The World Cup 1992 encounter between India and Pakistan always brings back happy memories, writes Ayaz Memon
One of my most joyous memories is of India beating Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup at Sydney. Purely from a cricketing point of view, the match was unremarkable: a low-scoring affair with hardly a noteworthy performance. Yet, its impact was to be enormous. Let me set up this game here for readers to understand why.
This was the first time India and Pakistan were meeting each other in the World Cup. In the previous four editions (1975, 1979, 1983, and 1987), the two countries featured in different groups. The only possibility of them playing each other was either in the semis or final.
India’s record till the 1983 tournament had been dismal. Pakistan were much the better team in limited overs cricket till Kapil Dev and Co turned the world upside down. In 1987, the World Cup shifted to the sub-continent. India and Pakistan were joint favourites and expected to meet in the final, but both lost in the semis.
Based purely on this track record, it should have been even stevens when the two countries met in Sydney in mid-March 1992. However, from 1986 the equation between the two sides had tilted so heavily in favour of Pakistan that it seemed almost an impossibility India could win, whatever the conditions or situation.
To explain this conundrum, I must rewind to the final of the Australasia Cup between the two countries in Sharjah on April 18, 1986. Cricket had taken firm root in the UAE, thanks largely because of the appeal of Indian and Pakistani players for the expat population living in the emirates. A final between the two teams was a bonanza.
The match was a humdinger. India looked to be certain winners when Pakistan were reduced to 209 for 6 chasing 246 to win. This might seem like a very modest target today, but in the 1980s, around 250 was always a challenging score.
Moreover, the pitch was sluggish, making stroke-play difficult. This in turn meant that required run rate had kept mounting even as wickets kept falling, and by the time Pakistan captain Imran Khan was dismissed (6th wicket), India’s total looked insurmountable.
One man, however, hadn’t given up. Javed Miandad, who had come in at number 4, had taken firm root, keeping the innings going with resolve and stealth even as batsmen at the other end fell. Now he took complete charge, farming the strike, steadily picking up boundaries, to keep the target within reach.
The match reached an incredibly tense climax. At the end of the 49th over, Pakistan were 235 for 7, needing 11 runs to win. Difficult, but not impossible. Miandad, who had gone past his century, hit Chetan Sharma’s first delivery towards the boundary. Kapil Dev’s brilliant throw had Wasim Akram run out, trying to give Miandad the strike.
Miandad narrowed the margin with a boundary off the next delivery, but failed to get two and keep strike off the next, exposing Zulqarnain, who was clean bowled by Sharma. Five runs were now needed off two deliveries, but last man Tauseef, not Miandad was on strike. Advantage India.
Somehow, Tauseef and Miandad scrambled through for a single off the fifth delivery, leaving Pakistan four runs to win off the last delivery. The entire stadium was on its feet for this rousing climax. As Sharma ran in to bowl, there was pin drop silence.
It was a low full toss. Miandad got under it with quicksilver reflexes, and tonked it over mid-wicket for a 6. He had pulled off an incredible victory for his team. What followed was bedlam among Pakistan supporters, but Indian fans and players were enveloped in funereal silence, disbelieving of what had transpired.
Such was the psychological trauma caused by Miandad’s last-ball six that India inevitably stumbled against Pakistan thereafter, even from eminently winnable situations. And not just in Sharjah, but even in their own country, as seen in 1987.
It is in this context, that the 1992 World Cup match between the two assumes significance. When the itinerary was released months before the tournament, this match was ticked off as a sure win for Pakistan. On the eve of the match, the buzz was not so much about which team would win, but by what margin would Pakistan triumph.
When India made a very modest 216 – thanks largely to youngsters Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja, the result looked foregone. India looked to have been undone by the `Miandad Effect’ once again. But the second half of the match had a surprise in store.
Pakistan stumbled in what had seemed an easy run chase. Two wickets fell early, which brought in India’s nemesis Miandad into the middle. But this time he looked completely out of rhythm, spending 110 balls to score 40, which was in complete contrast to how he had plotted and destroyed India in Sharjah in 1986.
The only memorable part of Miandad’s innings was his altercation with wicket-keeper Kiran More. A frustrated Miandad responded to More’s jibes at his poor batting with a jack-in-the-box act that to this day remains the strongest highlight of that match.
India went on to win by 43 runs. Pakistan were to recover from this setback and go on to win the tournament. India were eliminated early, yet had gained massively for the future. The spell cast by Miandad’s last-ball six at Sharjah which had lasted six years was finally broken.
Since 1992, India have never lost to Pakistan in the World Cup.