There is no sound logic that can explain why Pakistan, although they have always, arguably, been a stronger cricket outfit than India, have always come up short against their archrivals in the World Cup. India leads the rivalry 5-0, with the sixth episode of this neighborly World Cup skirmish coming up on February 15, Adelaide.
The most enduring memory from the first World Cup encounter between the Asian powerhouses is not one of victory of defeat. It is of Javed Miandad jumping around like a jackrabbit in mock imitation of India’s livewire wicketkeeper Kiran More, who had piqued the veteran Pakistani with his incessant appealing. More, however, had the last laugh when his side pipped their rivals by 43 runs. Here’s how it went: India batted first and posted what was, at the time, a challenging ODI total – 216. The stars of the innings were Ajay Jadeja (46, opening for the first time, at the expense of the dropped and moribund Ravi Shastri) and Sachin Tendulkar (whose 54 and quickfire stand with Kapil Dev took India to respectability). Pakistan were cruising when Tendulkar struck with the ball to remove the well-set Aamir Sohail. And when Javagal Srinath bowled the wily Miandad, Pakistan fell apart to a comprehensive defeat.
The 2nd quarterfinal of the 1996 World Cup was a true classic even before it began. Amid the usual posturing that accompanies all matches involving the two teams, Wasim Akram pulled out with an injury, leading to speculations of corruption and bribery. On the fateful day, India batted first and were served by Navjot Sidhu’s 93 and Ajay Jadeja’s remarkable late onslaught on Waqar Younis, which fetched them 50 runs in the last three overs. When Pakistan’s turn came, Aamir Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad took centrestage. The sight of Sohail pointing to where he would hit Prasad’s next delivery is imprinted in memory. Perhaps even more deeply embedded is the frame of Prasad shattering his stumps. Pakistan were well ahead at that stage, but imploded after Miandad’s run-out as the last five departed for just 64, making it two in two for India.
Old Trafford, 1999
Manchester turned into a sub-continental bastion as the storied rivals clashed for the third time in World Cups, this time with the backdrop of the Kargil war framing the contest. It was an expectedly intense affair, marked by several arrests in the stands and many more ejections for unruly crowd behavior. Solid knocks from Tendulkar, Dravid and Azharuddin helped India set a target of 228, which Pakistan approached with their usual belligerent start. Venkatesh Prasad, however, slammed the brakes on the pursuit, his five for 27 including the scalps of Salim Malik, Saeed Anwar, Moin Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq and skipper Wasim Akram. This was Azhar’s third successive win over Pakistan across World Cups.
This is where Sachin Tendulkar upper-cut Shoaib Akthtar for six, quelling the hormonal rage of a battalion of fast bowlers with a solitary, decisive shot. It would be foolish to say that that was all that mattered on a day when tempers soared high and cricket was played with an intensity rare even for matches involving India and Pakistan. This much is certain: Tendulkar’s 75-ball 98 and its part in chasing down the stiff 274-run target, cannot be overstated. Such was its impact that it put to shade another knock of almost equal import – Saeed Anwar’s calculative century. In the end, Pakistan paid heavily for the 28 extras in India’s innings, their trump card – an arsenal of strong, fast bowlers – doing little to channel its frenzy into something productive. India 4, Pakistan 0.
Tendulkar was dropped four times, received a stumping reprieve, and was called back after a DRS fiasco during his 85, as India stuttered to 260 in a bid to make their first World Cup final at home. Pakistan’s target would have been at least 30 runs lesser had they clung on to their chances, but their unprofessionalism only stood out worse when contrasted with India’s tight show in the field. Lucky to get to where they did, the hosts defended their score valiantly, not conceding an extra run until as late as the 37th over. Late in the chase, Umar Akmal, who had given Yuvraj Singh the stick treatment, threatened to make a contest of it, before Harbhajan Singh befooled him with a beauty. Misbah-ul-Haq stuck around. His game, however, was ill-suited to the procurement of quick runs. India won by 29, about the same number they were presumably granted in charity by their butter-fingered rivals.