Welcome to the series where we present you a moment, a game in history that has shaped the way the sport has been played, in our weekly segment ‘Throwback Thursday.' This week, we recap the historic Austral-Asia Cup final in April 1986, when the Javed Miandad six changed the Indo-Pak rivalry.
It is April 18, 1986 - another hot day in Sharjah - but the stands are packed to the rafters and its executive boxes have been packed with celebrities and rich expats from both sides of Indian-Pakistan border. A real tense moment in the game, with the entire Indian team discussing near the pitch to decide who would bowl the last over. It is finally decided that Chetan Sharma, whose extra pace and swing are very much talk of the town now, will deliver the over. Something big is in store, on strike is Javed Miandad, who by now, has already become the most dreaded Pakistani face among Indian fans. The swing of fate had a tight ring. Fatal? We will soon know.
In Pakistan Cricket, Miandad is an anomaly. An anomaly so big that he dreaded his own teammates unapologetically for their Oxbridge Complex. But with a desi avatar, he had a swagger that would even put the inimitable Sir Viv Richards to shame. Richards dominated the bowlers, Miandad never cared for them. When there had been a hostile spell of pace bowling, Richards would show his class, but Miandad was least concerned and would rather go down the track to hit them for a six and tell them to their face, “You don’t deserve to be at the international level”. Dilip Doshi will tell you better.
Such was the demoralising effect of him on the opposition bowlers that you could almost sense that from his walk, his relaxedness, and his run-scoring temperament. In simple words, Miandad is the constant element of typical Pakistani Jazba. So uncomplicated, so desi, so beautiful for its own liking. It was batting with gay abandon and the purpose of a lion.
When the two teams met in the desert, it created a sense of provocation that was forever a part of history. Ahead of that fateful date in April in 1986, Pakistan had never really won any tournament of significance. Even though they had a better ODI record against India, the implications of not winning anything in a big tournament had its say in the fabric. It seemed like their best chance when India and Pakistan met in the final of a five-team tournament that also featured Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Will the fortunes change?
In front of a capacity Friday crowd, both sides scored at nearly five an over - mind you, it was a huge deal if a team scores anything more than 4.5 RPO then - with K Srikkanth, Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar scoring half-centuries. Abdul Qadir, Manzoor Elahi, Mudassar Nazar, and Tauseef Ahmed all rendered helpless, with only Imran Khan and Wasim Akram having some sort of figures to their name. It was the carnage that only pointed to the inevitable. And the way Nazar, Mohsin Khan, and Rameez Raja failed in the run-chase, the belief only grew stronger. The Indian fans were in jubilation, the normally-deafening Pakistani crowd had gone silent.
But there was still that one man, who John Wright once described as batting as though "sitting on a sofa in his front room”. The man could do literally anything and when the hope of the entire nation was on his shoulders, he tended to rise to the occasion. He was the last man standing but it seemed like no one else wanted that to happen. Wickets fell like ninepins, the likes of Saleem Malik, Abdul Qadir and Imran Khan all walked back one by one with another Indian win looking all but inevitable. But Miandad kept on unleashing one shot after another, held one end up, defied Madan Lal and Chetan Sharma and even scored a run a ball century.
It all came down to 11 runs off the last over when India skipper Kapil Dev was left in limbo on who he would give the last over to. Lal, Maninder Singh and Dev himself had already bowled his quota of overs, with Sharma and Ravi Shastri being the only two available options. After much deliberation, Dev handed the ball to Sharma, whose wild swing had already seen troubling Pakistani top and middle order. When Tauseef Ahmed walked in as the last batsman in, Miandad, in his typical tone, heard, 'Whatever happens, we have to run. Hit or miss ... just run.'
It was an over that had everything India-Pakistan matches are all about. Miandad was swinging wildly at every delivery while Mohammad Azharuddin missed a simple run-out. On the penultimate delivery of the game, Roger Binny pulled off a superb stop down at short fine leg to save the game for the last delivery. Dev, Gavaskar, Lal, everyone was near Sharma as the game boiled down to four runs off the last ball. Tensions were palpable. Oh Gosh!!
But Miandad was calm as ever and looked up at the sky and prayed to Allah. Took his step down and stood outside of the crease for he had already anticipated a yorker off the last ball. So many things were at stake - from a Mercedes to $80,000 diamond-encrusted bracelet, and surely a promotion at Habib Bank. Everything was going on his mind as Indian wicket-keeper Chandrakant Pandit was eager enough to grab the ball.
Miandad was clam as ever and was looking around, counting fielders on the tip of his hand. Meanwhile, Sharma streamed in, ran like a wild tiger wanting to have his prey. And … Cricket changed for both the countries.