Sledging is common when it is India VS Pakistan. But, nothing can be as interesting as Venkatesh Prasad vs Aamir Sohail in 1996 world cup

What happens when fire meets fire? Carnage /Mayhem /chaos /loss. These are the verbs that instantly popped-up in my mind and probably also in the minds of some readers who pondered over this question. As someone born in India in the Sachin era, it is impossible to remain completely oblivious about the unofficial national game of India.

If my memory serves me right it was during the 1996 Wills World Cup, that I seriously started following cricket. Those were the days when I saw the fun loving West Indian team and developed an instant fondness for them. I must confess I thought they were a part of India, and hailed from the western region of the country.

sachin tendulkar young When Venkatesh Prasad Met Aamir Sohail in 1996 World Cup

As years passed by, my knowledge of geography improved, I learnt the reality of the Caribbean nation. It was during that tourney that I realized Sachin’s significance in the hearts of die-hard Indian cricket fans. Fans screaming ‘Sachin- Sachin’ in a rhythmic tune became India’s theme during that campaign; something similar to the ‘gangnam dance’ during the recently concluded T20 World Cup in the ‘emerald isle’ nation.

A certain match during that tournament got tattooed in my memory. That match surely finishes at the podium in my list of most thrilling limited overs encounters witnessed. Surely this wasn’t for the first time that these two cricketing super-houses had locked horns against each other after partition. The two teams were traditional rivals with a history of ever persisting conflicts and had even met at the battlefield twice in the year of 1965 and 1971 respectively.

This clearly shows India and Pakistan were never the best of friends on or off the field. Glimpses of their infamous rivalry were also pretty evident when they took to the field for a match of cricket. The 1996 Indo- Pak quarter-final in Bangalore was one such instance when the old rivalry got re-ignited. Those days losing to Pakistan was nothing less than committing a crime. To add fuel to fire the fickle Indian media wouldn’t think twice before ripping apart the image of a cricketer.

venkatesh prasad vs aamir sohail india pakistan 1996 When Venkatesh Prasad Met Aamir Sohail in 1996 World Cup

The hype surrounding the match was unbelievable and the excitement was palpable. The funny side of it is, I couldn’t figure out what all the ‘hullabaloo’ was all about. Pakistan captain Wasim Akram withdrew minutes before the game following an injury, but the teams still seemed evenly matched. A lot of speculations were made by the media, who termed Akram’s withdrawal as being a part of ‘The great conspiracy’.

Openers Navjot Sidhu and Sachin Tendulkar got India off to a steady start setting up the launching pad. They put on 90 runs, but in the middle over’s, the runs dried up. The Pakistani spinners managed to create a venomous web around the Indian batsmen who were unable to break the shackles. It was left to ODI specialist Ajay Jadeja to who played a spirited knock of 45 off just 25 balls. He took a keen liking to Waqar Younis, and smashed him left, right and centre.

This also ensured that the Indian’s made up for lost ground and they went on to post a challenging target of 287 for eight in 50 over’s. The target was more than a decent one. But considering the likes of Aamir, Anwar, Malik, Ramiz, Javed Miandad, Ijaz in the Pakistani ranks we knew for sure the game wasn’t done and dusted.

Anwar fell with the score on 84 but Sohail continued to shred the opening bowlers. He brought up his fifty at better than a run a ball and celebrated with a sizzling slash off Venkatesh Prasad, who was booed in certain stands despite being a local. Once the ball had raced away to the extra-cover fence, Sohail openly lampooned Prasad, pointing to the region with the bat as if to say, “Go, fetch that”. Sohail tried to repeat the slash off the next ball which was pitched on off stump, but on this occasion the result was different. The middle stump had gone for a walk.

A charged-up Prasad gave him a send-off (“Go home, you f****** bastard”) and the quiet tension suddenly gave way to an eruption, as the crowd realized that the tide had turned. It was then that I realized the emotions related with cricket, the beautiful old game. If one looks at Prasad, they will fail to discover the brash side of this bowler. Specially, if one hasn’t seen the lanky bowler in that epic match this Bangalorean will always seem as someone who has a calm approach, the ideal brand ambassador of the gentleman’s game.

How wrong would that be? This incident possibly was my biggest inspiration in falling in love with the sport. Sohail surely was vilified for his moment of madness, and the game also heralded the end of Miandad’s career.

It was undoubtedly the point where the game turned on its head, with Sohail paying the price for not controlling his aggression. Pakistan stand-in captain Aamir Sohail won his battle against the interfering ways of former captain Javed Miandad, who he banished to the outfield.

Disappointedly he failed to win the battle against his own temper, which he lost when he was right on top of the bowling and was hitting the paceman to different parts of the ground at will. It was a moment of the match when Prasad teased his temper.

The question still stands after 16-odd years on, “did Prasad knock him over or was Sohail bowled by his own hot temper?”

By: Ankit Banerjee

Image Source: Sachin, 1996 World Cup

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