Cricket, like any other sport, is also about history and some rivalry. But at times, the very game finds itself overshadowed by the raw intensity played out rather brazenly in the field. Despite having such a sober moniker like “the gentleman's game,” cricket in its sobriety often fails to contain the nationalistic jingoism every time rivals take to the field.
India's rivalry with Pakistan is arguably the fiercest in any competition known to human kind. Thanks to a jaded history between the two nations, any sporting duel between the teams representing either side of the “International Border” – starting from the rugged Line of Control (LoC), the much-hyphenated Wagah line to the Great Rann of Kutch – becomes a full-blown war. A India-Pakistan match requires immaculate planning, extended analysis and lot more public inputs.
It's a duel neither side can afford to lose. Players from the losing side are subjected of all sorts of humiliation, from their own supporters and stories of mortification find prime time coverage and news is splattered over national dailies for days. There is no moment of remorse though, probably because in this part of the world where poverty rules – cricket players are super heroes. And if they return home defeated, they are treated as traitors. Higher the stake, greater the embarrassment.
That's how this rivalry keeps the world engrossed with their cricket.
Pakistan has been the dominating side in this rivalry, winning majority of the matches. In the 59 Test matches played so far, they have won 12 times against India's 9. In the One Day Internationals, they have beaten India 72 times in 126 matches. But this trend seems to have taken an overhaul in the recent outings, especially in the cricket's newest format, Twenty20. India have won five out of six matches played against Pakistan.
Despite this clear cut upper-hand, Pakistan always seems to lose the plot when they play India in the biggest tournament in world cricket, losing all five of their previous encounters. The brownie points that Indians earned through these victories in the flag-ship tournament are enough to silence their neighbours.
As the two sides lock horns once again on February 15, let us chronicle all the past meeting between them:
1992 World Cup (India 1 – 0 Pakistan)
After the 1983 World Cup, this was probably the most dramatic tournament, made memorable by numerous cricketing and non-cricketing reasons. Amongst those were, Jonty Rhodes' run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq , South Africa losing to England by Duckworth-Lewis' thumb rule, and of course, Imran Khan's title winning speech about his pet project on cancer research.
Pakistan went on to win their first world title despite playing pathetic cricket all-throughout the tournament. India beat them convincingly by 43 runs on March 4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The match witnessed the arrival of a crop of young and extremely gifted cricketers from an erstwhile English dominion.
One of them was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar , the future God of cricket. His match winning contribution of 54 runs and 1/37 proved harbinger of good luck for India, at least against Pakistan. The Little Master retired undefeated in this particular fixture, winning another four such matches.
1996 World Cup (India 2 – 0 Pakistan)
For the second successive World Cup, India and Pakistan met in a World Cup match as ICC's pinnacle event arrived in the sub-continent. This time, playing in a knock-out match, India overcome a great start from Pakistan openers – Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar – to register a thumping 39 run win at Bangalore's M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The match will always be remembered for the on field duel between Venkatesh Prasad and Sohail as well as Ajay Jadeja's tussle with Waqar Younis.
But the defining moment of the match happened even before the players took the field. Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, already a towering figure in cricket world, opted out of the match feeling unwell.
The tournament also had other important moments. It marked the emergence of Sanath Jayasuria as an explosive opener who set a trend of going after the bowlers in the opening part of the innings, shrewdly employed by skipper Arjuna Ranatunga . Thanks to this unassuming tactic, Sri Lanka won their first world title.
The sub-continental world cup also witnessed minnows Kenya shocking two-time champions West Indies and an Eden Garden locked-down after eventual winners Sri Lanka appeared set to beat hosts India in their semi-final.
1999 World Cup (India 3 – 0 Pakistan)
India failed to live up to expectations at the seventh edition of the ICC World Cup. But Pakistan did well to qualify for the final before fizzling out against Australia in the title match. Like the previous editions, it wasn't not all gloom and doom for them. Rahul Dravid returned as the tournament's top run-getter, and Sourav Ganguly notched up the highest individual score of 183 against Sri Lanka. Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar scored two centuries to make it a memorable outing.
But the tournament will always be remembered for Steve Waugh's “You've just dropped the World Cup, mate” remark to Herschelle Gibbs, after the South African dropped the Aussie skipper in a crucial Super Six match. Yes, Super Six was a new concept that suited a tournament of this nature with limited participants.
In a low-scoring Super Six match, India trumped Pakistan by 47 runs thanks to Venkatesh Prasad's five-wicket haul. The medium-fast bowler from Bangalore found perfect conditions to exploit in his favour at Old Trafford, and removed five match winners from the Pakistan camp – Saeed Anwar, Saleem Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Moin Khan and Wasim Akram by conceding only 27 runs.
Earlier in the Indian innings, Rahul Dravid and skipper Mohammad Azharuddin withstood brilliant spells from Akram and Azhar Mahmood to help India post a fighting total of 227 runs.
2003 World Cup (India 4 – 0)
In the first ever World Cup held in the African continent, South Africa committed cricketing hara-kiri by miscalculating a revised target against Sri Lanka in a must-win Pool B game. It was the second time, Proteas received shabby treatment from Messrs Duckworth and Lewis.
But in the end, it was their own making, a faux pass from the captain, messenger and the think-tank of South African cricket that only reaffirmed their status as the perennial chokers of the game.
Surprisingly, South Africans were joined by other nations of repute – England and Pakistan from Pool A, and West Indies from Pool B to exit the tournament in the first round. Upsetting the cards were the Zimbabwean and Kenyan teams, qualifying for the Super Six from their respective pools.
It was one of the best tournaments for India, until they overcooked in the final, allowing Australia to win their third world title. Australia had beaten India in the group stage too. Overall, India won nine of the eleven matches, including a 6-wicket victory over Pakistan.
That match at the Centurion Park will always be remembered for one fact. It was possibly Sachin Tendulkar's best World Cup innings. He toyed with Shoaib Akhtar , then world's premier fast bowler. Tendulkar's 98 helped India chase down Pakistan's imposing total of 273 runs with more than four overs to spare. Despite an emotionally satisfying win over the neighbours , India failed in the final hurdle.
2011 World Cup (5 – 0)
The game of cricket continued to evolve and in the last edition of the World Cup, the Decision Review System (DRS ) was introduced evoking plenty of controversy. However, its implementation helped umpires in avoiding bad decisions.
The tournament will always be remembered as the one Tendulkar finally won a world title. After a long and arduous wait of 28 years, Indians - most passionate fans of the game - got to see their team become the world champions once again in this exalted format. Apart from winning the T20 title in 2007, another championship in the 50-over format surely swelled their pride.
After a gap of two World Cups, India and Pakistan met for the fifth time at Mohali in a winner takes all match. The historic semi-final at the PCA stadium, with Prime Ministers of both countries Yousuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh in attendance, provided extra gloss to the match, also allowing both the governments to play hard ball diplomacy.
But the real battle took place on the field, far away from their political suits. Once again, Sachin arrived in the forefront to help India post a respectable total of 260 runs on a belter of a PCA top. Unheralded Wahab Riaz shook the Indian conscience with a devastating spell of 5/46, but India responded strongly with all five bowlers used by Mahendra Singh Dhoni chipping in with two wickets each. India won the match by 29 runs and Tendulkar received yet another man of the match award, this time giving himself a passage to win the elusive world title.
When MS Dhoni and Misbah-ul-Haq lead their respective sides to the field on February 15, more than two billion people will follow their every movement. It has all the makings of another epic encounter, enhancing the stature of this great fixture.