SK Flashback: When Saeed Anwar smashed India on a hot and treacherous day in Chennai
The day was May 21, 1997. It was a time when the epic rivalry between India vs Pakistan was at its best and heated exchanges between the two countries were a common sight. It was a spectacle cherished by cricket viewers across the globe.
I was very young when this fabulous match took place, but I have recounted this game frequently on TV and on YouTube. Such was the brilliance of Saeed Anwar on that eventful day.
The conditions were hot, humid and almost inhuman. It was the sixth game of the Independence Cup and Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first.
A young and energetic Shahid Afridi, known to often get Pakistan off to blazing starts, got out early – for just five runs. It needed some solid support from players like Ijaz Ahmed and Rameez Raja to help Saeed Anwar display his wide array of shots which would be enjoyed and relived in the days, months and years to come.
India had a pretty good bowling attack comprising of Venkatesh Prasad, Abhay Kuruvilla, Sunil Joshi and Anil Kumble. And remember folks, this match took well before pitches became as flat as they are nowadays and before batsman-dominated matches were a common sight. There was a premium on each run scored, and matches were more of a contest - an equal battle between bat and ball.
Anwar is among the most stylish and elegant batsmen of all time. In my opinion, he was one of the most destructive left-handed openers in his era along with Adam Gilchrist and Sourav Ganguly. His proficiency with the bat on the front foot and back foot was something to behold when he was on song.
Video credit: Zain Jeewanjee
The highlight was when, despite his heavy cramps and dehydration, he was able to effortlessly dispense the threat posed by Anil Kumble by hitting him for 26 runs in an over. The sequence was a mind-boggling 2,2,4,6,6,6. Anwar was on the prowl and he had his mind fixed on setting new records and creating history on that particular day.
And he did end up creating history in the MA Chidambaram Stadium as he broke the record set by the great Sir Vivian Richards 13 years prior, in 1984, and scored a mammoth 194 runs lit up by 22 scintillating boundaries and six monstrous hits over the boundary. He missed the epic milestone of becoming the first cricketer to score 200 runs in an ODI as he mishit a delivery from Sachin Tendulkar and got out.
It’s fair to say that this innings of sheer belligerence and skill will be forever itched in memory as one of the finest ODI knocks played by a Pakistani batsman. The sheer enormity of his knock was such that it took a good 12 years – up to the year 2009 – for Charles Coventry of Zimbabwe to equal his record of 194 runs. And then the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar, hit the first ever double hundred in cricket history against South Africa in Gwalior.
Such a fabulous innings from one of the finest and most stylish players to grace the ODI game is a knock worth re-visiting for people who missed it. It was a historical performance from a legendary opening batsman.