Virat Kohli and the rest of the Indian team may treat their matches against Pakistan “like any other game” but for you, me and every other cricket fanatic, it is the quintessential cricketing metaphor.
In the last five years, India-Pakistan ODI clashes have been reduced to tournament draws and chance encounters in major ICC tournaments. Perpetual political tensions between the two nations have made what was previously a seasonal contest into an occasion so rare that the last time the two sides met in an ICC tournament, the tickets were sold out in 12 minutes and 288 million Indian viewers tuned in. Yet, we are starved of this substantive subcontinental contest. Barring the biennial Asia Cup, the famished Indian cricket fan had to get his regular dose of essential Ind-Pak entertainment from unlikely sources like Times Now where its former skipper Arnab Goswami repeatedly took down (Lt. Col (retd.) Shafqat Saeed, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, army officer (retd.) Nadir Khan and) the whole of Pakistan in matches the discerning viewer knew were fixed.
On the other hand, only because these encounters are few and far between, are they hyped, special and unforgettable. As the two subcontinental sides meet in the group stage of Champions Trophy 2017 this Sunday, let's look at five of the most memorable India-Pakistan clashes at ICC ODI tournaments.
World Cup 1992, India beat Pakistan by 48 runs
India and Pakistan met for the first time in an ICC ODI tournament in 1992 World Cup. Having won the toss, India chose to bat first but only made a modest target of 216 thanks to an opener named Ajay Jadeja and an unassuming figure in the middle order who went by the name, Sachin Tendulkar. Despite a seemingly inadequate total, Pakistan lost by 48 runs losing the last eight wickets for a paltry 68 runs. Unfortunately, the media spotlight was more on controversy rather than contest. The bitter verbal duel between India's wicketkeeper Kiran More and Pakistan’s Javed Miandad spoiled an otherwise deserved victory for India.
World Cup 1996, India beat Pakistan by 39 runs
Ajay Jadeja again shined in the 1996 World Cup clash at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore as he smashed Pakistan pacer Waqar Younis for 22 runs in his final over to take India to a sizable total of 287. His devastating knock of 45 came off just 25 balls and included four fours and two sixes. Opener Navjot Singh Sidhu, though, was man of the match for his brilliant 93. Pakistan again faltered in the chase after a menacing opening stand between Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar. Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble took 3 wickets each to seal India's second consecutive World Cup victory over its arch-rivals.
World Cup 2003, India beat Pakistan by 6 wickets
The legend that is Sachin Tendulkar was written in the 90s but his divine status came in the 2003 World Cup clash when he took down the deadly Pakistan pace trio of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar to secure India a place in the Super Six. Pakistan scored 273 courtesy a fine century from Saeed Anwar. Then, the world's best batsman went to work taking apart one of the greatest pace attacks falling agonisingly two runs short of a deserved century. The ever dependable Rahul Dravid aided by the dynamic Yuvraj Singh helped India breeze through the chase with six wickets and 26 balls to spare.
Champions Trophy 2004, Pakistan beat India by 4 wickets
Most India-Pakistan games in ICC ODI tournaments follow a similar script. India bat first and Pakistan flounder in the chase failing to soak up big-match pressure. There are of course those isolated instances where they went off script: Champions Trophy 2004 when they won a last over thriller and Champions Trophy 2009 when they batted first and successfully defended a target of 302. In their 2004 Champions Trophy clash, India were reduced to 5 for 73 before Rahul Dravid and Ajit Agarkar helped them to a respectable total of 200. Pakistan seemed like they would mess up another golden opportunity, losing wickets at frequent intervals, but an excellent unbeaten 81 from Mohammad Yousuf and a slog fest from Shahid Afridi helped secure a rare triumph.
World Cup 2011, India beat Pakistan by 29 runs
India were two games away from achieving World Cup glory at home. After a blistering start from Virender Sehwag, the Indian middle order stumbled but the cricketing Gods wanted Sachin Tendulkar to lift the trophy in what was his final World Cup. He was dropped four times and survived two very close LBW decisions. India posted a total of 260 and then, Pakistan did what Pakistan do. They lost wickets at regular intervals and seemed flustered throughout the chase eventually losing by 29 runs putting India one game away from ultimate ODI glory.
With Indian minister of sports Vijay Goel ruling out the possibility of a potential India-Pakistan bilateral series in the near future, let's all hope the most awaited, underplayed and consequential game this Champions Trophy lives up to its hype this Sunday.
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Babar Azam, who was also appointed Test captain this week, is also likely to be given a long run by the board.
When not on national duty, Younis will work at the High Performance Centre at Karachi, where he'll be joined by another Pakistan legend Mohammed Yousuf.
South Africa, New Zealand, England and West Indies are scheduled to visit Pakistan in what will be a very busy 2021 for the PCB.