4th march 1992, 9th march 1996, 8th June 1999, 1st March 2003, 30th March 2011. Next date added to the list would be 15th February 2015, when India faces Pakistan in a world cup game (ODI world cup). Maybe for the first time, Pakistan would be a little more hopeful facing India as there are no Gods in Team India. But then, the newbie trying to be next God may turn out to be a devastating demon. Hope he does.
Anyways, just hope that this next date of 15th February 2015 continues its tradition - India beating Pakistan in world cups.
Here is how I remember the earlier encounters.
1992, the frog jump – For the first time, India plays Pakistan in a world cup. Governments mull over security arrangements. The tension between two countries remains where it has always been. Experts say its India’s batting versus Pakistan’s bowling - India has a very strong batting line up on paper whereas Pakistan has a strong bowling lineup on the ground. Supports say – even if you don’t win a single match after this, DO NOT LOSE THIS ONE. Sponsors enjoy their financial orgasm.
India drops Shastri because he was batting slowly. But Srikanth doesn’t let us feel Shastri’s absence. He scores 5 of 39 and as Moin Khan takes his catch, Imran Khan gives Moin a glare as if he is asking – “Why Moin Why? When will you learn reading between the lines?”
Sachin takes India to 216 but is it enough? Pakistan’s chase starts. Haq is given LBW even before Kapil turns towards the umpire in his appeal. Shastri says in the dressing room “He is a dead duck.” Another wicket falls. Sohail and Miandad start rebuilding. Suddenly Miandad starts jumping. He does it thrice. Everyone is in a state of shock. Pakistan’s sports minister rues – “He is in a wrong profession. We have just missed a gold medal in high jump.” Richie Benaud says on air “Javed, Javed” as if he is getting embarrassed by the act of an old friend of his. I don’t know about their friendship but Javed surely looks too old to do something like that – forget the immaturity of the act, he looks too old for even jumping like that.
India wins. Almost all of us say “This was our world cup. We have won it. To hell with the world cup, we don’t care if we don’t win anything else in the tournament.” Indian team obliges and doesn’t win anything else in the tournament barring their match against Zimbabwe. Pakistan wins the cup that matters.
After the match, Harsha Bhogle tells one of the major magazines in an interview “There was a Banner about Khalistan. People did ask me about it. I avoided the question as it could have started a controversial debate.” India-Pakistan has never been just a cricket match. It will never be.
Image of the match – The Miandad Jump
1996, the mistake of Trojans – Once again, it looks like Sachin versus the rest of the world. So Pakistan also shifts its entire focus on Sachin. They lose focus on Siddhu. He scores 93. These days whenever I think of filing a PIL against him for tormenting his countrymen by his commentary, it’s that innings of 93 which stops me. Pakistan has so much focus on Sachin that don’t even know Jadeja is also playing. Jadeja makes them payback, heavily.
Their chase begins, emphatically. Score of 84/0 in 10 overs in 1996 is like watching a colored, HD 3D Blue Ray DVD in 1930. Anwar gets out but Sohail keeps hammering. He bludgeons India’s off spinner Venkatesh Prasad to cover boundary. Then he does a Troy act. He sledges Prasad.
In the movie Troy, Trojans flatten Greeks. Greeks accept the defeat and start preparing for a sail back home. Trojans discuss to launch a surprise attack on the Greeks, who were already dusted, to kill their morale for the future. Hector opposes. He argues – “They are going back home. They are divided over the purpose of coming here. If you attack them now, you will not only unite them but also hand over a very important weapon – reason to stand up and fight back.” Trojans don’t listen and attack. Rest is history. Hurt your enemy but don’t give him a reason to fight back. If his reason to fight back is bigger than your reason to fight him, you will lose.
Till now, Sohail was feasting on Prasad’s slow pace. But his words irk Prasad and give him a reason to bowl faster. He does, may be for first time in his life. Prasad is India’s Achilles. Rest is history.
Miandad gets run out. Tony Greg says on air, “Probably this is the last time we have seen this cricketer on a cricket field.” For once, prophecy about the retirement of a Pakistani player comes true.
India wins. But they lose in the Semi Final.
Image of the match – The Sohail sledging and then his stumps.
