A toe-crushing in-swinging yorker shattered the timber of Javed Miandad and India go home safe in a close fought Australasia Cup final in Sharjah. This could only have been a dream. The reality was different, stark and mind-numbing.
That sledgehammer of a hit which soared over the boundary of that stadium in Sharjah is still fresh in every Indian and Pakistani’s minds. It runs like a slow motion in their heads at the mere mention of Javed Miandad, Chetan Sharma or Sharjah to that matter. Sharma must have not slept for months or maybe years together after being subject to the Miandad slam.
On that searing hot Friday in Sharjah, precisely on April 18, 1986 that one moment of madness brought the defending World Cup champions down on their knees for once and gave birth to the flamboyant and enigmatic brand of cricket which Pakistan went on to be known for, and also won a World Cup (1992) with it.
Since then that one thump has actually defined the psyche of the two nations. Pakistan got the much needed shot in their arm. India’s morale hit its lowest ebb. Numbers justified this. Before that unforgettable game on April 18, 1986, India and Pakistan had met each other 16 times in ODIs with eight games going in India’s favour and seven in Pakistan’s.
From the year 1986 to 31st December 1996, the two arch-rival neighbours met on 34 occasions of which the Pakistanis won 25 of them with India winning only eight and one ended in no result. Considering the variable factors like toss, pitch, venue, availability of key players would have made a difference everytime but then numbers suggested that Pakistan were on a major high, at least.
No wonder a certain infamous pundit had said, “Statistics are like mini-skirts, they reveal only as much they conceal”.
In the next ten years, i.e. from the start of January 1997 till end of December 2006, India’s deep wound started to heal to some extent. Some magical moments, like Rajesh Chauhan’s six of Saqlain Mushtaq in Karachi in November 1997 and Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s second last ball boundary off Saqlain Mushtaq chasing a then world record 315 in January 1998 at Dhaka gave some relief but it wasn’t revenge.
In that period, the two sides met 58 times of which Pakistan emerged victorious 32 times and India 24. Only in the last five years the pendulum started swinging in favour of India. India always had an upper hand over their cross border rivals in World Cup, which also worked as a balm to the deep cut.
Probably the damage was undone when Sachin Tendulkar furiously cut Shoaib Akhtar for a six in their 2003 World Cup clash and since then, the wound probably has healed but only in the minds of Indian fans and the current players. For Chetan Sharma, it’s never going to heal. Never.