The World Cup is into its groove — well, as much as the fickle British weather allows it to be, at least — and we’re through with two weeks of the 46-day spectacle. But for a vast majority of fans in the subcontinent, the ICC World Cup 2019 only truly begins on Sunday, when India and Pakistan lock horns at Old Trafford in Manchester.
India hold a fabled unbeaten streak against their arch-rivals at the World Cup — six to nothing heading into Sunday’s tussle — but when you look across the board in the format, it is Pakistan who have dominated larger stretches of this rivalry. The overall win-loss after 131 ODIs between the neighbours reads 73-54 in favour of Pakistan.
As we brace for the 132nd chapter of this now highly infrequent contest, here’s a look back at 10 men who have risen to the occasion of an India-Pakistan clash better than others.
Where else to begin but the man responsible for the most enduring memory of India-Pakistan cricket? Indian fans from the ‘80s took a few decades to get over the events of the 1986 Austral-Asia Cup final at Sharjah, where Javed Miandad smashed a last-ball six off Chetan Sharma with Pakistan needing four to win.
It wasn’t just that last ball, though; in that summit clash, against a team that had won the World Cup and World Championship in the three preceding years, Miandad stroked an unbeaten 116 in a stiff chase of 246 where no other Pakistan batsman touched 40.
It wasn’t even just that game. Miandad averaged 51.08 in 35 ODIs against India — his second-best record against any opponent he faced more than five times. In victories, that average shot up to 57.84.
The lasting picture might be of ‘that’ Chetan Sharma delivery, but Miandad left scars on many an Indian bowler — and fan — through the 1980s.
A list, any list, to do with Pakistan cricket not featuring their G.O.A.T.? Impossible.
Unlike in Test matches, where his batting numbers against the oldest enemy rose to career-high marks (an average of 51.95 vs India, compared to 37.69 overall), Pakistan’s captain fantastic struggled with the bat in ODIs against India — his average, which topped 33 over the course of his career, floundered below 22 in 29 games versus the neighbours.
But with ball in hand, Imran Khan wreaked havoc on the Indian batsmen: 35 wickets in 29 games, 24 of those coming in 20 wins for Pakistan. Khan’s bowling average against India was 22.25 — a full four points better than his ODI career figure — and he took a wicket six balls faster against the Indians than he did in general.
Like Miandad, he reserved his best individual performance for a tournament final against India — the 1985 Rothmans Four-Nations Cup, again at Sharjah, where he blew his opponents apart with career-best figures of 6/14.
India were bowled out for 125 in that Rothmans Cup final, 30 of which were hit by Kapil Dev. Imran Khan was Man of the Match, but India were the winners, by a full 38 runs at that.
Because Khan’s Indian equivalent, while not returning astounding figures like his Pakistan counterpart played no less a pivotal role in crippling the batting line-up with a three-wicket haul.
Much like Khan, Dev had little impact with the bat in India-Pakistan ODIs (a well below par average of 15.28), but he caused enough and more damage with the ball.
Of the 32 matches India’s greatest all-rounder played against Pakistan in the format, India were only victorious in 11 — but in those games, Dev picked up 19 wickets at an astonishing average of 17.89, while needing less than five overs to land a blow.
His last ODI appearance against Pakistan was a special occasion, the first-ever World Cup meeting between the two nations. The start of India’s favourite sequence of wins was owed to its first World Cup-winning captain; Kapil Dev smacked 35 off 26 balls at the death, and followed it up with the wickets of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Moin Khan during India’s successful defence.
Completing a legendary pace-bowling sequence on this list is a man who could lay claim to having rattled two entirely different generations of Indian batting stalwarts.
When he burst upon the scene in the mid-1980s, a teenaged Wasim Akram was equipped enough to breach the defences of the Gavaskars, Vengsarkars and Azharuddins; by the time he left, nearly two decades later, he had got through the likes of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid on multiple occasions.
Akram was the embodiment of a time period where Pakistan absolutely bossed India. Remember those countless Pakistan wins at Sharjah through the ‘90s? No one shaped those outcomes quite as consistently as a then-at-peak Akram, who averaged 21.03 in 20 ODIs against India at the iconic venue in the history of this rivalry.
His imprint on the Indian batting wasn’t exclusive to Sharjah; Pakistan won 34 off the 48 ODIs Akram played against India, and he scalped 47 wickets in those games at an average of 21.46.
Imran,Kapil, Wasim — don’t end the pace stock, though, because one particular fast bowler from the famed factory of the late 20th century made his name almost entirely for his exploits against the biggest rivals.
One look at Aaqib Javed’s ODI career numbers, and there’s nothing that will leave you gushing with exaggeration — 182 wickets from 163 matches at an average of 31.43 and a strike rate of 44.
Against India? 54 wickets from 39 matches, average 24.64, strike rate 33.2.
In wins over his favourite opponents, Javed’s figures became even more imposing: his 44 wickets are second only to Akram’s 47, and his average was a stupendous 17.29 — the best for any Pakistan bowler in ODI wins versus India.
