Cricket doesn’t go better without encounters between Pakistan and India, the game’s most ferocious rivals. When India and Pakistan lock horns: emotions, nerves, adrenaline(s), patriotism, they all get wired up as the duo boast the most complete rivalry of the game. England-Australia clashes are emulous too but mainly confined to Test Cricket while a war between bat and ball is fought when Cricket provides Indo-Pak Episode, “Frisson, Wild and Gaga” being the episode’s genres.
Fans are pumped-up once more for the next episode of this never ending season. March 18 (2012) is the date when two Asian giants will confront each other in Asia Cup match at Dhaka. As the bilateral ties between the two countries standstill, due to political chaos, any match between the two is eagerly awaited by the fans of both sides.
Similar to some previous magnum-opus matches of the duo, one more time the month of March has shown up. Like some venues do favour to particular batsmen, some do for bowlers; the month March has done for India most of the times. This is not about being superstitious or considering this month a bad or good omen, this is just a statistical history of India versus Pakistan played in March(s) of various years.
Pakistan and India went face to face, first time, in a non-bilateral series in 1985. It was event, which can easily be compared with ICC Champions Trophy of this era as Six countries – West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, India and England – featured in Benson & Hedges Cup 1985, currently known as Commonwealth Bank Series (CB Series). The script couldn’t have gone better as Pakistan and India played the Final, their first ever Final of a non-bilateral series.
As the Final went-on on 10th March 1985, India did play like World Champions, they literally were after winning World Cup in 1983 in England. Pakistan were restricted to a below-par total of 176-9 in their 50 overs with only their captain Javed Miandad boasting up some fight (92-ball 48) before getting stumped off Laxman Sivaramakrishnan’s bowling. Later, fifties scored by Indian openers Kris Srikanth and Ravi Shastri assured India would chase the target with ease in 48th over with 8 wickets in hand. That was the first “March” of Indo-Pak rivalry where India prevailed, among 6 countries, after winning Benson & Hedges Cup 1985 Final played in Melbourne.
On one beautiful day of Sharjah, 12 days after Pakistan lost Benson & Hedges Cup Final, on 22nd March 1985, Imran Khan tormented Indian batting line-up by taking Six wickets for just 14 runs in his 10 overs which folded India all out on 125. It is said that chief guests had left the stadium after assuming it a dull and drab match but India had some different plans. Pakistan batting surrendered to Indian bowlers as the former humbled to 87 all out, resulting an Indian win by 38 runs.
To date, the target of 125 remains the lowest ever “successfully” defended by any team in One Day Internationals and Imran Khan’s bowling figures (6-14) remains best effort in a losing cause.
First World Cup was played in 1975 but it took Cricket 17 years and five World Cups to finally have an India-Pakistan match when arena is paramount, thanks to the format of World Cup 1992 where every team had to go head-to-head. Pakistan had lost to West Indies by 10 wickets and were collapsed to 74-all-out in washed-out game against England before confronting India on 4th March 1992 in Sydney. By the time game ended, Pakistan’s poor start to World Cup had gone disastrous and India won the match by 43 runs.
At one stage Pakistan were 105-2 in chase of mediocre target 216 set by India but their lower-order couldn’t harness the 4th wicket partnership of 88 between Aamir Sohail and Javed Miandad. The game was stamped, for later memories, by Miandad’s taunting frog-jump to Kiran Moore’s excessive appealing.
Pakistan after impressive Five Group Games, where they lost only one match against South Africa, went to Bangalore to play Quarter Final as clear favourites against India, who had only beaten West Indies, Zimbabwe and Kenya in their Group Games. On 9th March 1996, even before the game started, Pakistan lost, their captain Wasim Akram, and leadership was then ascended to Aamir Sohail who would, later, defame Pakistan with his notorious and blabbering brawl against Venkatash Parsad.
Waqar Younis got hammered by Ajay Jadega whose cameo of 25-ball 45 surged India to 287 after 50 overs and Pakistan were set to chase 288 in 49 overs, one getting reduced due to their poor over-rate. The openers Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail put on 84-0 after 10 overs to glimmer Pakistan a hope but, once again, like their lower-order in 1992 World Cup Match, this time their middle-order, couldn’t harness the effort of top order as Pakistan lost it by 39 runs and India qualified for Semi Final.
Australia is punctual to schedule Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day (December 26), they often arrange an ODI at Adelaide on Australia Day (January 26). Though such sort of patterns aren’t followed by Pakistan or India but, by chance, in 2000, India and Pakistan had a showdown on 23rd March – known as Pakistan Day since resolution for an independent country was passed at Manto Park (Lahore) in 1940.
India won the match by 5 wickets though it was a mere league game of Sharjah Cup but got the attraction of many Pakistan fans due to Pakistan Day. Pakistan lost the match but the outcome didn’t dwindle their prospects of winning that tournament, which had South Africa as third team and also a finalist. Pakistan also beat India in next league-game to reach Final. In that event, Pakistan finally beat South Africa in ODI Cricket after 5 years and losing 14 consecutive matches against them.
Political ties, turning into turmoil and upheavals, between Pakistan and India wouldn’t let them go on Cricket field for nearly three years. World Cup 2003 schedule – announced one year before it commenced – had “March 1: Pakistan vs India at Super Sport Park, Centurion” and both the countries haven’t had a tussle since Asia Cup Match played in June 2000. The Cricket maniacs, given schedule a year before, had to wait every day for their calendars to tick 1st March, 2003.
As the day came, it was almost a curfew in Pakistan: shops closed, colleges/universities bunked, offices’ timings halved, roads and streets dead, even a rat breaking-wind became audible.
