When it comes to sporting rivalries, few can match the intensity and fervour that surrounds an India vs Pakistan clash. Before the latest iteration of this historic rivalry kicks off on October 23 at the 2022 T20 World Cup, Jude Sannith picks out five most memorable clashes between the two sides on the world stage.
If there ever was a sporting match-up for the ages — one that could rival The Ashes, Federer vs Nadal or Messi vs Ronaldo — it has to be India vs Pakistan in limited overs cricket. At first glance, it isn’t surprising: both nations are cricketing powerhouses, produce legendary players every generation, and have an ancient legacy of geo-political acrimony. Yet, in 47 years of cricket world cups — across ODI and T20 formats — Pakistan has beaten India all of once. Nevertheless, the sporting drama and superstar clashes that come with every India-Pakistan encounter, World Cups included, has produced many a memorable cricket match. Here’s a look at some of the more memorable World Cup clashes between the sides, this millennium.
Dhoni’s Bowl-Out Tactics Pay Off (T20 World Cup 2007, Durban) | In only its second-ever T20 International and opening match of the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, India saw off a thriller. After posting a below-par 141 in 20 overs (thanks to Robin Uthappa’s breezy 50 off 39 balls), the team ran into Misbah Ul Haq. Batting at six, Pakistan’s new middle-order talent flummoxed India’s bowlers as he stroked 53 off 35 balls, threatening to take the game. However, an inspired bit of bowling and fielding from S Sreesanth and Yuvraj Singh saw India defend one run in two balls; the latter ran Misbah out while he attempted to steal a single off the last-ball, to bring home the tie. The game’s most defining moment, however, was yet to begin. Back then, tied T20 matches were decided by a bowl-out (the super-over was introduced in 2008), and teams were asked to pick bowlers who could hit the stumps from 22 yards, under pressure. Pakistan selected their bowling mainstays: Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi. MS Dhoni, ever the intuitive master tactician, took a left-field approach and picked part-time bowlers like Sehwag and Uthappa, to support Harbhajan Singh. All three Pakistanis missed the stumps. The Indian bowlers — all off-spinners with excellent control — hit every single time. India celebrated like it had won a penalty shoot-out, Pakistan were dumbstruck. The iconic footage of Robin Uthappa doffing his cap, after bowling the decisive delivery remains one for the ages. (Image: ICC/Twitter)
Tendulkar Assault Stuns Pakistani Pace (ODI World Cup 2003, Centurion) | As far as India-Pakistan matches go, it doesn’t get more memorable than the Centurion chase of 2003. India, not known to be the best chasers, were left to get 274 after Pakistan opted to bat first and Saeed Anwar scored 101. What made this chase more daunting was that the Indian batting was facing Wasim, Waqar and Shoiab, the dreaded Pakistani pace trio known for raw speed, reverse swing and missile-like yorkers. Surely enough, Waqar sent back Sehwag and Ganguly in quick succession, but not before the former struck three beautiful boundaries and a sixer. Then, Sachin Tendulkar came to the party. Just a month short of his 30th birthday, India’s greatest batsman punctured Pakistan’s pace attack. He reserved his best shots for Waqar and Shoiab, tearing their bowling blueprints to shreds. One particular shot of Tendulkar against Shoiab that saw the Master Blaster gently rise to his toes, like a ballet dancer, and cut the fast-bowler over third man for a glorious sixer remains the most enduring image of the match. Sadly, a twist of fate saw Sachin cramp on 98, receive treatment, lose rhythm and fall to a wicked bouncer from Shoiab the very next delivery. However, a score of 98 from 75 balls by the champion saw Rahul Dravid (44 off 76) and Yuvraj Singh (50 off 53) conduct the last rites on a game that India would go on to win comfortably. (Image: Reuters)
