Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.
As an aspiring Grammar-Nazi of Oxford English, the above sentence offends me. The verb is used to indicate the noun. It is really distressing. Ignoring this syntax error, with a gargantuan effort no doubt, it is common to see Americans regularly use the above maxim to describe great championship winning sides. The NFL, for example, has seen 17 teams score 500 or more points during the regular season but only 4 of those 17 teams won the Super Bowl at the end of the season. 

The aphorism can be modified for cricket: "Batting sells tickets. Bowling wins matches." Batting is glamorous and batsmen are, unfairly, glorified. If someone mentions stylish player, it immediately conjures images of a Gundappa Viswanath square cut or a Mark Waugh flick off his hips. It rarely brings up Michael Holding's smooth run up or Bishen Singh Bedi's measured gait. All great teams in test history barring perhaps the teams of Don Bradman were built on powerful bowling. It's not that their batting was weak but the differentiating factor was, without a doubt, the bowling.

India have produced 15 batsmen since 01 Jan 1978 (slightly more than 40 years) who have scored at least 3000 test runs at an average greater than 40. It is 2nd only to Australia's 18 batsmen who meet the above criteria. Yet, Australia have won nearly 100 more tests (213) than India (119). Their win/loss ratio (1.775) is also nearly 50% better than India (1.19). Why is there such a disparity? It is because Australia have produced no less than nineteen (19) bowlers who have taken at least 75 test wickets at an average of less than 30. India have produced just 4. Pakistan have 10 batsmen and 10 bowlers who meet said benchmarks. Their win/loss ratio in these 40 odd years is almost identical to India's: 119/99 to 119/100. Pakistan have played about 45 fewer tests than India in this period. 

This seems to indicate that India have overachieved with their substandard bowling for 4 decades and Pakistan have underachieved with bowlers like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mohammad Asif, Shoaib Akhtar etc. That is a discussion for another day though. The stats seem to confirm the general stereotype that India produce great batsmen and Pakistan great bowlers. For the best of the last 4 decades, Pakistan have had superior teams to India in tests and ODIs. This is evident in the results, particularly in ODIs. India have won 54, lost 73 and 9 matches were either abandoned or rained off. 

If you were an Indian cricket fan in the 90s, you would know that it is impossible for India to beat Pakistan on a Friday. With regular territorial tensions between the two nations, it was nearly impossible to play in either India or Pakistan. Most matches, therefore, took place in Sharjah, UAE. Being UAE, finals would invariably be played on a Friday. Don't know if it was the proximity to Mecca or the generally holy day for Muslims, India could never beat them on Friday. Even though India had quality Muslim cricketers like Azharuddin or Zaheer Khan, the Friday prayers never did the trick for them. I suppose Allah is a democrat and Pakistan, having the greater number of believers in their side, won the prayer battle with a brute majority.

29 times India and Pakistan squared off on a Friday. Pakistan won a whopping 23 times to India's 5. One match was abandoned. It was to be the 3rd ODI of a 3-match series but Indira Gandhi was assassinated on the day of the 2nd ODI and the rest of the tour, with a 3rd test to be played, was called off. On the rest of the week, India's record is won 48, lost 50 and 8 no results. That is a great record against a side that was invariably the worthier one. This is the story of those 5 matches in which India managed to pull the wool over Pakistan on Mission Impossible day: Friday.

This was the 5th IND-PAK ODI played on a Friday. Pakistan had won the lot. This was a 40 overs per innings series. The match was delayed by 45 minutes for some reason. The number of overs were reduced to 33 per side. Kapil removed Mohsin Khan in the 1st over. Mudassar Nazar & Zaheer Abbas added 69 for the 2nd wicket after which Ravi Shastri caught Mudassar of his own bowling. That Karachi Street fighter joined Asian Bradman and went hammer and tongs on the hapless Indian bowling, both scoring 100s in 79 & 73 balls respectively. Kapil ended up conceding 73 runs in his 7 overs and Amarnath 50 in his 5. The final score was 252/3 in 33 overs. The last 6 overs produced 77 runs.

