How one shot set the tone for an era and made a mark on the imagination of a country's players and fans
Pakistan won by one wicket
It was during the tournament following the one where Javed Miandad's last-ball six had reverberated around the (cricketing) world. I was in the lift at the Sharjah Intercontinental with Sunil Gavaskar. The lift door opened and we were joined by Miandad. The player of that final was catching up with the player of the Austral-Asia Cup.
Without missing a beat, and with a twinkle in his eye, Gavaskar asked Miandad, "So how many millions have you already made on that six?" For months, the Pakistani batter had been receiving gifts and tokens and rewards. It was probably the most personally profitable stroke in the history of the game (at least in the post-WG Grace era).
It might be impossible to put a figure to Miandad's windfall, but the impact of that six on the two countries was profound. India, World Cup holders then, lost 40 of their next 62 ODIs against Pakistan, winning only 19. It was another decade before they won two matches in a row against them. Pakistan travelled in the opposite direction, culminating in their World Cup triumph in 1992. They lost only one Test series till 1993, and won 20 of 36 bilateral ODI series till April 1999.
The power of a six - emotional, psychological, monetary - has never been better demonstrated in cricket.
In his history of Pakistan cricket, Osman Samiuddin put it evocatively:
"That one shot was like a mince grinder in reverse. Into that burst went every strand of the transformation Pakistan had undergone over the preceding decade and half; the emergence of a superstar core, the spread of the game, the growing power of the player, the administrative vision of Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Nur Khan, the birth of departmental cricket, the rise of TV, more money. On the other side came out one solid lump of a golden age, the most golden age, in fact, Pakistan has ever had."
Fans always find a reason for such results that have nothing to do with the brilliance of an individual or the superiority of the opposition in general. "Pakistan cannot be beaten on a Friday" gradually became the accepted wisdom in India.
It might seem unfair to reduce a match played by 22 players into a single ball and a single stroke. But the game had been too one-sided till then to be an exciting contest
"Even when we remember that today, we can't sleep," Kapil Dev, India's captain in that game, recalled in a television interview with Wasim Akram years later. "That defeat crushed the whole side's confidence for the next four years."
And it wasn't just the cricketers. Cricket writers seemed to be deeply affected too. My boss kept insisting that Chetan Sharma, who bowled the last over, should have pitched the ball near his foot and sent it rolling towards Miandad (underarm bowling had been banned by then). Given Miandad's form that day, he might have struck a boundary off that too - Pakistan needed four off the last ball.
That last over had everything - runs, wickets, dismissals, misses, and then that match-sealer. But it wasn't a consistently exciting match. India dominated from the start, and were ahead for 99 of the 100 overs. The result had been a foregone conclusion till that final over. And then it turned.
Speaking to a television channel, Ramiz Raja, who played in that game, put it succinctly. "I think the game began at 9am," he said. "From five past nine till five minutes before the end, India were winning." And then it turned.
The last over began with Pakistan 235 for 7, needing 11 to win. Miandad's open stance and bottom-hand grip meant that his go-to shot was always going to be the heave towards leg.
He heaves the first ball to long-on, where Kapil picks up and throws; Akram, the non-striker, is run-out as he charges back for the second run. The second ball is dispatched to the long-on boundary. The third is brilliantly stopped by Roger Binny at short fine leg for the price of a single ("That bit of fielding could have saved the match for India," says the commentator). Wicketkeeper Zulqarnain is clean-bowled next ball. Off the fifth, Tauseef Ahmed dashes for a single and could have been run-out, but India's best fielder, Mohammad Azharuddin, messes it up. And then it turned.
Pakistan needed 31 in three overs, then 18 in two. In the 1980s, any time the asking rate went above six ("more runs needed than balls remaining" was the prevailing cliché), the odds were with the fielding side.
Miandad, with Mohsin Khan and Zaheer Abbas (behind the camera) in Brisbane, 1981
Alan Gilbert Purcell / © Fairfax Media/Getty Images
Miandad, with Mohsin Khan and Zaheer Abbas (behind the camera) in Brisbane, 1981 Alan Gilbert Purcell / © Fairfax Media/Getty Images
Thirty-seven years ago, the best bowler usually bowled the final over. But the captain, Kapil, who might have bowled it, calculated that if they didn't give away runs in the 49th, there would be too many to make in the 50th. It wasn't a bad plan - today's captains use the same tactic.
And that's how 20-year-old Chetan Sharma was handed the ball. That wasn't a bad plan either. Chetan had already claimed three wickets; only Ravi Shastri among the others had an over remaining.
"I was the junior-most, and was not expecting Kapil Dev to call me to bowl," Chetan said later. "I began my run-up thinking I would bowl a short-pitched delivery. Then I stopped and went back. As I approached, I changed my mind and decided to bowl a yorker…" Changing your mind mid-flight can work sometimes - the great Bhagwath Chandrasekhar has a couple of interesting stories when it worked for him - but it can land you in trouble too.
That yorker never landed. Miandad remembered telling his partner Tauseef that he expected Chetan to bowl a yorker and stood a little ahead of the crease. The full toss came to him comfortably, thigh-high. And the heave to leg presented the match ball to the crowd beyond deep midwicket.
When India lose to Pakistan, fans tend to focus their anger and frustration on a single player. Four years earlier, when India's hockey team lost 1-7 to Pakistan in the final of the Asian Games, goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi was the anointed one. "Everywhere I went, I was abused by the public," Negi said, admitting later that the public anger had caused him even to contemplate suicide. Chetan said he went through "one of the worst times a cricketer can go through".
He redeemed himself a couple of months later in India's 2-0 Test series win in England, taking 16 wickets at 18.75 and finishing as the most successful bowler on either side despite missing the second Test through injury. He took ten in the third Test, which was drawn. A year later he claimed the first hat-trick in a World Cup. More recently, he served as the chairman of the national selection committee. Yet, as so often happens in sport, the names of the victor and the vanquished from a single match are linked together forever.
It might seem unfair to reduce a game played by 22 players to a single ball and a single stroke. But the game had been too one-sided till then to be an exciting contest. India's openers Sunil Gavaskar (92 in 134 balls) and Kris Srikkanth (75 in 80) put on 117, and then Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar added 99. Imran Khan and Akram claimed five wickets between them.
The second-highest score in Pakistan's reply was Mohsin Khan's 36. Miandad had been, in the manner he was famous for, quietly and efficiently making runs mainly with singles and twos before that final over.
Miandad, whose 116 in 114 balls (three fours, three sixes) changed the texture of India-Pakistan cricket for some years, remained a pillar of batting, with Test centuries in the West Indies, England, Australia and New Zealand, including a double at The Oval, and played a key role in Pakistan's 1992 World Cup win.
By the time he came to Bangalore for his sixth World Cup, at 39, he was a shadow of the player he had been for two decades. When Ian Chappell in the commentary box said that Miandad was playing straight to the fielders and struggling as he never would have at his prime, Gavaskar pointed out he hadn't played in two years (he had announced his retirement in 1994). Gavaskar knew what Miandad was capable of. So did the rest of India.
It wasn't until he was run-out for 38 (it took him 64 balls) that all of India heaved a collective sigh, and knew they had won that quarter-final. I did something then I had never done before in a press box. I stood up and applauded into the pavilion one of the great batters of our time.
Suresh Menon is contributing editor, the Hindu
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