With Yusuf breaking two important records – highest number of centuries and highest runs in a calendar year – one feels good. Not only for Yusuf, but also because the news from teh cricket field is good; and is about cricket!
Inspired by Yusuf’s feat and by Khalid R. Hasan naming his Pakistan Dream Teams, I thought I should throw into the mix this video of what might be the greatest – or at least one of the greatest – moments in Pakistan’s cricket history. Miandad hitting a sixer off the very last ball (from Cheetan Sharma) to clinch the final of the Sharjah Cup from India, on April 18, 1986.
I just came across this very interesting essay by author Kamila Shamsie in Prospect, where she writes about “one match against India made us think that we Pakistanis were capable of anything.” It makes for compelling reading.
But before I quote from the essay, here is some compelling viewing. A video clip of that fateful – some would say historic – last over (the quality is so-so and who-ever put that promo right over the running score scroll deserves banishment).
Do you remember where you were when…? When Pakistanis of my generation say this to each other there are several ways in which the sentence might end: when Zia was killed; Bhutto was hanged; democracy returned; Pakistan went nuclear; troops withdrew from Kargil; the military took over, again. But, more often than not, the sentence ends: when Miandad hit that six.
April 18th, 1986. Political tensions between the two countries had prevented either cricket board from hosting the other since India’s 1984 tour of Pakistan, which was cancelled midway after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. In the 1986 one-day tournament-the first Australasia Cup, held in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates-the two teams from the subcontinent, India and Pakistan, were not scheduled to face each other unless they met in the final. Which they did.
…Chetan Sharma was brought on to bowl the last over. Sharma’s figures leading into that over were a respectable 8-0-37-2, and he had no way of knowing that he was just one over away from the end of his career… Sharma bowled. A full toss. Miandad struck the ball. We heard the commentator, Iftikhar Ahmed, say, “He’s hit that!” and before the ball even cleared the boundary line, Miandad raised his hands skyward, yelled “Tauseef!” and started running down the pitch as the commentator, Mushtaq Mohammed, screeched: “IT’S A SIX!”
It was much more than a six. Prior to Sharjah, Pakistan had lost six of their nine one-day matches against India. After Sharjah, Pakistan was to win eight of the next nine matches between the two, including five on Indian soil. By the time the one-day world cup began in 1987, just a year and a half after “that six,” only the West Indies-with players such as Richards, Haynes and Walsh-were more favoured than Pakistan to win that ultimate one-day tournament.
But even these facts and figures don’t sum up the way that match at Sharjah changed the psyche of Pakistani cricket. After Sharjah, both the team and the fans came to believe that there was no such thing as a losing position. Victory was always possible, even if it required something as improbable as Saleem Malik scoring 72 runs off 36 balls in Eden Gardens, Calcutta, against the Indians (who, many said, lost that match because of the ghost of Sharjah), or bowlers and fielders coming together to take six English wickets for 15 runs, sending the English team crashing from a very comfortable 206 for 4 to 221 all out (World Cup 1987).
… The odd thing is, I didn’t actually start watching cricket until several months after that Sharjah match. The West Indies tour of Pakistan in 1986-87 marked my initiation into the love of the game-but like almost every other Pakistani I know, I will swear on everything I hold dear that I remember watching the match. My friend Humair insists that my memories of the game must arise from watching the endless replays. He remembers quite clearly that we had a literature exam the next day, and is sure that I must have been closeted away with The Merchant of Venice rather than wasting my time watching a cricket match to which I then had no real commitment. But the match was in April-and we didn’t have exams until May. Clearly I’m not the only person whose memory of 18th April is suspect.
Was this really the greatest moment in Pakistan cricket’s history? If not, then what was?