Blog by: Sougat
Former Pakistan wicket-keeper Rashid Latif once stated: “If, in other ODI matches, you see us giving 100 per cent, then against India, we’ll be giving 120 per cent.” Those words prove to be true every time the arch-rivals face off in a battle for supremacy.
Every die-hard Indian fan remembers with glee the magnificent response by Venkatesh Prasad after he was hit for a boundary by Aamer Sohail, who then proceeded to sledge the bowler, and lost his off-stump the very next ball. It became one of the lasting images of the 1996 World Cup and also highlighted the fierce rivalry between the two nations.
Discarded India opener Gautam Gambhir’s on-field spats with Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal, the fiery Harbhajan Singh taking on Shoaib Akhtar in the 2010 Asia Cup – all these incidents served only to make India so focused that the team ended up winning those matches. But there have been times when the Men in Green have turned the tables more than once – with both bat and ball.
Here is a list of the top 5 ODI knocks played by a Pakistani batsman against India:
5. Inzamam ul Haq (122 runs off 102 balls – Karachi, 2004)
In all fairness, this was one of the greatest innings ever witnessed in the ODI arena. And for once, a few of the Indian fans might even have been awestruck at the sublime nature of the shots that were unfurled by the Pakistan captain as he took on the responsibility of guiding his side to the victory target of 350.
He almost pulled it off too – in his own inimitable way. Directly after the drinks break, the portly right-hander launched a vicious counter-attack on left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, dispatching him straight back over his head for a huge six. He then proceeded to play an array of shots that reminded old-timers of the 1992 WC game against New Zealan-; the perfect timing, immaculate placements and of course, the huge hits- all of them signified the controlled brutality of the veteran player, as he coasted to his century.
Such was the authority with which Inzy batted that skipper Sourav Ganguly nearly ran out of nails to chew. Pace and spin were proving ineffective, the shoulders were beginning to droop, and for the Indian fans, it looked like the nineties all over again.
The batsman’s wrist-work would have even impressed former India player Mohammad Azharuddin – the silken touch found the boundary again and again, compounding India’s agony.
Finally, Kartik, who had borne the brunt of Inzamam’s assault, induced a tired stroke from the batsman; the resulting faint edge was smartly snapped up by Dravid behind the stumps.
The Pakistan captain walked back, a rueful look on his face, as the spectators gave him a standing ovation to thank the Pakistan skipper for the treat they’d witnessed. Even the Indian spectators joined in, clapping as much in relief as admiration for the masterly knock. Pakistan eventually finished on 344, five runs short, but Inzamam had won hearts with a gallant display.
4. Ijaz Ahmed (139 runs off 84 balls – Lahore, October 1997)
If there ever was an innings that smacked of brutality and unbridled aggression against the Men in Blue, it was Ijaz Ahmed’s blitzkrieg in the third ODI that not only won the game for his side, but also secured the three-match bilateral series in the hosts’ favour.
After Ajay Jadeja’s steady 76 pushed the Indian total to 216, Pakistan came out firing on all cylinders. Surprisingly, captain Saeed Anwar did not open with Shahid Afridi; instead, the portly Ijaz walked out with the young all-rounder for the chase.
And what followed was complete mayhem. Right from the word go, Ijaz hacked at everything sent down to him by the likes of Kuruvilla, Mohanty and Robin Singh.
He literally toyed with the Odisha pacer (Mohanty for the uninitiated), who was wayward with his line and fed him enough width to free his arms and unleash his brutal vengeance on the poor white ball that was used that day.
Skipper Tendulkar brought on his spinners Rajesh Chauhan and Nilesh Kulkarni, but Ijaz’s brutality only ratcheted up a notch. He lofted sixes left and right, using strong bottom-hand grip and his own powerful forearms to generate high bat speed. He never moved out of fifth gear despite the spinners slowing down the pace of the ball.
Shoulders in the field began to droop despite valiant attempts by Chauhan, who was the only bowler to go under seven runs an over. Indian fans looked a disconsolate lot, after Ijaz completed his century and hit the winning runs off Sourav Ganguly, rounding off the nine-wicket victory in style.
Yet another series was lost under Sachin’s captaincy and India really seemed to be staring down the barrel with no relief in sight.
3. Javed Miandad (116 runs off 114 balls – Sharjah, April 1986)
This is one performance that still rankles millions of Indians to this day. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see India-Pakistan games ending in an anti-climax off the final delivery. All it took was one solitary lapse in concentration and a massive swipe that delivered a win for one side, and heartbreak for the other.
The final of the Austral-Asia Cup generated its own excitement in Sharjah – which was fast becoming a hotbed of subcontinental rivalry. The stage was set for an engrossing game between the arch foes, bolstered by half centuries from the top three Indian batsmen – Srikkanth, Gavaskar and Vengsarkar – setting the Pakistanis a target of 246 for victory and the trophy.
