The cricketing relationship between India and Pakistan is, perhaps, the most bizarre in the long history of the sport. At once, it is a force of unity and a sharp-edged exclusionary tool between the two nations, which are madly in love with cricket. Those idiosyncrasies do not get a clearer reflection anywhere else than in the 50-over World Cup, where India enjoy a 7-0 edge over Pakistan in the ODI World Cup. But on the grandest stage where India and Pakistan, not just cricketers but fans too, strive to outdo each other, the moments too carry as much importance as the numbers.
The cricket rivalry between the neighbours started in 1952 when Abdul Kardar-led Pakistan stepped on to the Indian soil for a five-match Test series, but their more storied World Cup battles have a relatively recent birth in 1992.
India took on Pakistan in the fabled Sydney Cricket Ground, and emerged a 43-run winner. A precociously talented 19-year-old Sachin Tendulkar made a 54 off 62 balls, a precursor to his many knocks that would hurt Pakistan in the future in the World Cup and elsewhere.
India made 216 for 7 and then bundled out the opposition for 173 in 48.1 overs, with Kapil Dev, J Srinath and Manoj Prabhakar taking two wickets each.
But the irrepressible Javed Miandad gave the moment of the match when he aped Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More, jumping up and down.
Four years down the line, Pakistan started the quarterfinals in Bengaluru on the backfoot in the absence of injured Wasim Akram, which later mothballed into allegations of more serious nature.
After Navjot Singh Sidhu’s 93, India found late wind through Ajay Jadeja’s blitz against Waqar Younis and the hosts posted 287 for 8.
Pacer Venkatesh Prasad produced a moment during Pakistan’s chase that now occupies a prime place in the World Cup Hall of Fame.
Aamir Sohail bludgeoned a boundary through the covers, and the Pakistan opener rather impudently gestured to Prasad indicating more punishment.
But Prasad rattled the stumps in the very next ball to give a ferocious send off to Sohail. From that point, Pakistan could not get going and were restricted to 248 for 9.
Much later, a question was posed to Prasad as to what he had told Sohail on that heated Bengaluru evening. He chuckled merrily before giving a cheeky reply: ‘You can’t print that.” Emotion of a different kind was enveloped both the nations when they faced off in Manchester in 1999. The match happened behind the looming shadow of the Kargil War.
The Indian and Pakistani fans did not want to settle for anything else than a victory. But the players from either side did not succumb to the fervent nationalistic mood, and produced an uneventful game of cricket.
After fifties by Rahul Dravid and Mohammed Azharuddin guided India to 227 for 6, Prasad once again emerged the star performer for India.
The Karnataka man took 5 for 27 to wreck Pakistan innings which eventually ended at 180 in 45.3 overs. There was no single fifty in their essay.
By the time the 2003 World Cup arrived, Tendulkar’s genius was in full bloom. He did not make much of an impact in the 1996 and 1999 events.
But at Centurion, the Mumbaikar waded into Pakistan pace trio of Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Younis with a legion of sparkling shots – none brighter in memory than that upper cut off Akhtar which sailed for a six over third man.
Tendulkar would have been out on 32 but Abdul Razzaq was woefully out of position to snatch an aerial offering by the master batter.
It also prompted Akram to ask that now-famous question to Razzaq: ‘Tujhe pata hein kiska catch choda hein’ (Do you know whose catch you dropped?).
Saeed Anwar had made a creamy 101 in Pakistan’s 273 for 7, but Tendulkar’s 98 off 75 balls overshadowed that comfortably. Yuvraj Singh also chipped with an unbeaten 50 in India’s six-wicket win.
The two protagonists did not meet each other in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, crashing out in the league stage itself.
In 2011, the stakes were at its peak for India in the semifinal at Mohali. Tendulkar, who else that could be, produced another fine innings but a vastly different one from his ebullient gem from eight years ago.
Tendulkar had past his prime then, but playing in his last World Cup, the maestro scratched around to make a mind-over-body 85, in which he was dropped four times.
Despite left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz’s 5 for 46, India made 260 for 9, and then five Indian bowlers plucked two wickets apiece to bowl out Pakistan to 231.
Yuvraj’s peach of deliveries to dismiss Younis Khan and Asad Shafique deserve a special mention as well.
By the beginning of this decade, India’s dominance on a cricket field has touched new heights with the rise of players like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and a fiery pack of pace bowlers, once the fiefdom of their arch-rivals.
Pakistan’s got a taste of the ‘new’ India in the 2015 World Cup. Kohli’s crafty 107 and fifties by Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina propelled the Men in Blue to 300 for 7.
Pacer Shami took four wickets as Pakistan walked on fragile stilts and got bundled out for 224.
In 2019, Pakistan were up against Rohit who was in beast mode during his 113-ball 140. The Green Brigade also had to face the fury of Kohli (77) and KL Rahul (57).
Rohit took a special liking for pacer Hasan Ali, who had invited sharp criticism for his land-thumping celebrations near Wagah border.
Indian fans went into a delirium as Rohit poleaxed Ali with some blistering shots.
It was a microcosm of the cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan – deeply entwined in history, culture, geopolitics, pervading toxicity and occasional camaraderie – to be renewed on Saturday at Ahmedabad.
Will India extend their run to make it 8-0? Or will Pakistan be able to snap the streak? Let’s wait to see.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by String Reveals staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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