His most heroic act, in a similar vein to Miandad and Imran, came in a Sharjah final, but perhaps topped all his predecessors for sensationalism: 7/37 (the best figures in ODIs from 1991 to 2000), including the wickets of Ravi Shastri, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar off consecutive deliveries for what remains the only hat-trick in India-Pakistan ODIs.
One could, very justifiably, ignore all other numbers and put this name on this list just for that knock at Centurion during the 2003 World Cup: 98 off the most glorious runs ever to have come off the legendary blade, from just 75 balls, to settle a game that had given him a sleepless fortnight.
But then you see the numbers, and they don’t come as much of a surprise. No one has scored more runs in India-Pakistan ODIs, and no one has hit more centuries in India-Pakistan ODIs, as Sachin Tendulkar.
Sure, they weren’t his favourite opponents; among Full-Member nations, Tendulkar only averaged lesser against South Africa (35.73) than he did against Pakistan (40.09). But over 2500 runs, with five hundreds and 16 fifties? Most would gleefully take that haul for an entire career.
Just one of those five triple-figure scores actually came in an Indian win, but let there be no doubts over the Master Blaster’s contribution to the 31 victories for India in matches he played against Pakistan — Tendulkar was Man of the Match in three of the five World Cup meetings he was part of, and his scores in those outings read 54*, 31, 45, 98 and 85.
If Tendulkar gave Pakistan bowlers nightmares out of his dazzling domination of World Cup bouts between the teams, Saeed Anwar was the constant thorn for the Indian attack — World Cup or otherwise.
What Tendulkar’s 98 is to Pakistan fans in terms of a scarring memory, Anwar’s 194 was to Indian supporters through the decade-plus term the knock enjoyed as the highest-ever in the 50-over game.
One of only three men with more than 2000 runs in Indo-Pak ODIs, the elegant left-handed opener did so at an average above 43, which climbed to over 47 in Pakistan wins.
Perhaps most astonishing — and highly underrated — was Anwar’s ahead-of-the-time scoring rate; in 50 matches against India, Anwar scored his 2002 runs at a strike rate of 90.58. Lest you forget, these games were played between 1989 and 2003 — well before T20 cricket made a strike rate above 90 ‘normal’.
From one left-handed picture of elegance to another.
Sourav Ganguly’s overall ODI record against Pakistan was nothing worth taking shirts off in balconies: an average of 35, a strike rate just above 70 and just two centuries in 50 innings.
But during one particular India-Pakistan passage of play — the Friendship Cup of 1997 in Toronto — he achieved what few would manage to dream of in the most intoxicated of dreams.
In a five-match series that India won 4-1, Ganguly finished top of both the batting and bowling charts, scoring 222 runs and taking 15 wickets. He didn’t win too many friends across the border from that ‘Friendship Cup’, did the future India captain.
Thanks largely to that phenomenal fortnight, Ganguly’s career numbers in wins against Pakistan wore the look of an all-rounder’s utopia — batting average 46.83, bowling average 15.33.
A hat-trick of left-handed grace to grace the India-Pakistan rivalry.
Yuvraj Singh had to wait for two-and-a-half years after his ODI debut until he managed a maiden taste of the ‘mother of all battles’. In the years that followed, he ‘daddied’ the contest.
It began sweetly, as he saw off the 2003 World Cup run-chase after Tendulkar’s heroics with an unbeaten 50, replete with wondrous drives off the fearsome Wasim-Waqar-Shoaib trio.
He would go on to cross 50 a further 12 times, hitting a half-century or better every third innings against Pakistan; in wins against them, his average sky-rocketed to nearly 60.
The stand-out factor in Yuvraj’s case, however, was his jaw-dropping excellence every time India made the trip West across the border. In 15 ODIs in Pakistan, Yuvraj belted 642 runs at an average 64.20; 344 of those runs came during India’s 4-1 series win in 2006, where he was only dismissed twice in five matches.
Yuvraj’s average of 59.57 in wins against Pakistan stands second only to MS Dhoni among Indian batsmen – and Dhoni’s stratospheric mark of 70.70 is second only to Salman Butt among players across both camps (Butt, however, played only 10 such matches, all as opener, to Dhoni’s 21).
This was the opponent against whom it all began, so famously, for the then long-haired Dhoni. His first four international innings had returned a measly total of 22 runs, and with his spot in the team in doubt already, the ‘keeper-batsman was promoted to number three for an ODI at Visakhapatnam in April 2005.
The rest, as they say, is history.
While that 148, off just 123 balls, catapulted Dhoni into the limelight, he truly began to take over the mind-space of this rivalry on India’s next trip to Pakistan in 2006. Yuvraj may have bossed the scorecards, but it was Dhoni who bossed the minds of the bowlers — and won the hearts of the fans — with his then-trademark belligerent hitting to finish games off. He came to the crease thrice, and his scores were 72*(46), 2*(5), 77*(56).
The chopping off his mane a few years later — against the famous wishes of then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf — did nothing to wane his scoring powers over the years.
Dhoni’s average of 55.90 for his 1230 runs is the best for any batsman in the history of India-Pakistan ODIs.