Sportstar's all-time sports classics: Lights, camera, Maradona!

As the coronavirus pandemic forces a temporary halt on sporting events, Sportstar revisits classic matches across sports.

Diego Maradona checks out a camera at a training session during the World Cup in 1986.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellations and postponements of most big-ticket sports tournaments. If the lack of sporting action has left a void in your day, here's something to satiate that hunger — our pick of five classic matches from the years gone by that you should revisit.

India v Pakistan, Austral-Asia Cup final, April 18, 1986: The Indian cricket team had become the mood meter of the nation after its unexpected triumph in the 1983 Prudential World Cup. For a nation starved of international success, the odd wins on the cricket field was the only solace for an average cricket fan like me in the 80s. India was expected to win when it met Pakistan in the final of the Austral-Asia Cup in 1986.

Kris Srikanth and Sunil Gavaskar gave India an explosive start, adding 100 odd runs for the first wicket. Dilip Vengsarkar and Gavaskar milked the spinners in the middle overs and by the time the slog overs began, India had crossed 200. However, both Wasim Akram and Imran Khan were deadly with yorkers in the death overs as India lost its way. India could add only 38 runs in the last eight overs to settle for 245 for seven.

The victorious Pakistan team with the Austral-Asia Cup in Sharjah.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

In reply, Pakistan innings meandered along until Imran promoted Qadir as pinch hitter to unsettle the spinners. He added 71 runs with Miandad to bring Pakistan back into the contest. Pakistan lost a few wickets cheaply but Miandad remained unfazed and in the company of tail-enders, he attacked the medium pacers. The equation boiled down to 11 runs from the final over bowled by Chetan Sharma and it whittled down to five runs from two balls. Tauseef scrambled a single off the penultimate ball with Mohammad Azharuddin missing a direct hit. Miandad then launched the last ball, a full toss from Sharma, over mid wicket for a massive six to signal Pakistan’s victory. It was the start of Sharjah jinx against Pakistan which took 13 years for India to end.

READ| Tokyo Olympics postponed: Indian table tennis team lauds decision

Argentina v England quarterfinals, Mexico World Cup, June 22, 1986: It is my favourite football match and I chose it over the Italy-Brazil match of the 1982 World Cup and France-Brazil quarterfinal of the 1986 World Cup for the sheer drama, emotion and controversy involved; not to forget, it featured the genius — Diego Maradona.

The tournament began on the day of my 10th standard CBSE results. It was not bad as I expected. With the monkey off my back, I was closely following the fortunes of my favourite footballer Maradona and his team Argentina, thanks to the newspapers.  Doordarshan still hadn’t started its live coverage and the telecast began two weeks into the tournament. After a solitary goal against Uruguay in the pre-quarterfinals, Argentina was up against England in the quarterfinals. It was the first meeting between the two countries after the Falklands War. The hostility between fans ended in brawls.

Argentina had the better of exchanges in the first half and England was kept in the game by its goalkeeper Peter Shilton. But it was the eventful second half which was to change the course of World Cup. Six minutes into the second half, Maradona cut his way into the English penalty box and crossed to Jorge Valdano and the ball reached English defender Steve Hodge after touching Valdano’s boot. Hodge miscued his hook and the ball looped into the penalty area. Maradona continued his run and in real time, it looked as if he had out-jumped Shilton to head the ball into the net. While Maradona ran towards the stands celebrating the goal, England players protested to the Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser that it was handball. The goal stood and four minutes later came the goal of the century. Maradona made a dazzling run which started deep inside his own half. And in less than 60 seconds, he hoodwinked four English defenders for the greatest individual goal of all-time. 

READ| Bach: Rescheduled Tokyo Olympics needs sacrifices from all stakeholders

Andre Agassi v Goran Ivanisevic, Wimbledon final, July 5, 1992: As a teenager in the 90s, I liked the rebel in Agassi. His outlandish hairstyle, psychedelic clothes and of course, his talent, made him my favourite tennis star.  But like legions of his fans, I was disappointed when Agassi couldn't win the two French Open finals which he contested. However, Agassi's Grand Slam breakthrough came in Wimbledon in 1992.

Sealed with a kiss: Andre Agassi celebrates after his thrilling five-set victory over Goran Ivanisevic at the Wimbledon Tennis Championship.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

In the final, Goran Ivanisevic struggled with his first serves but seemed to pull off an ace when he was pushed to the wall. The error bug also bothered the Croat who muffed up easy points. Agassi pounded away from the baseline and passed the Croat easily at the net when the latter tried to play the classic serve-and-volley game. After losing the first set 6-7 in the tie-break (10-8), Agassi made the only break in the second set to win 6-4. The third set followed the same pattern with the Croat's game slipping from brilliant to mediocre as Agassi won 6-4. Ivanisevic found his mooring in the fourth set, breaking Agassi twice to win the set 6-1. In the crucial fifth set, both players held their serves till the ninth game and Ivanisevic was serving to stay in the match at 5-4. But the Croat choked by committing two double faults and netted a volley to give Agassi his first and only Wimbledon title.

Mike Powell, Long jump gold, Tokyo World Championship, 1991: It is pretty long literally. In the last nine decades, the world record in long jump has been held by three men -Jesse Owens, Bob Beamon and Mike Powell.

Powell broke Bob Beamon's gigantic leap on a balmy night at the Tokyo World Championships. Carl Lewis has been my favourite athlete and I was looking forward to see a triple gold medal haul from him. King Carl had impressively won the 100m with a world record time of 9.86m and he was a favourite for the Long Jump gold. Powell lived his entire career under the shadows of King Carl. They were contrasting jumpers. While Powell relied on his power, Carl's biggest ally was his speed.

It was incredible that both Powell and Lewis could go beyond Beamon's record — which stood for 23 years — in a span of few minutes. Lewis led from the first round and had a wind-assisted jump of 8.83m in his third jump. He had another similar jump of 8.91m in his fourth attempt and it was only a matter of time for him to win his third straight World Championship gold.

Powell, who started with a modest 7.85m, steadily improved his performance and in his fifth jump, killed the competition with an incredible leap of 8.95m. Lewis had two other legal jumps of over 8.80m that night but he couldn’t beat Powell's record. This was Lewis’ first defeat in long jump in more than 10 years.

India v Pakistan, first Test Multan March 28-April 1, 2004: The Test will be best remembered for Virender Sehwag's triple hundred and India's first Test win in Pakistan. For India, Pakistan has been the final frontier. No Indian team has ever managed to win a Test match until Rahul Dravid's men (the stand in captain for Sourav Ganguly) managed to puncture the Paki pride in Multan.

Virender Sehwag in action against Pakistan in Multan in 2004.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

After having watched the brilliant knocks by Zaheer Abbas, Mudassar Nazar, Javed Miandad live during the India tour of Pakistan in 1982-83, Sehwag's breathtaking triple hundred was payback time for me.

India amassed 675 for five in the first innings and a draw seemed inevitable with the way Pakistan batted in the first innings. But it was the last ball of the third day by Sachin Tendulkar which turned the contest on its head. Sachin bowled Moin Khan with a googly which crept between the batsman's legs. India wrapped up the innings pretty quickly the next day to force the follow on. Pakistan collapsed in the second innings giving India a victory by an innings and 52 runs.