the tournament because the motivation to play – beating India – is no more. The World Cup ends even before it reaches the business end. Sponsors cry gallons of tears. Bob Woolmer passes away. Everyone loses.
Image of the match – I wish there was one.
2011: why Nehra? – The moment MS Dhoni declares that it will be Ashish Nehra and not R.Ashwin who will be playing, the match loses its meaning. The Entire nation starts shouting one question in unison “Why Nehra?” Even though he had been Dhoni’s go-to guy during crunch situations for more than a year, everyone was asking “Why Nehra” ever since he went for 13 in the last over against South Africa in a league match. Even though there were some reasons for selecting his old body but experienced mind over Ashwin’s promise of youth but inexperience, the question remains – “Why Nehra?”
The match starts. So does Sehwag. The way he bats, it looks like a 500-run pitch. After his departure, the pitch resembles a veritable minefield for the batsmen. But Sachin is still there. He has never looked so patchy. Before every catch, Pakistanis check if it’s Sachin’s catch. It looks like an if-then-else statement – IF Sachin’s catch, THEN drop it. ELSE catch it.
There is a popular theory that India don’t win if Sachin scores a 100. I am sure those who invented this theory or made it popular didn’t follow the game during the pre-Dravidian era. Finally, someone manages to hold on to Sachin’s catch. India collapse. India recovers. Sehwag made it look like 500 pitch but that was Sehwag. A target of 261 looks tough on this pitch.
Pakistan start their innings. The opening partnership is good but once that is broken, we keep getting wickets. They never look like threatening us. Whenever they do, someone picks up a wicket. Its goes quite smoothly for Indian supporters. The only time they look worried is when Nehra comes to bowl. The entire nation asks, “Why Nehra?”
Indian wins and are in the world cup finals. During the post-match presentation, Dhoni tells us all “Why Nehra?” He accepts that it might have been a mistake picking him. Nehra’s figures are 10-0-33-2. Looks like Dhoni has pulled 1.2 billion legs. After a few days, nothing matters because we win the cup that matters. We win the world cup.
Image of the match – Well of course the question – why Nehra?