SK Flashback: When Navjot Singh Sidhu threatened to beat Aamir Sohail with his bat
The day was Monday, 15th April 1996. In the midst of the Gulf summer, two of the biggest arch-rivals in the world cricket were up against each other at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, UAE, which still holds the record of hosting the maximum number of ODI matches. India, Pakistan and South Africa were the three teams in the Pepsi Sharjah Cup triangular series.
Coming into the tournament, India had eliminated Pakistan in the quarterfinals of the 1996 World Cup held in India, thanks to Ajay Jadeja’s cameo in the slog overs, which will be forever etched in the hearts of Indian fans. Immediately after the World Cup, India and Pakistan faced each other in the Singer tri-nation tournament held in Singapore with Sri Lanka as the third team. Pakistan thrashed India by eight wickets and later won the finals against Sri Lanka by 43 runs.
In the Pepsi Sharjah Cup, India and Pakistan had a strong point to prove each other. Pakistan still had some wounds unhealed, while India wanted to repeat their World Cup feat to prove it was by no means a fluke win. In the round-robin fixture, each team had to face their opponents twice. Pakistan won the opening match against India by 38 runs. So, after 2 back-to-back defeats at the hands of Pakistan, it was India’s turn to come with all guns blazing.
After winning the toss, India chose to bat on a track which appeared to be conducive for batting. Sachin Tendulkar opened the innings with Vikram Rathore, who lost his wicket to Waqar Younis after scoring a paltry 2 runs. In came Navjot Singh Sidhu at no. 3 to face the music of Pakistan’s opening bowlers who were maintaining a strict line-n-length.
After a watchful period of play, India’s run rate dipped below 3 runs an over. That’s when Sidhu and Tendulkar decided to take matters into their own hands. Giving due respect to the good deliveries, both batsmen lofted a couple a sixes to accelerate the run-rate. As India started building momentum in the innings, Tendulkar and Sidhu completed a century stand between each other.
That’s when Pakistani fieldsmen started sledging from every corner of the pitch. From nine runs for the loss of one wicket, when the scoreboard reached to 193 runs in the 38th over, the Pakistani sledging reached a new level. So what exactly happened around the 38th over when Sidhu threatened to beat Aamir Sohail with the bat?
As narrated by Sidhu in one of his live feeds, things got a bit ugly at the centre. For the convenience of reading, excerpts of the sledging are presented in English as follows:
Waqar Younis, bowling his second spell, needled Sidhu by saying, “Oye Sardar, play with a straight bat. Don’t play your shots sideways.”
Sidhu in retaliation said, “You cut-finger, better mind your business, else I am going to cut your arm completely. A lot of people may not know but Waqar Younis has only got 4 fingers on his left hand." The left-hand doesn’t possess the little finger which used to get evident during his lbw appeals.
Aamir Sohail, who was fielding in the gully region made another remark at Sidhu, “Oye Sardar, you better, behave yourself.”
This heated argument was enough to blow off Sidhu’s lid. Raising his bat, he went marching towards Aamir Sohail in the gully region with a ‘You-are-gone-today’ kind of demeanour. The Pakistani captain, Aamir Sohail visibly afraid of dire consequences, gestured Sidhu to calm down. It appeared as if he was trying to say, “Let’s not take matters too far. Keep your calm and carry on with the match.”
Sidhu and Sachin scored centuries after stitching a 231 run partnership. India registered a total of 305 runs in their allotted 50 overs. Due to slow over rate, Pakistan was penalized and were asked to chase India’s total in 48 overs. Pakistan tried valiantly in their run chase but their middle-order collapse saw them losing the match by 28 runs.
India staged a fairly decent performance in the series but in the finals, they lost to the Proteas by 38 runs.