India versus Pakistan, World Cup chapter 7: The Manchester faceoff

India and Pakistan’s build-ups have been marked by a refreshingly measured approach.

Come Sunday, there will be no dearth of drama and if the weather stays dry, this World Cup might get a welcome shot of adrenaline.   -  REUTERS

In an industrial metropolis where the local football derby pits two teams with the town’s name as the common prefix (Manchester) and their respective different secondary names - United and City, it is time for another gladiatorial clash.

But this time it pertains to cricket as the World Cup’s most-awaited match featuring India and Pakistan, will dish out some Sunday spice here at Old Trafford.

The previous games involving India witnessed a sea of blue sweep across the stands, be it at Southampton’s Hampshire Bowl, the Oval or Nottingham’s rain-swept Trent Bridge. The raucous presence validated what tennis star Sania Mirza once said while referring to the emphatic support that the Indian athletes get across the globe - “There are so many of us.” But this time around, there could be a strong counter-punch too as Manchester is also home to people from either side of the Wagah border.

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Intense duel: The showdown between Aamer Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad in Bengaluru in the 1996 edition is fresh in the fans’ memory even now.   -  THE HINDU

 

And for those curious about the fickle English weather, Friday turned out to be a largely sunny affair though a few showers have been forecast for the weekend. Pakistan trained at the venue while it was a travel-day for Virat Kohli’s men.

The build-up has been marked by a refreshingly measured approach by the two squads, keen to pipe-down the chatter on the side-lines. But off the field, marketing managers have dipped into needless war-symbolism and excess hype.

Just as it is tempting to peer into the crystal-ball and figure out what the future holds, it is also time for the retrospective gaze because the India-Pakistan rivalry has been an astonishing sub-plot in the World Cup's matrix. The two have clashed six times, starting with the 1992 edition and in all the encounters, India prevailed. Even in the 2015 championship, the script remained unchanged as Kohli’s 107 and Mohammed Shami’s four for 35 unhinged Misbah-ul-Haq’s men at Adelaide.

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It was a contrarian-narrative to the one seen in the desert sands of Sharjah where Pakistan had a vice-like grip with the most soul-numbing blow being the last-ball six that Javed Miandad hammered off Chetan Sharma in the Austral-Asia Cup final during a hot April day in 1986. There was an equally disruptive innings, a 36-ball 72 that Salim Malik bludgeoned in an ODI at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in 1987.

India’s retaliation, much to the delight of its fans, happened in World Cup tussles. Miandad’s strike to the solar-plexus was gradually forgotten as there was Ajay Jadeja’s magnificent assault on Waqar Younis in the 1996 quarterfinal at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium.

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Tendulkar's 98 was the highlight of India's win against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup.   -  v.v. krishnan

 

And the acme was the upper-cut six that Sachin Tendulkar launched off Shoaib Akhtar at Centurion in the 2003 event in South Africa. The stroke blended audacity and mayhem, and deflated Pakistan.    

The dominance spilled over into the 2011 and 2015 events too and India has stayed ahead. The results may seem skewed but there is no denying the combative fires that flare up when India and Pakistan face-off on the turf. None will forget the show-down between Aamer Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad in 1996.

At times this fierce-focus had its share of comical underpinnings too. And it was evident when Miandad mimicked wicket-keeper Kiran More’s mannerisms with a series of exaggerated jumps in the 1992 skirmish in Sydney. The Pakistani legend drew censure from an angry Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin and all these vignettes are part of YouTube’s popular videos.

Come Sunday, there will be no dearth of drama and if the weather stays dry, this World Cup might get a welcome shot of adrenaline.