India began their reply brightly. Mad Max Srikkanth scored 39 off 29 with 3 4s and 3 6s. Big biffer Sandeep Patil came in at number 3 and added 115 runs with Gavaskar before he fell for a run a ball 51. Kapil was promoted up the order to give the innings some impetus but he fell for 8. Gavaskar was soon out for a 76 ball 69. India were 193/4 in 27 overs when play was called off for bad light. 59 runs were needed in 36 balls. Imran Khan had 2 overs left in his quota. Even though Yashpal & Shastri were capable of some pyrotechnics, this was beyond them. There was no Duckworth/Lewis method back then. A very simple yet crude method was used to decide the winner: Pakistan's score after 27 overs. They were on 175/2. India were declared winners by 18 runs. If Duckworth/Lewis was retrospectively applied: the par score was 185/4 after 27 overs. Ergo, India would have won by 8 runs! All's well that ends well.

Friday Score: India 1, Pakistan 4

The inaugural Asia Cup and the 1st ever tournament in what would become the first ground to host 100 ODIs in the future: Sharjah. There were just the 3 teams: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan only for the 2nd time in their history. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 96 and India aced the chase by not losing a wicket. Beat Pakistan and India would be the champions of the first Asia Cup. Pakistan were without Miandad & Imran Khan and India were sans Kapil. There are no Wisden reports of this match so this is just going by the scorecard.

India won the toss and batted. Surinder Khanna's 2nd 50 in as many matches and a 50 ball 43 by Sandeep Patil propped up India's score to 188 in 46 overs. Chetan Sharma & Manoj Prabhakar must have bowled great opening spells because they ended up conceding just 35 runs in 14 overs collectively. Pakistan kept losing regular wickets, four of them to either great fielder or suicidal running or both. Binny & Shastri shared the remaining 6 wickets equally between them. India were always under control and ended up by winning 54 runs with 6.2 overs remaining.

Friday Score: India 2, Pakistan 5

One of the most famous Indian victories of all time: Test, ODI, or T20. India were high on confidence having won the World Championship of Cricket just 12 days earlier. They had twice beaten Pakistan without really getting out of 3rd gear in Australia. Pakistan won the toss and fielded. Imran Khan removed the man of the series in Australia, Audi Car winner: Ravi Shastri off the 1st ball of the innings. He took the 1st 5 wickets to fall and India had just 34 runs on the board. Azhar & Kapil made a recovery of sorts and added 46 runs for the 6th wicket. Wickets kept falling regularly. Azhar was the 9th man out for 47. India were shot out for 125 in 42.4 overs. Imran Khan picked up 6/14 in his 10 overs. 

Since India were bowled out early and it was Friday, there was a long lunch break to include the afternoon prayers, most of the Indian team had a long nap. Just before they went out to bowl, Kapil apparently said, "Let's make it difficult for them". India, so brilliant in the field in Australia, got the early breakthrough with a direct hit by Jimmy Amarnath. Mudassar went at a run a ball for 18 when Gavaskar, standing at one and a half slip, acrobatically caught him, one-handed, millimetres above the ground. Shastri soon had captain Miandad edging to a 2nd nimble one-handed inches off the ground Gavaskar catch for a 15 ball duck. 

Leggie Sivaramakrishnan beguiled Ashraf Ali with a ball that turned and bounced. Shastri caught him at silly point. Four balls later it was Imran's turned to be bamboozled in Sharjah just like Miandad had been in Melbourne and Viswanath whipped the bails off in a flash. Salim Malik & Rameez Raja resisted but Shastri had Malik nicking to Gavaskar again. Kapil polished off the tail as Pakistan lost their last 4 wickets for 2 runs and India were victors by 38 runs. An incredible defense of just 125 runs by a team whose confidence was sky high!