1999, the practice match – At the toss, Pakistani captain says “I think this will be a good practice match for us.” One of the commentators says on air “He has committed a huge mistake. Not by thinking that it will be a good practice match for them but by thinking itself. Some jobs should be left to sane minds”
Sachin plays well. Dravid and Azhar score half centuries. India scores 227 – again a less than safe score.
The chase begins. India keeps on chipping away with wickets. They bowl really well. They field really well. They don’t give away an inch. Mohanty tries to bowl an in swinger. He bowls a wide. He tries again. He bowls a wide again. Gavaskar says on air “Why is he trying to bowl in-swingers? It is fine for a change but all he has managed to bowl are wide balls.”Incidentally those two wide-balls remain the only extras given by Indian bowlers in the entire match. How is that for discipline? At 76 for 5, match looks to be over for Pakistan. In comes Moin Khan and looks to be winning it for Pakistan. Prasad bowls a short ball to him. He is caught at fine leg by Sachin. Sachin’s way to celebrate tells us – it was a ploy suggested by the great man himself. Wasim Akram is the last man out – caught by Kumble at mid-wicket. Before players walk or in fact run out of the ground, it is full with spectators. They lift their Achilles - Prasad, and carry him out of the ground. Does Prasad looks overwhelmed by this gesture? No. he doesn’t. He tries to look overwhelmed but in reality, Prasad looks scared. Only politicians can look overwhelmed when they are surrounded by a mob supporting them.
Image of the match – nothing in particular. The events out of cricket were more disturbing. We were fighting in Kargil.
2003, the upper cut – You might have seen Basic Instinct many a times. But all you may remember is “was it nice “or “fuck of the century.” Mr. Devegowda might have given many a speeches in his life but all we remember, is him sleeping in the parliament. There have been numerous scams in India but its Bofors scam which will never be forgotten. Sometimes, a small event becomes the image for lifetime. Sometime a small event in a match becomes the match itself. For this match, it was THAT over or the upper cut.
India is chasing 274. Akhtar is running at 200KPH to bowl to Sachin. “I will blow him to pieces” he must be thinking. He is wrong. Not in “what he is thinking” but “why is he thinking at all.” The upper cut over third man, the straight drive passed mid-on and the flick of the wrists. If you are a cricket crazy person, you can actually fantasize these strokes to do “you know what.” Rajjaq drops him at mid off. Akram says “#@$$, jaanta hai tune kiska catch chhoda hai?” Crowd is shouting at the top of its voice. Suddenly, it becomes silent – just for a few seconds. May be it was a collective break to rest their throats. Afridi appeals for a LBW against Kaif. Umpire says not out. Afridi says “Teri maa ki Ch****”. In a freak coincidence, Afridi says this exactly when the crowd was silent. Entire crowd gets to hear what Afridi thinks about the umpire’s mother. His words echo like an aakashwani.
India is cruising. It is all going fine till Sachin faces his biggest tormentor – the injury. Physiotherapist treats him. The match resumes after the break. First ball after the break and he is gone – caught at point while fending a bouncer by Akhtar. Pakistan’s wicketkeeper hurls some expletives at him. Sachin doesn’t respond back. He never does. I feel like breaking Pakistan’s keeper’s head. But that will result in me breaking my TV. My roommates stop me saying we will have a better answer for their keeper. Dravid and Yuvraj give that better answer to him. We win.
Image of the match – the cupper cut
2007, the invisibility – India crashes out of the world cup before being eligible to play Pakistan. Pakistan refuses to move ahead in the tournament because the motivation to play, beating India, is no more. The world cup ends before it reaches the business end. Sponsors cry gallons of tears. Bob Woolmer passes away. Everyone loses.
Image of the match – I wish there was one.
2011, the inevitability - Okay. I am talking in hindsight. But 2011 victory over Pakistan looked inevitable. It was the semifinal of the tournament - this doubled the pleasure of beating them. Match started on familiar note - Sehwag's blitzkrieg. Match ended on a familiar note - India's win. In between these two events, we witnessed Sachin living a cat's life, divine intervention changing angle of ball for DRS, a well begun chase by Pak, Misbah's test batting, an excellent, yes an unbelievably excellent, bowling performance by India. But what impressed me most was the intensity with which team played. Such was the level of commitment that even Ashish Nehra dived to take a catch - an attempt which made him miss the final.
I hope we keep doing what we have been doing in world cups. I also hope we don't give it back.