World Cup Diary: Ushering in the mother of all matches and a festive season

After proving to be a slowstarter in it’s first week, today's match is just the kind of a game which can energise the 50-overs format

Virat Kohli and Babar Azam (photo: ICC)
Virat Kohli and Babar Azam (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The much-awaited October 14 is finally upon us. It’s time for, as Ravi Shastri summed it up in zest in an interview a few days back, the ‘mother-father-grandfather’ of all games in the ICC World Cup 2023. After proving to be a slowstarter in it’s first week, this is just the kind of a game which can energise the 50-overs format. 

For a Kolkata resident, it’s also Mahalaya – which ushers in the Debipaksha, or the fortnight which officially ushers in the Durga Puja festivities. It was only last year that the event was recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, but then, the stamp was a case of better late-than-never. 

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that it may not be the only India-Pakistan game in this World Cup. There is still a lot of cricket to be played in this tournament and if per chance, the two sub-continental giants again set up a meeting for the second semi-final on November 16, then it will be played in Kolkata. Howzzat? 

1992: How India’s 7-0 winning sequence began  

Well, it was at the round robin league game of the ’92 World Cup in Australia, where India won a low scoring game by 43 runs. 

Prior to that during a period between 1978 and ’91, Pakistan enjoyed a 24-11 record in the ODI contests between them in bi-lateral series, World Series Championship (WSC) or Sharjah.

In Sydney, a young Sachin Tendulkar anchored the Indian innings with an unbeaten 54 while Ajay Jadeja chipped in with 46 against a famous pace attack comprising of the two Ws and Aqib Javed. Pakistan, however, were all out for 173 in 48.1 overs – handing India a psychological advantage and inviting a long standing jinx. 

Kohli’s feat 

There have been a surfeit of Indian batting legends, including Sachin Tendulkar, who have featured in the World Cup contests since ’92, but Virat Kohli is the lone centurion for India in the history of the marquee clashes. He scored 107 off 126 balls at Adelaide in 2015, where India’s campaign ended against Australia in the semi-finals.  

A Kohli or Babar Azam debate often does the rounds in recent years, and it’s again going to be a major subplot in today’s contest. What is, however, noticeable is the amount of mutual respect among these two ace batters. A tweet from the Pakistan captain which went viral last year when Kohli was doing through patch was: ‘’This too shall pass.’’ Kohli, meanwhile, has already called him as the current best all-format batter. 

‘’When I met him in 2019 (World Cup in England), he was at his peak. He’s still at his peak. I wanted to take something from his game. I learnt a lot from him. He gave detailed answers to all my questions,’’ Babar revealed ahead of their India game at the Asia Cup last month. 

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