Friday Score: India 3, Pakistan 6, 1 abandoned

Pakistan eked out wins by 3 wickets & 2 wickets in the 1st 2 ODIs. The 2nd ODI was played after the 2nd test but the 3rd ODI had to wait till the 5-test series ended. Pakistan won the toss and elected to field in a match reduced to 44 overs. India lost Gavaskar early to Akram and Srikkanth to injury. Raman Lamba's 41 managed to prop up the innings but when he was dismissed, India were reeling at 95/4. Shastri & Kapil added a quick-fire 112 runs for the 5th wicket to give India a fighting total of 212/6. Shastri remained unconquered on 69 of just 74 balls. Kapil's 59 came in just 52 balls. 

Salim Malik, whose sensational 36 ball 72 stole the Eden Gardens ODI right from under India's nose, continued his good form and played the sheet anchor role. A quadruple of 20s from Rameez, Younis Ahmed, Miandad & Mansoor Elahi pushed the Pakistani total to 187 when Salim was dismissed by Gopal Sharma. Imran fell 10 runs later. Akram biffed a six and fell for a run out with just 4 runs needed for victory. Kapil bowled the last over. With one ball left, Pakistan needed 2 runs to win. A tie would have given Pakistan victory. By the rules of the day, the tiebreaker was the score at 25 overs. Pakistan were ahead of India at that point. Qadir apparently ran for an impossible 2nd run and was run out. The scores were level but India had placed just 3 fielders inside the 30 yard circle and there had to be a minimum of 4. This meant that umpires should have called a no-ball but they failed to notice the infringement and India had their solitary "victory" in 5 Tests & 6 ODIs.

Friday Score: India 4, Pakistan 7, 1 abandoned

The 90s were upon us. Gavaskar had retired and Sanjay Manjrekar was the new Gavaskar. Azharuddin was the skipper but the name on everyone's lips was some 18 year old whose name rhymed with Schmendulkar. India won the toss and batted. Shastri ate up 63 balls for his 22 and Sidhu was no better consuming 66 balls for his 38. India were 93/2 after both openers were dismissed. Skipper Azhar gave some much needed thrust to the innings with a 36 ball 32 with just the 1 four. His dismissal brought said 18 years young Sachin Tendulkar to the crease. Tendulkar took the attack to the Pakistani bowlers. His 40 ball assault, including 14 runs in the last over bowled by Waqar, was his 3rd ODI 50 and India had a strong total to defend: 238/4.

Pakistan lost Sajid Ali early but Rameez & Miandad added 76 runs for the 2nd wicket. Kapil swooped in from mid-off and ran out Rameez. Salim Malik added a further 40 runs with Miandad before he was trapped in front by Shastri. Even though Rameez & Miandad had meandered in their long partnership, Pakistan had a fairly long batting to make up for lost time but Salim Malik's dismissal sent them into panic mode. Prabhakar's inswinger castled the Pakistani skipper. Raju's arm ball had Miandad out in a debatable leg before decision. Ijaz Ahmed, Akram, Waqar, Aaqib Javed all managed a smattering of runs but India kept things fully under control getting wickets at regular intervals. Prabhakar's fourth wicket of the innings wrapped things up as India hammered Pakistan by 60 runs.

Friday Score: India 5, Pakistan 11, 1 abandoned

On a personal note, match V was yours truly's first ever match, at least the one I can remember, live on TV. What a start to one's cricket viewing career. A win against the hated enemy on "their" day. This remains India's last win against Pakistan on a Friday. India are currently on a 27 year and a 12 match losing streak on Friday. They say there are no such thing as sports curses until there is one. India are cursed when facing Pakistan on a Friday. If Bangladesh fail to beat Pakistan today in the Asia Cup, India will play the eternal rivals on a Friday for the first time in more than 13 years! I have no faith, even with this Pakistan team that can't catch a cold currently, that India can beat them on Friday. As a long suffering 90s Indian cricket fan, you will never convince me. I am too scarred and too scared.


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