Unpredictable nature of their contests has often produced unpretentious entertainment
CHENNAI: India’s one-day rivalry with Pakistan has often thrived on a single shot leaving an indelible impact. Javed Miandad’s last-ball six off Chetan Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar’s six over point in the 2003 World Cup and Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s four in Dhaka, to name a few, have enormous recall value.
The stature of the tournaments (with the exception of the World Cup) or subsequent failures did nothing to alter the impact. Results against each other pushed everything else behind.
The two nations go back a long way. They’ve clashed 108 times in ODIs, with India winning 40 and Pakistan prevailing in 64 matches. Four matches have produced no results.
At home, India has won six matches and lost 15. In Pakistan, the Indians have won 10 and lost 13, with two abandoned matches. India’s win-loss record in neutral venues (6-18) is the most dismal, owing largely to those depressing days in Sharjah. Interestingly, both teams have lost the last four home-ODIs they’ve played against each other.
The neighbours have played out engrossing battles owing both to the intensity of their rivalry and the dynamics of their cricket. Unpredictable and potentially self-destructive, the nature of their cricket has often produced unpretentious entertainment.
Further, one-day cricket has been perfect for the rivalry. Owing to its more instantly gratifying nature when compared to Tests (this was before the advent of Twenty20), ODIs between the two have flourished with passionate crowds giving them a gladiatorial feel.
As far as the cricket went, the performers were plenty. Miandad’s six runs in the last ball of the 1986 AustralAsia Cup final in Sharjah blurred the significance of the 110 that preceded those. Sharma’s attempted yorker disastrously came off as a gift wrapped waist-height full-toss that Miandad accepted to clear the leg-side boundary.
A repeat was nearly witnessed in 2004 in Karachi. Moin Khan needed to smash a six in the last ball, with Pakistan chasing a then-improbable 350 for win. Ashish Nehra offered a full-toss, but it was not meant to be. India just about sneaked home.
A more elaborately executed massacre came from Ijaz Ahmed in 1997. Possibly the batting equivalent of the smiling assassin on his day, Ahmed’s 139 in 84 balls was classic bottom-handed optimisation. Choosing a more elegant method of accumulation, southpaw Saeed Anwar’s World record 194 in Chennai nearly blurred the boundaries.
India’s 4-0 record in World Cup matches has been the intriguing aspect of their head-head. Sachin Tendulkar’s 75-ball 98 in the 2003 edition was a brilliantly executed attack, where he put his heavy bat through a lot in pursuit of boundaries.
The six over point is one of modern day Indian cricket’s profound images, but like Miandad’s knock in Sharjah, some sublime hitting was buried by the suddenness of the six.
Longhaired, and with a streak of red matching the violence of his methods, M.S. Dhoni chose Pakistan and the quiet town of Vizag in 2005 to stamp his arrival with 148 in 123 balls.
India’s current bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad did his bit for India’s flawless World Cup record against Pakistan. Aamir Sohail hurled a bunch of carelessly chosen words at Prasad after carting the ball around in the 1996 quarterfinal.
Not equipped to hurl a full-speed throat-crunching bolter, Prasad resorted instead to the slower one that left the stumps dishevelled. He was quick in directing Sohail back to the pavilion. Prasad was at it again in inflicting another defeat at Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup.
Wasim Akram made a consistent distributed impact with 60 wickets in 48 matches against India, but it was Aaquib Javed’s seven wickets for 37 runs in Sharjah in 1991 (that included a hat-trick) that remains the standout performance.
Ravi Shastri, Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar were all successively sent back lbw by Javed. More recently, Naved-ul-Hassan wrecked India in 2005 with six wickets, defeating the batsmen with his line.
The two teams will renew their rivalry in Guwahati on Monday, in the first of the five-match ODI series. Notwithstanding the quality of cricket, the contest will unfold in front of thousands. The atmosphere, no doubt, will be fitting.