Rashid Latif, the Pakistan wicket-keeper who figured in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final match against India at Bangalore feels Ajay Jadeja’s knock was the finest © Getty Images
Rashid Latif, the Pakistan wicket-keeper who figured in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final match against India at Bangalore feels Ajay Jadeja’s knock was the finest © Getty Images

 

By Suhrid Barua

 

Rashid Latif, the Pakistan wicket-keeper who figured in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final match against India at Bangalore, revives memories of that high-voltage encounter in a chat with Suhrid Barua of Cricketcountry.com

 

There’s invariably a heightened adrenaline flow among players and fans alike whenever arch-rivals IndiaPakistan face-off in a cricket field. So much is at stake – players are expected to reserve their best for such encounters. They are aware the failure may trigger a public backlash. The sight of flag-waving, whistle-blowing, drum-beating, slogan-shout fans with their faces painted in their national colours is something we have got used to over the years.

 

The 1996 World Cup India-Pakistan quarter-final match at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium was one such game which India won amid much drama.

 

Fifteen years down the line, Latif relives the high-voltage contest. The ‘keeper was witness to a blinder from Ajay Jadeja which proved decisive. The 42-year-old Latif, who appeared in 37 Tests and 166 One-Day Internationals, talks about that knock and much more in an exclusive interview with CricketCountry.com

 

Excerpts from an interview:

 

Q: Firstly, tell us what memories flash through your mind when you think of the 1996 India-Pakistan World Cup game at Bangalore?

 

A: Well, I can never forget that game. It was the last international match of the great Javed Miandad. The atmosphere at Bangalore (now Bengaluru) was electrifying with the crowd very vocal in rooting for their team. And how can I forget the explosive innings of Ajay Jadeja! I also vividly remember the television commentary by Imran Khan.

 

Q: Yes, Ajay Jadeja played a stupendous knock at the death, scoring a 25-ball 45 at a juncture when the Indian innings was struggling to get a serious push-on. What are your thoughts on that innings?

 

A: It was a majestic knock from Jadeja. In my book, its one of the best One-Day Internationals knock of all times. Having said that, I must also tell you that very few people know that Jadeja was out to the very first ball he faced from Waqar Younis. However, the umpire negated the lbw appeal. Since I was the wicketkeeper, I was in a perfect position to judge and had no doubts that he was plumb. But these things are part and parcel of the game.

 

Q: Navjot Singh Sidhu laid the early foundation of the Indian innings with a superb 93, forging a solid opening stand with Sachin Tendulkar and provided the launch pad for somebody like Jadeja to go after the Pakistan bowling in the final overs. What memories you have of that innings by Sidhu?

 

A: Sidhu really batted out of his skin to hold the Indian innings together. In fact, I had never seen Sidhu bat so aggressively against Pakistan before that encounter.

 

Q: Regular Pakistan captain Wasim Akram pulled out of that game citing an injury, leading to public outcry in Pakistan. When did you realize that Akram was not going to play? Was it on the day of the game or the day before and how serious was the injury?

 

A: Look, Wasim Akram was not fit for sure. And I knew it at least two days before the quarter-final match. Akram’s injury was very serious and all the talk about him crying out at the eleventh hour is mere speculation.

 

Q: You took a brilliant tumbling catch off the bowling of Waqar to dismiss Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin just when he was settling down nicely. What went through your mind then?

 

A: I am often asked about this catch. I feel happy that people still remember my effort. We needed a wicket at that time and I am happy to have played a role in it.

 

Q: The Bangalore match is infamously remembered for the verbal duel between batsman Aamir Sohail and bowler Venkatesh Prasad. Sohail has thumped Prasad to the off-side for a boundary and raised his bat towards the bowler as if to say, ‘Go fetch it’. Prasad cleaned him up the next ball and gave him a fitting send-off. What’s your take?

 

A: It was a routine incident which was blown out of proportion. I had a word with Aamir and he said that it was a ploy to pressure the bowler, something which it did not work out for him that day.

 

Q: You are currently the head coach of the Afghanistan cricket team. How do you visualize the future of Afghanistan cricket?

 

A: I have seen that the youths here are highly enthusiastic, even more than India and Pakistan. But because of the dearth of playing fields, they end up playing on the streets. Afghanistan won the silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games. If the authorities concerned have a decent infrastructure in place, build three-four stadiums along with academies, I’ve every reason to be optimistic about Afghanistan acquiring Test status in two year’s time. Afghanistan has risen phenomenally in the past two years from 80th position to the top-15 bracket.

 

(Suhrid Barua is a cricket buff who invariably gets pumped up before every India match)