From the past to the present: The heroes of India-Pakistan ODI clashes
With both India and Pakistan winning a match apiece, what we witnessed in the Champions Trophy was very typical of India-Pakistan cricket rivalry, a 50-50 result. There are no dull moments when it comes to an Indo-Pak cricket match or series: Highs and lows, joys and heartbreaks, fright and relief all coexist.
You write off an encounter as drab and one-sided at your own peril.
While the excitement and anguish remain constant across all eras, the quality of India-Pakistan ODI cricket rivalry has improved significantly.
As the Champions Trophy ends with two high profile Indo-Pak clashes and the cricketing world awaits with bated breath for such encounters in the future, we go back to the history and recollect some facts of this greatest limited overs rivalry.
The early battles of 70s-80s in Sharjah
Between 1962 and 1977, no cricketing engagement was in place between the two countries, owing predominantly to two major wars in 1965 and 1971. The first India-Pakistan limited overs cricket started with the bilateral series held in Pakistan in 1978 which Pakistan won 2-1.
Interestingly, there were two World Cups in the 70s and India and Pakistan never met each other in those.
The 80s flagged the historic cricket rivalries between the two nations, in the land of desert, Sharjah. Started in 1984 with the Rothmans Asia Cup featuring India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sharjah would later be remembered for years to come by cricket fans across the two nations for presenting some mouthwatering and spine-chilling encounters.
Sachin Tendulkar's desert storm, Javed Miandad's match-winning six, Wasim Akram's hat-tricks are all famous parts of Sharjah's cricket history. The two countries played in as many as eight tournaments in Sharjah (United Arab Emirates), all in multi-lateral events in the 80s.
The 80s were also remembered for iconic tournaments such as the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985 where India beat Pakistan twice (once in the finals) to become the winners.
The Star performers of the 80s
India-Pakistan ODI cricket of the 70-80s was filled with some star-studded performers. Imran Khan, Abdul Qadir, Salim Malik and Krishnamachari Srikkanth were some notable ones.
Two individuals, however, came out as top performers in that era with maximum runs and wickets: Javed Miandad and Kapil Dev, respectively. Below are snapshots of their performances (Performance summary only in Ind-Pak ODI matches during that period).
The continued Pakistan dominance of the 90s
Most of today’s heroes, the Fakhar Zamans, the Virat Kohlis, the Mohammad Amirs grew up watching the India-Pakistan heroes of the 90s. Amid growing tensions between the two nations, the 90s witnessed a lot of India-Pakistan ODI cricket. In fact, the 90s produced the most (45) number of ODI matches in a decade.
Other than multi-nations tournaments such as in Sharjah, Benson & Hedges Cup, Asia Cup, Singer Cup, World Series and World Cup, this decade gave rise to a new theme, ‘Friendship’ series. Both countries toured each other and played tournaments such as ‘Friendship Cup’, ‘Independence Cup’ to instil a sense of solidarity and harmony.
By and large, the period was recognised as Pakistan’s asserting supremacy over India across multiple series in various parts of the globe, winning as many as 26 matches.
Star performers of the 90s
India have some dominant batsmen and Pakistan some deadly bowlers. And all this is because of the cricketing cultures of the 90s.
The 90s basically stamped Pakistan as a team to be remembered for its stout bowling unit and India as a skilful batting unit. Pakistan witnessed the rise of Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed, Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed.
India on the other hand, watched Sourav Ganguly, Ajay Jadeja, Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Azharuddin coming up through the ranks in India-Pak games.
The two best batting and bowling performers of the decade were Saeed Anwar and Saqlain Mushtaq respectively.
The turnaround of India in the 2000s
The 2000s mark India’s emergence as a strong unit, especially under the strong leadership of Sourav Ganguly, with several young talents making their marks. Many of those who featured in the Champions Trophy final last Sunday made their debut in this decade.
Shoaib Malik (2000), Yuvraj Singh (2003) in the initial days and MS Dhoni, Mohammad Hafeez (2005), Rohit Sharma (2007) and Virat Kohli (2009) in the latter half.
Because of the rising political tensions, the two teams did not play much in bi-lateral series. Starting in 2004, when things seemed to go back to normal, both teams visited each other’s country to play both Test and ODI cricket.
With political relationships improving, cricket ties got better too and both countries found playing with each other every year, which was a treat for all cricket fans. The two teams played in some iconic tournaments/matches such as the BCCI Platinum Jubilee Match, DLF Cup, Future Friendship Cup during this period.
India had done reasonably well in this period, however, fell short in equaling Pakistan’s tally of the number of wins.
The Star performers of the 2000s
This decade saw many heroes, India’s Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan doing remarkably well against Pakistan. For Pakistan, players such as Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Salman Butt, Abdul Razzaq and Naved-ul-Hasan proved excellent performers.
Statistically, the best performers both with the bat and bowl (maximum runs and wickets) in this decade came from Pakistan in Shoaib Malik and Shoaib Akhtar respectively.
2010s, the Indian supremacy of the recent times
Besides India’s crushing defeat to the recent Champions Trophy final at Oval, England, the cricketing highlights of the decade are India’s thumping victory against Pakistan in Asia Cup and them maintaining invincible record against Pakistan in World Cups (once each in 2011 and 2015).
This decade has had barely a one-fourth of ODI matches (11) than the previous two decades.
With just one bilateral series in 2012, the two teams have mostly played each other at multilateral events such as the Asia Cup, World Cup, Champions Trophy et al. India undoubtedly has been the better side in recent times, however, not without occasional hiccups and fightbacks from the Pakistanis.
The current generation heroes
Talking about the decade in progress, India’s Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, have all done well against Pakistan. For Pakistan, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Amir and Shoaib Malik have got good success against India in recent times.
The best performer with the bat, however, has been India’s current skipper Virat Kohli; with the bowl, Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal.
Where do Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram stand?
In an ODI career spanning 23 years, Sachin Tendulkar is the all-time highest run getter (2526 runs at an Avg of 40.09 in 69 matches) in India-Pakistan ties, whereas, Wasim Akram (60 wickets at an Avg of 25.15 in 48 matches), is the all-time highest wicket-taker.