Pakistan’s premier batsman Javed Miandad was waging a lone battle against sharp and accurate bowling from the likes of Madan Lal, Chetan Sharma and Maninder Singh.
Nine wickets had fallen when last man Tauseef Ahmed came out to join Miandad with Pakistan needing four runs to win off the final ball.
Miandad took his time, surveying the field, counting the number of fielders and steadying his nerves.
On the other hand, the entire Indian team had gathered round the bearded Sharma, giving him some last-minute advice and motivating him to come good.
Sharma knew what had to be done: nothing but a yorker would settle the deal for India. He measured out his run-up and bounded towards the bowling crease to fire it into the stumps. What he didn’t realize was that Miandad was standing well out of the popping crease. And what happened next has remained etched into the minds of every spectator and player alike.
Chetan maintains that the ball slipped out of his hand at the point of delivery, so the attempted yorker instead became a full toss on leg stump at just the right height; Miandad swung hard and connected well, sending the ball soaring over the mid-wicket fence and into the stands.
Pandemonium swept the stadium. Pakistan players swarmed the field, elated at the victory that they snatched from the jaws of defeat.
The Indians were so heartbroken it felt like a funeral when they returned to the dressing room. Sharma was more than disconsolate; he was stunned, shocked and bewildered. Pakistan, in that one moment, had landed such a devastating psychological blow that it has taken quite a few years for India to emerge from that effect.
However, it still remains one of the greatest matches ever – Javed eventually finished on 116 not out, and Pakistan lifted the trophy in grand style.
2. Shahid Afridi (102 runs off 46 balls – Kanpur, April 2005)
No Indo-Pak games are complete without the mercurial all-rounder Shahid Afridi going hell for leather in his own maverick manner. India realized that the hard way during the fifth one-dayer of a six-match bilateral ODI series in April 2005.
Captain Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif hammered fine half-centuries to take India to a total of 249 after pacer Naved-ul-Hasan rocked the line-up with three quick wickets. Then Salman Butt and Afridi strode out to launch the chase.
The 25-year-old Pathan took off like a rocket, hammering boundaries and sixes left and right. He spared no single bowler, and singled out Lakshmipathy Balaji for special treatment – the ever smiling Chennai pacer had been one of the star performers on the 2004 tour to Pakistan – and plundered him for many runs on both sides of the wicket.
Sachin Tendulkar, the lone remaining survivor from the team that toured the neighbouring nation in 1997, could be excused for thinking that the clock had turned back to when Ijaz Ahmed had subjected his side to such savagery. Afridi had unleashed a 23-ball blast then, but on this day, he was in a murderous mood and in a different zone altogether.
Never before had Kanpur witnessed such a ruthless display of batting from any visiting cricketer. Shahid zoomed towards yet another century in ODI cricket, this time off 45 balls, before off-spinner Harbhajan Singh castled him for 102. But the damage had been done. India never quite recovered from the early assault, and Pakistan won the game by five wickets.
1. Saeed Anwar (194 runs off 146 balls – Chennai, May 1997)
2-2-6-6-6-4 : it is a number that former India Test captain Anil Kumble is not likely to forget in a hurry. The crowd at Chennai also did something that was then unheard of in matches involving the two sides – it gave a standing ovation to a man whose innings became the stuff of folklore and wrote a glittering chapter in the annals of cricket.
Saeed Anwar, a long-standing prolific opening batsman for Pakistan, battled not only India’s bowlers, but also the energy-sapping humidity due to the extreme temperatures that Chennai is well known for. The resulting loss of fluid and exhaustion caused cramps, necessitating the use of opening partner Afridi (who had been dismissed early) as a runner. The Indians figured that they had a chance of getting the entrenched opener out given his physical discomfort.
They were wrong.
The left-hander proceeded to play an innings of controlled aggression, hammering 118 runs in boundaries, including the 24 runs he scored off Kumble – three consecutive sixes in that over reflected not only his skill, but also a measure of his dominance over the bowling. Venkatesh Prasad, who was a nemesis for left-handers in those times, conceded plenty of runs in his spell; such was the fluency of Anwar’s batting.
In the process, the veteran left-hander went past Viv Richards’ 189 to set a new record for the highest individual score in ODIs. He top-edged a sweep off Tendulkar to fine-leg in the 47th over, but his 194 had already pushed Pakistan to a mammoth total of 327. And though India made a fist of the chase, with Dravid scoring his maiden ODI century, they fell short by 35 runs.
What this game showed was the level of cricket on offer throughout, and impressed by the tenacity shown by a weary Anwar, the crowd accorded him a standing ovation. For millions of Indian fans though, it was yet another surrender to the arch-rivals that they would take some time to get over. Terrific stuff!