The Kargil War was forgotten; at least for that night © Getty Images
The Kargil War was forgotten; at least for that night © Getty Images

The Kargil War was in full swing when India played Pakistan in the Super Sixes at Old Trafford on June 8, 1999. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the day when twenty-two men lived up to the “Cricket for Peace” slogan. India vs Pakistan Live Score

It was in Delhi this time, attending what I thought was a pointless course at Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), when India played Pakistan in World Cup 1999. This meant I could see the match in a hostel common-room. It was not a concept new to me: in my college years I had often sneaked out of classes to watch cricket at Eden Hindu Hostel. Stories on India vs Pakistan, Cricket World Cup clashes.

The television set was placed in a corner. There were chairs placed haphazardly, forming a massive unorganised semi-semicircle, spanning the rest of the room. There was a rug placed near the television. The rug was where I sat, with a few others, and as the match rolled on, we lay down on the rug, watching the match from a ridiculous angle, with our own arms acting as pillows. PREVIEW: India vs Pakistan ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Match at Adelaide

There was a lot of pre-match build-up, since the match coincided with the Kargil War (which invariably involved many a heated discussion at the dinner table). I clearly remember a sizeable population asking both teams to boycott the match. The cricketers, on the other hand, were on another plane. Wasim Akram, for example, had talked about the match being “a practice match before the real action.”

Sachin Tendulkar and Sadagoppan Ramesh had started off well; though both fell, followed by Ajay Jadeja. Rahul Dravid steadied ship the way he had done several times. Mohammad Azharuddin started gaining in confidence for the first time in the tournament, and both made fifties. A few big hits towards the end lifted the total to 227 for six. “Pakistan will win with ten overs to spare,” came a wisecrack comment from somewhere.

Javagal Srinath removed Shahid Afridi early, and though Saeed Anwar looked ominous, it seemed that one of the trio of Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, and Debasis Mohanty would break through. Mohanty was probably the most lethal of the trio with the new ball. Ramesh dropped Ijaz Ahmed off him at mid-wicket, but Srinath removed him immediately after.

The day they celebrated cricket at Old Trafford amidst the brutalities of war. icture Courtesy: Screen-grab from Tangible Emotions YouTube channel
The day they celebrated cricket at Old Trafford amidst the brutalities of war. icture Courtesy: Screen-grab from Tangible Emotions YouTube channel

Prasad got rid of Malik, but Anwar seemed unstoppable. We knew that if somehow Anwar was dislodged, India had it in them to run through the rest. The bowlers waited. The fielders waited. Azhar waited. So did we, with bated breath, drowning ourselves in relentless pessimism, yet secretly hoping that someone would break through. Things got so tight that the “Mess Convenor,” himself engrossed deeply in the match, allowed us to break rules and carry dinner to the common-room.

And then, the big moment came: Prasad made one jag away from Anwar, who edged to Azhar. The common room erupted, plastic chairs falling all over the place as everyone collided with each other in their collective euphoria. Anil Kumble bowled one of his lethal flippers to get rid of Azhar Mahmood, and at 78 for five it seemed a won battle for India.

Pakistan never really recovered, and though Inzamam-ul-Haq and Moin Khan put up a resistance of sorts, the three men from Karnataka shared all the wickets between them: Kumble two, Srinath three, and Prasad, the war-hero from 1996, finished with a career-best haul of five for 27.

Of course, we had to celebrate that night the way University students used to do in the late 1990s. We took a late night walk (in a group of twenty or so) to a shack, woke up the owner (who was called Tanku) and celebrated with coffee, priced at six rupees a mug. Not quite the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a celebration in June in Delhi, but that was the way it used to be in those days.

The Kargil War was forgotten; at least for that night.

Brief scores:

India 227 for 6 in 50 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 45, Rahul Dravid 61, Mohammad Azharuddin 59) beat Pakistan 180 in 45.3 overs (Inzamam-ul-Haq 41; Javagal Srinath 3 for 37, Venkatesh Prasad 5 for 27) by 47 runs.

Man of the Match: Venkatesh Prasad.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)