If there’s a single moment that wholly captures the intensity of the Indo-Pak rivalry, it has to be Venkatesh Prasad’s dismissal of Pakistan’s vice-captain Aamer Sohail in the 1996 World Cup.
Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin won the toss and decided to bat first at Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru- the ground that has always been a paradise for batsmen. An impressive knock from Navjot Singh Sidhu at the top and a destructive cameo from Ajaya Jadeja in the last few overs propelled Team India to a fighting total of 287.
Chasing 287 in 50 overs, Pakistan’s opener Sohail and Saeed Anwar looked flawless, exhibiting a stellar display of technique and temperament before the latter got dismissed by Javagal Srinath. The temperament and patience soon eluded Sohail, and the left-handed batsman got into a heated confrontation with Prasad.
Batting on 51 off 44, the southpaw danced down the track to Prasad’s slightly off the length ball and smashed an emphatic four towards sweeper cover. If this was not enough, Sohail showed needless aggression, looking at Prasad and directing his bat to the same region, and indicating the next bowl will travel the same way, towards sweeper cover for four.
However, what transpired was an absolute brain fade moment for Pakistan. Prasad bowled with a little extra nip which Sohail missed completely and saw his stumps rattled.
Recently, speaking on “The Greatest Rivalry podcast”, Waqar Younis recalled the exact moment and revealed how the dismissal of Sohail proved to be a turning point that made the game swung in India’s favour.
“To be very honest, we were shocked by the way he [Sohail] was behaving on the field. He was tonking the ball all over the park, why did he need to do that? I guess, the pressure got to him.”
“He batted superbly, he was looking really good and I think he scored 55 off not many deliveries (55 off 46). And Saeed Anwar also. We lost our first wicket when Pakistan were 85-odd (84) in the first ten overs. We were cruising, and then once we lost Saeed Anwar and then Aamir Sohail straightaway, it just went wrong,” remarked Younis on the podcast.
The legendary pacer further talked about how Pakistan’s middle-order failed to rise to the occasion, and the pressure of the game got better of Pakistani batsmen.
“Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed, they went into a shell,” he said. “And full credit should be given to Anil Kumble, when he came in and Prasad came in for his second spell, he sort of started nipping the ball a little bit. And Pakistan got so much pressure and once we lost Ijaz and Inzamam within an over or so, it became very very difficult.”