x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Cricket: Fond memories fading fast for India and Pakistan

Beyond jingoistic slogans – puerile at the best of times – the younger fan has no kaleidoscope of India-Pakistan memories to fall back upon, writes Dileep Premachandran

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about "the shot heard round the world" in the first stanza of The Concord Hymn in 1837.

Nearly 150 years later, sportswriters referenced it after Mike Eruzione's game-clinching goal for the United States against the Soviet Union in the hockey semi-finals of the 1980 Winter Olympics, a game that came to be known as the "Miracle on Ice".

Cricket doesn't have a shot that was heard around the world, but there was one 27 years ago that irrevocably altered a subcontinent cricket rivalry.

Javed Miandad's last-ball six off Chetan Sharma didn't just win Pakistan the Austral-Asia Cup.

Its echo ensured that Pakistan would dominate the rivalry for a generation, until Sachin Tendulkar played a similarly dramatic innings at Centurion in March 2003.

Before April 18, 1986, India and Pakistan had contested 16 one-day internationals, with India leading 8-7.

The most important of those had been the World Championship of Cricket final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in March 1985.

India romped home by nine wickets, with Kapil Dev's yorker to Qasim Omar and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan's huge-turning legbreak to send back Miandad representing the pick of the highlights reel.

India should have won the Sharjah final, too, especially once Imran Khan was dismissed with 37 still needed.

But Miandad, who would finish unbeaten on 116 off 114 balls - an incredible strike-rate for that time - made the most of scant tail-end support to get within range.

With four needed off the final ball, a leg-side full toss from Sharma was clubbed over midwicket for six. Cue pandemonium, and more than a decade of Pakistani dominance.

India would win World Cup games against Pakistan in 1992, '96 and '99, but between Sharjah and Centurion, Pakistan won 45 of the 69 games they played. Games in Sharjah became almost a ritual humiliation for Indian players and spectators.

The generation that was left traumatised by the Miandad six had to wait nearly two decades for deliverance.

It came at Centurion, when Tendulkar played perhaps his finest one-day innings, 98 off just 75 balls. The carved six over third man off Shoaib Akhtar is now as much as part of the rivalry's folklore as the Miandad hit.

Since Centurion, the head-to-head record is 19-19, though India have tended to prevail in the matches that matter more, like the World Cup semi-final of 2011.

Since the start of the Indian Premier League in 2008, however, there have been only 11 ODIs between the two sides, and only three in bilateral series.

Once upon a time, the rivalry was the administrators' golden goose, to be fed and exploited as often as diplomatic relations allowed.

For Pakistan, it still is, hence the desperation to play India even on neutral turf in the Middle East. For the Board of Control for Cricket in India, sitting on piles of IPL cash, that goose is yesterday's meal.

So, in a year that will see 10 Ashes Tests and other England-Australia tussles in the limited-overs arena, Asian cricket's biggest rivalry continues to be in limbo.

The politics of the region has played a part, but for the old-time aficionados, what's most disturbing is how a younger generation has grown up with little exposure to the rivalry.

Beyond jingoistic slogans - puerile at the best of times - the younger fan has no kaleidoscope of India-Pakistan memories to fall back upon.

Those that grew up watching Majid Khan, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran, Kapil, Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younisand Tendulkar will tell you what a great pity that is.

 

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