I grew up in the 90s in a joint-family home. Both my chachas made sure I started watching sports at a very early age. The elder chacha would make me watch tennis matches while the younger one wanted me to embrace cricket. We had won the 1992 World Cup and the era of the #Mighty90s side was upon us. I didn’t have a choice so the elder chacha not only understood my decision to go with cricket but embraced it too.
The 1996 World Cup was going to take place in Pakistan and we made plans to go watch as many matches as possible. We also got a rotating dish installed at home to ensure we get the best possible coverage. I still remember my father gifting me Pakistan’s 1996 World Cup jersey - I don’t think I have ever been as excited about any gift before or since. I used to listen to “Jazba Junoon” all day and all night.
It was like a long festival that never became dull, not even after the group stage loss versus South Africa. In fact, I was happy that we finished second in the group because we got a chance to play India in the Quarter-final. Back then we used to beat India for fun. If I had been asked to hand pick Pakistan’s opponents in the QF, I would have gone for India.
So the Bangalore 1996 Quarter-final happened and Pakistan lost.
Pakistan lost to India.
Venkatesh Prasad celebrates after bowling Aamer Sohail, India v Pakistan, World Cup quarter-final, March 1996
I was shocked, I was in tears shouting, I was inconsolable. My younger chacha was in tears too, his tears followed by anger and shouting, as my elder chacha quietly walked out of the room. I started fighting with my younger chacha because he started blaming Wasim Akram and Inzimam Ul Haq for the defeat; I couldn’t handle it, these were my heroes, the invincibles. That day, I realized life isn’t always great, I realized everything ends. That defeat took away my childhood innocence.
Yesterday, 21 years and numerous heart-breaks later Pakistan took on India in the 2017 ICC Champions trophy final. In Bangalore a left-handed opener by the name of Amir Sohail threw away a great start when he gifted his wicket to an Indian pacer. Yesterday an Indian pacer gifted a Pakistani left-handed opening batsman a lifeline, and this time the left-handed opener ended up scoring a marvelous hundred. Back then a left-arm pacer from Pakistan missed the match due to a reported injury. Yesterday a left-arm pacer from Pakistan recovered from injury to completely blow away India’s top order. Back then, an Indian named Jadeja annihilated Pakistan’s bowlers; 21 years later another man by the name of Jadeja was annihilated by Pakistan’s batsmen.
Jasprit Bumrah's no-ball in the third over gave Fakhar Zaman an early life
This win took me back to the 90’s era matches between the two teams, when beating India used to be like a walk in the park. Pakistan used to pile on the runs and then Wasim Akram would destroy India’s top order in one spell. It was as easy as taking candies from a baby, to the point that Pakistan would stop putting any effort into the game after the initial burst, India would bat out their 50 overs and still lose by a country mile. Despite being far superior to India in that decade, Pakistan lost the most important game and 21 years later it feels like the exact opposite has happened. Before this match India had won 7 of the 10 matches between the two teams in this decade and they ended up losing the final.
“Despite being far superior to India in that decade, Pakistan lost the most important game and 21 years later it feels like the exact opposite has happened.”
Maybe I am trying too hard to make connections with that 96 QF, but that ghost has haunted me for too long. Neither the 2007 WT20 not the Mohali defeat in 2011 hurt as much - indeed, nothing for my generation will ever hurt as much as Bangalore but it is finally time to bury the ghost of our past. This match reminded me of so many glorious #Mighty90s memories and washed away the most painful one. Thank you Sarfaraz for finally releasing the demon of Bangalore from my head, thank you Amir for giving me a new memory, thank you Fakhar for playing the innings Aamir Sohail should have and thank you Pakistan cricket team for making me believe in miracles again. I feel liberated today and I am sure most Pakistan cricket supporters who sat through that 96 quarter-final feel the same way. This isn’t only Pakistan cricket’s redemption; this is our generation’s redemption. It’s over, we are finally free.