Shaheen Afridi Breaks India’s Streak (T20 World Cup 2021, Dubai) | India hadn’t lost a single world cup encounter to Pakistan for 47 years until October 2021. Last year, the Men in Blue suffered one of their most painful defeats when Shaheen Shah Afridi ran through the Indian top-order before skipper Babar Azam and fellow-opener Mohammad Rizwan chased down India’s 152 with consummate ease. The trouble began early when Rohit Sharma fell to Shaheen for a first-ball duck before KL Rahul was castled after crawling to 3 off 8 balls. With two of India’s top-3 T20 run-scorers gone, it took an out-of-form Virat Kohli to bring cheers to the Indian supporters as the legend hit a relatively sedate 57 off 49 balls. Rishabh Pant kept him company with 39 off 30, but the writing was already on the wall: these strike rates weren’t going to help India win. While some optimists believed 151 was a par total on what they reckoned was a tricky Dubai wicket, their hopes were dashed by Azam and Rizwan. Both batsmen — top-ranked T20 players — tore the Indian bowling apart and reminded the team why big-hitting was so important in the format. They were particularly severe on Mohammed Shami and spinner Varun Chakravarthy, the latter forgetting to bring his much-touted mystery and guile to the World Cup party. Eventually, Rizwan (79 off 55) outscored his skipper (68 off 52), but neither won the player of the match award, which went to Shaheen for his three top-order wickets: Rohit, Rahul and Kohli. (Image: Reuters)
Tendulkar’s Five Lives Sink Pakistan (ODI World Cup 2011, Mohali) | India’s victorious 2011 World Cup campaign saw the archrivals face off again in the semifinal at Mohali. India was the favourite given its own form and that of its batting talisman, Yuvraj Singh. However, as is the case with every India-Pakistan match, the old-timers showed up. Batting first after tossing right, Sehwag teed off with 38 off 25 balls, scoring almost all his runs in boundaries. However, it was Sachin Tendulkar who would go on to play one of his slowest yet more memorable World Cup innings, even if it were memorable for its slowness and good fortune. Tendulkar’s 85 off 115 balls was underwhelming at best. He scratched around, played several dots, and converted less than 10% of balls faced into 11 boundaries. However, if Lady Luck picked one man to shine on that warm Mohali afternoon, it was him. Sachin was dropped four times, resulting in five lives gifted by veterans Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq no less. He even survived an LBW call, which replays show, would have been out by all counts. Tendulkar was surviving and adding a bit more to his run tally — slowly and gingerly. In the end, a relatively brisk cameo by Suresh Raina (36 off 39) saw India post 260 on the board, before each bowler contributed to picking two wickets each, to bowl Pakistan out for 231. Many experts later blamed Misbah’s equally scratchy 56 off 76 for slowing the Pakistani chase down. (Image: Reuters)
Sreesanth Holds On (T20 World Cup 2007, Johannesburg) | After a scratchy start (tie against Pakistan, loss to New Zealand), India’s world cup campaign hit a high thanks to successive victories against South Africa, England and Australia. Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan proving to be match-winners — days after he smoked six sixers off Stuart Broad, Yuvraj Singh thrashed Australia with 70 off 30, then Sreesanth bowled with prodigious pace and swing to scalp Hayden and Gilchrist, both bowled over by his pace. Against Pakistan in the final, it wasn’t going to be easy. After losing Uthappa (8 off 11), Yuvraj (14 off 19) and Dhoni (6 off 10) for cheap and slow scores, Rohit Sharma’s 30 off 16 and Gambhir’s 75 off 54 steadied the Indian ship to 157 in 20 overs. Then, Imran Nazir got Pakistan off to a flyer (33 off 14) before India ran into a familiar foe in Misbah. Batting with Younis, Tanvir and Arafat, he kept the score going and sneaked to 37 off 35 after 19 overs. When the 20th began, Indian fans were both surprised and briefly disappointed. With 13 needed off six balls, Dhoni called on relatively unknown medium-pacer Joginder Sharma who began by conceding a wide and a six to Misbah. Just when hopes faded, Misbah tried scooping Joginder for what he hoped would be another six to finish. Only, he mistimed to find Sreesanth waiting at fine-leg who held on to take the catch of his life, before throwing it back in the air to raucous celebrations from the Indian side. The team had won its first-ever world cup in 24 years. Winning it against Pakistan made it all the more special. (Image: Reuters)