Pakistan batted first to put on a total of 273 and Saeed Anwar, as usual, scored century – last of his international career – against India. The target of 274 was decent but not competitive provided placid wicket and formidable Indian batting. It was simply a game for Sachin Tendulkar, who was ruthless, hasty and thirsty of winning it, as he paced up the chase and got out only after taking all the limelight with his 98 off 75 balls, which had a Six hit over backward point off his rival Shoaib Akhtar. In 46th over, India won the game by 6 wickets after Yuvraj Singh completed his fifty.
The political tensions eased out and India finally agreed to tour Pakistan in 2004 – the first bilateral tour between the two countries in five years. One more India–Pakistan gigantic match and one more date of March, 13th of the month this time and stage being set in Karachi for first ODI to kickstart five-match ODI series to be followed by three Tests.
Tendulkar and Sehwag started, opening partnership of 69 in less than 9 overs, from where the left in Centurion 2003. A sedulous middle-order innings of 99 by Rahul Dravid and 38 extras given by Pakistan had taken India to 349 by the end of their innings. In pursuit of 350, Pakistan stuttered initially but a fine century by captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and brisk-fifty by Mohammad Yousuf had taken them to a cliffhanger where they needed to chase 9 off last 6 balls and then Six off last ball but Moin Khan couldn’t connect last delivery, a low-ful-toss bowled by Ashish Nehra, and India eventually won by 5 runs. Later, India also won the ODI series by 3-2.
The intense and thrilling chase by Pakistan – which had nothing short of brilliance, making Cricket a real winner – kept many spectators on their feet. It could have been highest successful ODI chase, of that time, had Pakistan prevailed.
Prior to Semi Final in Mohali 2011, Pakistan and India wrangled in World Cup matches on four occasions, India winning all. This was their fifth, second knock-out and first Semi-Final tussle in nine World Cups. Political tensions were fired up once again and bilateral tours between them were on deadlock since 2007. Identical to Quarter Final 1996, rivalry came full circle when Pakistan traveled India to play another knock-out match, this time one notch higher, a Semi Final.
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi had denied Sachin Tendulkar his 100th century even before match started and Indian media had taken on Pakistan after seeing that Kaala Pathar in Mohali. In pre-match pressers, Afridi said about Tendulkar’s 100th ton: Hum nahi karne dain ge [we won’t let him to do it]. Nearly a year (340 days) to that incident, Sachin Tendulkar is still found wanting to score that hundredth hundred. Wonder, if Afridi’s “we” meant for all the countries.
Five Sachin-catches were dropped by Pakistan fielders yet Shahid Afridi’s promise of century-denial was accomplished as Tendulkar fall 15 runs short of century of his centuries. Wahab Riaz’s five-wicket haul restricted India to 260. But Pakistan’s careless batting made sure India wouldn’t let slip their 100% winning record against Pakistan in World Cup games. It all happened on 30th March, 2011 in Mohali.
Surprisingly, Pakistan’s four out of five defeats in World Cup matches against India have come in March. Their next World Cup match might also be in same month as Cricket World Cup 2015 is likely to take place between February and March in Australia.
If Pakistan are to find any solace in March(s) against India, they are found in Test Cricket. Two big wins, both in Bangalore. Five-Test series was being played in 1987, the first four Tests were ended as draw. Fifth Test, series decider – winner takes all, started on March 13. It was low-scoring encounter and pitch had beast of spin. India had to chase 221 to win match and series but despite Sunil Gavaskar’s fine effort of 96 runs India remained 16 runs short of series win. 24 Days of Test Cricket were played in that Test series and twenty-fourth one, the last one, decided the winner.
18 years later, on 28th March 2005, under captaincy of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan had a similar task to do. This time they had to win to square three-Test series 1-1, they had lost one in Kolkatta and drawn in Mohali. Again the game and series went to its last day: India needed to survive 90 overs to win series; Pakistan needed 10 wickets to square series. Similar to their 2nd innings in Bangalore 1987, Indian batting ceded in front of Pakistan spinners, giving them 8 out of their 10 wickets. The match is remembered for Inzamam’s century in 100th Test, Younis Khan’s 351 runs (267 in first innings while 84* in second) and Shahid Afridi’s fifty off 26 balls – which still is joint-second-fastest fifty in Test Cricket. The fastest 50, which came off 24 balls, was batted by Jacques Kallis just 23 days before the Afridi’s innings.
Sandwiched between these two Bangalore Tests, on 28th March 2004, one remarkable match, more so an innings, was played in Multan by a Sultan called Virender Sehwag, who scored first ever Indian triple-century (309), completed on second day of the Test, at nearly run-a-ball. Sachin Tendulkar also piled up 194* in India’s marathon total 675-5 (declared) which Pakistan couldn’t outscore even after batting twice.
Apart from their matches against India, Pakistan’s most shocking, horrible and shameful defeat in One Day Internationals was popped up on 17th Match 2007 when they lost to Ireland and were knocked-out of World Cup just five days after it [World Cup] started. The following day, 18th March, there came more miseries as their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room.
2 years after that World Cup exit and Woolmer’s death, in 2009, on March the 3rd, Sri Lankan team got attacked by terrorists in Lahore which ended Pakistan’s home Cricket. Three years to that incident, none of the teams have traveled to Pakistan to play international Cricket.
The on-going March (2012) comes with one more Pakistan-India encounter, might be two if both the countries qualify for Final, in Asia Cup. Before Pakistan get superstitious by seeing previous March(s), they should know there doesn’t exist any such thing as they won Cricket World Cup on 25th March, 1992.