15 years on: Rajesh Chauhan's last-over six remembered
In 1986, India had no answer to Javed Miandad’s last-ball six off Chetan Sharma, which clinched the Australasia Cup for Pakistan in Sharjah. But in terms of Indo-Pak cricket history, Rajesh Chauhan’s six in the last over to help India win the second game of the 1997 Wills Challenge Cup in Karachi probably comes closest to Miandad’s feat.
Tomorrow will be exactly 15 years for that game which was marred by several-stone pelting incidents that forced then India captain Sachin Tendulkar to take his team off the field after the fourth incident in the 48th over.
As a result, India had to surpass Pakistan’s score of 265 in 47 overs. India were touring Pakistan for the first time in eight years — after Tendulkar’s debut series in 1989-90.
Though the tourists lost the first game in Hyderabad, their confidence was high because they came in from Toronto where they had comprehensively beaten Rameez Raja’s team to win the Sahara Cup.
In a documentary shown on BBC, Shahid Afridi remembers telling Debasis Mohanty in response to the India seamer’s glares in Toronto, “son, remember you have to visit Pakistan soon.” Afridi didn’t spare the whip and smashed 72 off 56 balls before being caught by Abey Kuruvilla on the boundary off Nilesh Kulkarni.
The Mumbai left-arm spinner had a good game just like the previous one in Hyderabad where he claimed three wickets of the five Pakistani wickets to fall albeit for a lost cause. “I was happy because unlike Toronto where the ball swung a lot, these wickets suited me. Yes, I got two wickets in the Karachi game, but what I cherish more is the win. These are memories that stay with you forever,” said Kulkarni, who also got rid of the dangerous Ijaz Ahmed.
There was also a hostile crowd to cope with and the Indian fieldsmen on the boundary were at the receiving end of some stones. It is believed match referee Ranjan Madugalle told Tendulkar that he would be justified in walking off if there was another incident. After a stone was aimed at Ganguly, the captain led his team off.
Moin Khan in the documentary said Tendulkar didn’t make the right decision, but then, his players were subjected to some rough, physical treatment.
On the 1989-90 tour, the Karachi ODI had to be abandoned after crowd reacted aggressively to Javed Miandad being adjudged leg before wicket to Manoj Prabhakar.
Meanwhile, Kulkarni was “not frightened,” but “concerned.”
The prolific opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly gave India a 71-run start, before Ganguly (89) and Vinod Kambli (53) put on 98.
Ganguly’s dismissal was followed by three quick wickets (Kambli, Azharuddin and Jadeja) before Robin Singh and Saba Karim put on 62 for the sixth wicket.
Waqar Younis conceded only two runs in the penultimate over and India had to score eight to win off the final over bowled by Saqlain with four wickets in hand. The ball had to be changed and that probably was a turning point. Obviously, Saqlain didn’t relish the challenge of bowling with a semi-new ball.
Chauhan says in the documentary: “I just wanted to somehow connect bat to ball. It wouldn’t have mattered if I got out as long as we got one run (to get Robin Singh on strike).” Chauhan stepped out to Saqlain and made his delivery look like a full toss by clubbing it over the ropes on the on-side for six.
“I knew the ball would travel by the way it came off the bat,” added Chauhan. Robin Singh, who played splendidly for his 31, hit the winning runs.
Kulkarni was a relieved man. After all, he was all padded up, ready to walk out at the fall of another wicket.