Classic World Cup Moments

The Prasad-Sohail showdown

Venkatesh Prasad dismisses Aamer Sohail as emotions run high in the India v Pakistan World Cup 1996 quarter-final

The quarter-final between India and Pakistan in Bangalore was the showpiece game of the 1996 World Cup. There was controversy with Pakistan captain Wasim Akram pulling out at the last minute, there was the usual high-voltage tension that goes hand-in-hand with India-Pakistan encounters, there was quality batting from India led by Navjot Sidhu's fighting 93 and boosted by Ajay Jadeja's ballistic 25-ball 45, followed by a sensational riposte, with Pakistan openers Saeed Anwar and stand-in captain Aamer Sohail thumping 84 off the first 10 overs. The 35,000 spectators packed into Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium, who had gone wild during India's innings, were almost in a state of shock, silently praying for a breakthrough.
Anwar fell with the score on 84 but Sohail continued to shred the bowlers. He brought up his fifty at more than a run a ball and celebrated with a sizzling slash off Venkatesh Prasad, who was booed in certain stands despite being a Bangalore boy. Once the ball had raced away to the extra-cover fence, Sohail aggressively pointed the bat at Prasad, as if to say, "Go fetch that." Sohail tried to repeat the slash off the next ball, despite it being on off stump, and this time he was comprehensively bowled. A charged-up Prasad gave him a send-off ("Go home you f*****g bastard") and the quiet tension suddenly gave way to an eruption as the crowd realised the tide had turned.
It was undoubtedly the point where the game turned, with Sohail paying the price for not controlling his aggression. "Pakistan stand-in captain Aamir Sohail won his battle against the interfering ways of former captain Javed Miandad, who he banished to the outfield," wrote R Mohan in the 1996 Indian Cricket annual, "but he did not win the battle against his own temper, which he lost when he was right on top of the bowling and was hitting the seamers where he wished. It was a moment of the match when Prasad bowled him. Or was Sohail bowled by his own hot temper?"
Pakistan lost the crucial wickets of Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq in the next few overs and veterans like Saleem Malik and Javed Miandad were not up to matching a climbing asking rate. India went on to complete a win and all those out on the streets of Bangalore witnessed a joyous victory parade. The reactions in Pakistan were vitriolic: one fan reportedly shot his television and then himself, while Akram, who didn't play after rupturing his side muscles, was burned in effigy. Sohail was vilified for his moment of indiscretion and the game also heralded the end of Miandad's career, one that had spanned three decades. India went on to meet Sri Lanka in the semi-final in Kolkata but were outsmarted in yet another charged encounter, one that was disrupted by crowd violence and awarded to the eventual champions.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a writer and editor based in Seattle, USA. He is the author of the novel What's Wrong with You, Karthik?