India vs Pakistan: The first of 7 World Cup wins that triggered an unbeaten streak of 30-plus years
India defeated Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup by 43 runs which marked a shift in IND-PAK World Cup matches.
For 13 years between October 1978 and October 1991, India and Pakistan met 37 times in One-Day Internationals – bilateral series and multi-nation tournaments included. But it wasn’t until 4 March 1992 that the Asian neighbours faced off in the World Cup, at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.
Despite India’s twin defeats of Pakistan, including in the final, of the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985, it was the latter who enjoyed a healthy 24-11 advantage in the head-to-heads. When the teams locked horns at the SCG, India weren’t in the best space. They had already been in Australia for more than three months, surrendered the finals of the tri-series to the hosts 0-2 and were soundly beaten 4-0 in a five-Test series notable only for Sachin Tendulkar’s exceptional hundreds in Sydney and Perth.
Their morale was further dented after suffering narrow losses to England and Australia at the World Cup, their only point from their first three matches courtesy a washout against Sri Lanka. Pakistan had won one, lost another and miraculously survived a second defeat, their match against England abandoned after they had been shot out for 74 three days previously.
In the all-play-all round-robin format, every game held great significance, but this was not just any other match, no matter what the players might have said then or what they might say now. India vs Pakistan, in the World Cup for the first time, was an occasion to savour, but predictably, it came with the huge burden of expectations placed by followers of both teams.
A slow SCG surface gave the match a sub-continental feel after Mohammad Azharuddin opted to bat on winning the toss. This game would be about who held their nerve better, who made smarter decisions under pressure, who was more adept at staying in the present. Remarkably, the one man who managed all that was an 18-year-old, who showcased the poise and composure of a seasoned warrior.
In his first Test series in 1989, Tendulkar had showed his mettle when he tried to shoo the physio off after being struck in the face by Waqar Younis. Revealing the same grit and steely determination, he held India’s innings together with a measured, unbeaten 54. Then occupying a middle-order berth, he farmed the strike and kept his natural aggression in check, conscious that the conditions weren’t ideal for him to tick over into fourth gear.
Pakistan had an exceptional attack – Wasim Akram, Aaqib Javed, skipper Imran Khan and the wily Mushtaq Ahmed – but they held no fears for Tendulkar, correct in defence, authoritative when he hit the rare boundary and industrious as he made capital of the huge outfield by effortlessly running twos and threes. Even so, he needed support and that finally came from Kapil Dev. From 148 for five, the duo put on 60 and India eventually finished on 216 for seven in 49 overs – Pakistan didn’t complete their overs in time. It wasn’t an intimidating tally, but it wasn’t as meagre as it might have looked either.
Pakistan had a gun batting line-up with the street-smart Javed Miandad, the silken smooth Saleem Malik and the imperious Imran populating the middle-order, but India's bowlers were on point. Kapil and Manoj Prabhakar struck early blows, Javagal Srinath kept the pressure up and Tendulkar and left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju hardly gave anything away. Miandad and Aamer Sohail did add 88 for the third wicket but took nearly 150 deliveries in doing so before Tendulkar's medium-pace packed off Sohail.
As the bowlers maintained their stranglehold, Pakistan began to get desperate. A horrific mix-up between Miandad and Imran, resulting in the latter's run out, queered the pitch and the rest was routine business for Azhar's boys once Srinath produced a cracking delivery to knock over the unusually subdued Miandad.
India's margin of victory was 43 runs, humongous in a low-scoring contest; few knew at the time that it would be the start of an unchecked sequence of Indian wins over Pakistan in World Cups, currently standing at 7-0. For his half-century and an excellent spell of one for 37 from 10 overs, Tendulkar was named the Player of the Match. It wouldn’t be his last such award in Indo-Pak World Cup showdowns.
Brief scores: India 216/7 in 49 overs (Ajay Jadeja 46, Mohammad Azharuddin 32, Sachin Tendulkar 54 n.o., Kapil Dev 35; Aaqib Javed 2-28, Mushtaq Ahmed 3-59) beat Pakistan 173 all out in 48.1 overs (Aamer Sohail 62, Javed Miandad 40: Kapil Dev 2-30, Manoj Prabhakar 2-22, Javagal Srinath 2-37) by 43 runs.
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