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April 2, 2004
Where were you when it happened? Younger readers of Cricinfo will not even have been born. Javed Miandad may be having a tough time with this Indian tour, but there were several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he should have been acclaimed as the world's greatest batsman. No less an authority than Sir Vivian Richards did just that by nominating Miandad as the man he would choose to bat for his life.
On April 18, 1986 - a hot day in Sharjah - Miandad batted out of his skin to win Pakistan the Austral-Asia Cup. It was a match that Pakistan was losing right until Miandad smashed a full toss from Chetan Sharma out of the ground from the last ball. Pakistan won by one wicket. In that instant two competing emotions took hold. Pakistan realised that they could become a team of achievers; India developed a neurosis, worrying that if they could not beat Pakistan after such domination, when could they beat them?
Since that time many players, commentators, and fans have wondered about the effect of that one strike on the psyche of the two nations. Did it give Pakistan an unimaginable boost? Did India suffer a crushing, morale-sapping blow? If so, how long did this effect linger?
When the British Medical Journal decided to publish a special edition on South Asia, I thought it would be wrong to ignore cricket, a subject so close to the hearts and minds of the region. But something new had to be done, beyond simply recording win:loss ratios and percentages. My mind leapt to Miandad's six and the unanswered question: what effect did it have on the subsequent performance of the two teams? Might advanced statistical analysis answer the question?
I recruited Khalid Khan, an obstetrician but also an expert in statistics and researcher methodologies. Together we analysed the results of all matches between India and Pakistan. To our surprise we found a dramatic effect of Miandad's six -- an effect that is unlikely to be explained by chance. Pakistan was much more successful after Miandad's six and this effect was most apparent in one-day matches. Variables such as the toss, the venue, and the team batting first did not alter this finding.
We analysed all matches up to the end of 2003, although the inclusion of the recent results would not affect the study, simply because Pakistan won so many matches in the years after Miandad's six. It may take many years for India to completely cancel out its effect -- though Sourav Ganguly's team has made a good start.
Has India had a magic moment of its own? I suspect it might have. Sachin Tendulkar's six off Shoaib Akhtar in last year's World Cup may prove to be the shot that restored the Indian psyche. But we will have to wait a few years before we can perform a similar analysis.
Kamran Abbasi is deputy editor of the British Medical Journal. Click here to read the full BMJ research paper: India versus Pakistan and the power of a six
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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