The World T20 stage is set: It's time for India and Pakistan to reignite World Cup rivalry at Eden Gardens

India has never lost to Pakistan in the World Cup. Pakistan have a 4-0 record against India in limited over games at the Eden Gardens. When they meet on Saturday, history will be made one way or the other.

Pakistan's impeccable record against India at the Eden gardens was achieved mostly because of the batting heroics of Salim Malik (1987), Imran Khan (1989), Salman Butt (2004) and Nasir Jamshed (2013). But, most of these games were inconsequential, played as they were as part of a bilateral series, except the 1989 Nehru Centenary Cup match.

But, the greatest India-Pakistan game is the one that was never played between the two sides at the Eden Gardens: the final of the 1987 World Cup.

When the Reliance World Cup, co-hosted by the two neighbours, began, it was assumed that India and Pakistan were destined to meet in the finals at the Eden Gardens. The others games, fans in both the countries assumed, were just a formality, a rite of passage.

The build-up was perfect.

The World T20 stage is set: Its time for India and Pakistan to reignite World Cup rivalry at Eden Gardens

The heat is on once again. Reuters

For a very long time till the mid 80s, India-Pakistan cricket suffered from the Shakoor Rana syndrome.

During the 70s and 80s, every time India toured Pakistan, fans at home feared the hosts would play with 13 players: 11 cricketers, two umpires, the deadly duo of Rana and Khizer Hayat.

When the two famous umpires walked out together with the 11 Pakistanis, the only advice most fans could give the batsmen was to keep the pads away from the ball. It didn't matter where the ball pitched, the running joke was that once it struck the pads, Pakistani players would ask Rana-Hayat, "Allah kidhar hai?" and they would point their finger upwards, sending the batsman to pavilion.

Pakistanis had similar doubts over the neutrality of Indian umpires. Later, when umpires became neutral, the two sides became evenly matched, triggering a rivalry that reached its pinnacle in 1987.

Right through the 80s, the two sides fought some memorable battles on the cricket field.

On 31 October 1984, during a one-day game at Sialkot between India and Pakistan, Indian radio stations suddenly stopped the live commentary.

While Dilip Vengsarkar and Sandeep Patil were battering the Pakistani bowlers, news of the attack on Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi started trickling in. The game was immediately suspended and the series called off.

A year later, in 1985, India beat Pakistan twice—once during the league phase, next time in the final—of the Benson and Hedges World Series. (In one of these games, L Sivaramakrishnan got Javed Miandad stumped off a leg-cutter labeled as the greatest ever bowled by an Indian).

In 1986, Pakistan and Miandad gave India a return wound that would take ages to heal. When Miandad struck Chetan Sharma for a six off the last ball of the Australasia Cup, many Indian fans slipped into depressions for months.

By the time the 1987 World Cup came, both sides were eager for badla: India for the last-ball six, Pakistan for the twin defeats in Australia.

India were the defending champions. Its batting line-up had legends like Sunil Gavaskar, K Srikkanth, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohd Azharuddin, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri and the emerging star of that tournament -- Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Pakistan boasted of greats like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Javed Miandad, Abdul Qadir and Saleem Malik. So, through the league games, the mood in Pakistan was of arrogant overconfidence. Every time the Pakistani team took the field, the women in the stadium would start singing RD Barman's famous song from Rocky, 'Aa Dekhe Zara, Kis me Kitna Hai Dum.' Their stars obliged them by topping their group.

On 4 November, when Pakistan met Australia in the semi-final at Lahore, Steve Waugh carted Salim Jaffer for 18 runs in the last over of the innings. Later, Billy the Kid McDermott ran through the Pakistan innings, and the co-hosts lost by 18 runs--the toll from Jaffer's last over.

Indian fans, who rejoiced Pakistan's defeat, convinced that the Cup was theirs, were silenced a day later when Graham Gooch swept the Indian spinners out of the park, destroying India in the semi-final in Bombay.

India and Pakistan were both denied their tryst with destiny at the Eden Gardens.

Now, it beckons.

The 2016 game, in many ways, is similar to the 1987 final that was never played.

Back then, Pakistan wanted to give a grand farewell to its star captain Imran Khan, who had announced his retirement after the World Cup. (He returned for the 1991-92 event, though).

Indians, on the other hand, were seeing the last of their batting great, Sunil Gavaskar, who, like Imran, had also decided to quit the game.

Both went home disappointed, booed by spectators after the unexpected loss. For Gavaskar, who was bowled by Phil DeFreitas after hitting a four, it was a forgettable end to a memorable career.

This year, both Shahid Afridi and Mahendra Singh Dhoni would be hoping to go out in a blaze of glory.

Over to Eden Gardens then.

As the Pakistanis sang in 1987, Aa Dekhen Zara, Kisme Kitna Hai Dam!

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Updated Date: Mar 19, 2016 11:58:12 IST

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