Of fire and friendship: A brief history of the India vs Pakistan cricket rivalry | Cricket

October 16, 1952 is a fairly uneventful day, one in which nothing noteworthy in the history of the world happened except when seen from the context of cricket, and indeed, sports. For this was Day 1 of the first-ever Test match between India and Pakistan, and thus the day a fixture that would go on to be recognised as one of the most famous and intense sports rivalries in the world, let alone in cricket, was born.

Matches between India and Pakistan tend to be the biggest in any tournament by some distance(Getty Images)
Matches between India and Pakistan tend to be the biggest in any tournament by some distance(Getty Images)

Just as importantly, this was also the day that started Pakistan’s journey as a Test-playing nation, which meant that all of their players were making technically making their Test debuts for Pakistan. There were a number of them, though, who had played Test cricket in the past as part of the Indian team and thus shared a dressing room with many of the players who they were now playing against, including captain Abdul Kardar. The venue was the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi, then called the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium. Both sides were filled with names who would go down as pioneering legends in their respective countries and beyond. India were led by Lala Amarnath and featured players like Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare, Vijay Manjrekar and Polly Umrigar, most of whom have trophies named after them today. Pakistan featured Kardar, Hanif Mohammed and Amir Elahi. India won that match by an innings and 70 runs but Pakistan answered with an innings victory of their own in the second. It is said that the crowd in Lucknow turned hostile on the Indians and peppered the team bus with stones. Captain Amarnath himself ended up wading through the crowd with a lathi to rescue his players. Amarnath himself would later accuse Hazare, Mankad and Hemu Adhikari, all of whom did not play in that match, of conspiring against him by opting out. India made amends in the third Test at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, winning by 10 wickets but both sides were harrowed by the pressures involved in the contest, leading to them deploying defensive tactics in the last two matches. Both ended in draws and India won the series 2-1. The intensity of the rivalry and the sheer unwillingness to accept defeat was thus on full display in the very first cricket series between the two nations.

Over the course of the matches played between the two nations in the 20th century, accusations were abound of umpires favouring the home team and of other nefarious tactics deployed by the hosts. At the same time though, the sheer quality of the matches and of the performances led to players from the two teams starting to get adulation from both sides of the border. This was testified by the classic Indian ads featuring then-Pakistan captain, and one of the greatest all-rounders of all time, Imran Khan, some of which were with India batting great Sunil Gavaskar. Off the field, it was the political manoeuvring of the Indian and Pakistani cricket boards that led to the World Cup being shifted out of England for the first time in 1987, a move also marks a historic shift in the power balance within the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The frequency of bilateral series between the two sides were always affected by the volatile relationships between the two countries. In the decade between 1998 and 2008, the two sides faced each other in 14 Test matches. That phase pretty much ended with the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. While Pakistan toured India for a three-match ODI and two-match T20I series in 2012/13, that remains the last bilateral competition between the two teams. Since then, though, the two sides have met each other on a number of occasions in ICC tournaments and in the Asia Cup. Regardless of how the match turned out to be, they invariably became the biggest match of those tournaments by some distance – the ICC had said that a unique broadcast audience of 706 million viewers was recorded for the entirety of the 2019 World Cup, 273 million of which came from the India-Pakistan match alone. The two sides will now face each other in an ODI for the first time since that match on Saturday in the 2023 Asia Cup.

Head-to-head records

In ODI cricket, which is the format in which the two teams are set to face on Saturday, Pakistan have historically led the head-to-head records, although India were dominant in the last decade. In the 14 matches that the two sides played between 2010 and 2020, India won 10. The two sides have faced each other 136 times in ODIs with Pakistan winning 73 and India winning 55. In 17 bilateral ODI series that were played until 2013, Pakistan won 11 while India won just five.

In T20I matches, India are the runaway leaders. They have won nine out of 12 matches, which includes the game which India had won via a bowl-out in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007. Of the 58 Test matches that two teams have played against each other, a whopping 38 have been drawn. Pakistan won 11 while India won nine. The series head-to-head is tied at 4-4 between the two sides while seven were drawn.

The highest run scorer in ODIs between the two teams is Sachin Tendulkar with 2526 runs in 67 innings. Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq is the top scorer for them with 2403 runs in 64 innings. Wasim Akram with 60 wickets is the most successful bowler in the rivalry in ODI matches while Anil Kumble leads the tally for India with 54. In Test cricket, Javed Miandad (2228 runs) is the highest scorer overall while Sunil Gavaskar (2089) made the most runs for India. Kapil Dev (29) is the highest wicket taker while Imran Khan (23) is the most successful bowler for Pakistan.

In T20Is, Virat Kohli is the highest run scorer by a fair distance with 488 runs while Mohammad Rizwan is Pakistan’s highest scorer with 197. The record for most wickets in T20 matches between the two teams is jointly held at 11 between India’s Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pakistan’s Umar Gul.

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