5 unheralded Indian victories in Tests and ODIs
Being a fan of the Indian cricket team isn’t easy. It’s a roller coaster journey, with many highs and many lows. It is exhilarating, really. Better than any drug. The highs, when they come, are powerful and unadulterated. They are so much more than just wins to celebrate for the fans. Rather, they are moments of pride for the entire country to revel in, to puff out their chest, look the world in the eye and say, “We are the champions”.Each generation of fans has their own special set of memories that they relate to on a deeply personal level. Collectively, any given set of Indian fans can check off a string of famous wins on their fingers. The Oval ’71. The 1983 World Cup final. Colombo ’93. Kolkata ’01. Adelaide ’03. And the 2011 World Cup was essentially one long highlight reel for an entirely new generation who weren’t around to see the last World Cup win.And although Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s emphatic six to win the final has already been replayed several times and will be replayed several times in the years to come, it is victories like this that, fortunately or unfortunately, overshadow a number of others.Maybe these other wins weren’t quite as high profile as others. Maybe they came in series India actually lost. Maybe they simply didn’t induce the same level of euphoria Perth ’08 or the 2011 World Cup semi final did. Even though their place in history and the collective memory of Indian cricket fans is slightly obscured, these wins were no less monumental.Here are five such victories.
#5 India beat Pakistan by 4 wickets, Second ODI, National Stadium, Karachi, 30 September 1997
It was perhaps a quirk of the cricketing calendar in 1997 that India made the trip across the border that year to play Pakistan in a standalone ODI series and not as an accompaniment to Test matches.
Pakistan had already beaten India two days previously at Hyderabad (Sind). The Indians could only manage a laborious 170 in 49 overs. That proved to be relatively little trouble for the Pakistanis as they made it home with five and a half overs to spare.
Despite the defeat, Indian fans neednt have worried. For those who thought a bad start would amount to meek surrender were badly mistaken.
Pakistan were missing the services of Wasim Akram for the tournament but otherwise it was a full strength line up that took to the field at the National Stadium in Karachi. Backed by the momentum from the first ODI and the famously partisan crowd, Pakistan were expected to put an end to the floundering tourists.
Indias worst fear reared its ugly head when a young Shahid Afridi opening the innings smashed the Indian bowlers left and right. He finally walked after a barnstorming 72 off 56 balls but his replacement at the crease provided little respite.
The bowlers were, once again, given the run around as Inzamam ul-Haq scored an unbeaten 74 and was ably supported by Moin Khan at the other end. It was an absolutely dominant performance by the home side acutely reflected in the performance of the Indian bowlers in numerical terms. Debasis Mohanty was slammed for 25 runs from his 3 overs, while Abey Kuruvilla and Nilesh Kulkarni gave away 116 runs between them.
There were a few overs still to play when the innings had to be brought to a close. The unruly crowd had resorted to stone throwing for a third time and captain Tendulkar had to take his side off the field of play. A lot of time had already been lost thanks to a multitude of disruptions, and Pakistans innings was declared closed on 265/4 in 47.2 overs.
India had an uphill battle awaiting them. They had 47 overs to get 266 runs and it was essential they did not get bogged down in the early stages. Thankfully for them, the openers ensured this was not the case. Sachin Tendulkar had a brief cameo but it was very much Sourav Gangulys moment.
His 89 runs came from 96 balls with 11 fours (but no sixes) and India were making a fist of the chase when a returning Vinod Kambli walked in at 71-1. Replacing his good friend Tendulkar at the wicket, Kambli weighed in with a much needed 53 from 76 balls.
After a blistering start, Waqar Younis got rid of the menacing Ganguly while Vinod Kambli was run out. Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja were both sent back without disturbing the scoreboard too much and India were suddenly staggering at 195/5.
Robin Singh, soon to be hero of the Independence Cup chase, and Syed Saba Karim then took over, hurrying the innings along without ever going into overdrive.
They almost managed to finish the job. Karim fell to leave India at 257/6, and the target was within reach but time was fast running out. It soon came down to 6 runs from 4 balls with spinner Rajesh Chauhan at the crease.
It was an excruciating moment. The game was on a knife edge and one slight misstep could consign India to defeat. The wily Saqlain Mushtaq was bowling the last over, and he looked capable of anything.
But the off spinner rose magnificently to the occasion. Among all the emphatic, match winning sixes, Rajesh Chauhans has to figure somewhere near the top. The nation waited with bated breath. And one iconic swing of the bat later, they exploded in celebration.
Sadly for India, the series was a bittersweet one. Having so dramatically snatched a win in the closing stages of the game at Karachi, India were given no chance, absolutely none, by Ijaz Ahmeds splendid hundred in the decider at Lahore and were sent back to the drawing board by a delighted home side.