Clashes between India and Pakistan, be it in cricket, hockey, kabaddi, squash or any other game for that matter, are closely fought. Even the spectator interest is at its highest as compared to tussles between other countries. Tests or one-day internationals between the two Asian giants can be compared to the Ashes series between England and Australia. In fact, many people believe that the Ind-Pak rivalry is greater than the Ashes!
Javed Miandad - legendary cricketer and pich-doctor!
My first Ind-Pak encounter as umpire was an exhibition game played under floodlights at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Delhi in 1983-84. The stadium was packed to capacity with 70,000 spectators. Only 5000-odd seats just above the VIP enclosure had been left vacant for security reasons. It started as a 60-overs-a-side game, but the lights failed in the middle of the Pakistani innings and the subsequent interruption reduced it to a 50-overs-a-side affair. The 25-minute break witnessed some impromptu 'performances' by players of both teams, as they waited for the lights to come on. Jokes were cracked and players imitated their own teammates.
It was during this break that we overheard an argument of sorts between Pakistan's openers Mudassar Nazar and Mohsin Khan. Mohsin was having problems sighting the ball, and Mudassar was trying to convince him that there was nothing wrong with the lights and sightscreens. To this, Mohsin replied, "If you can see the ball, then you carry on batting, and I will just stay at the non-striker." There was laughter all around. That was probably the only time pleasantries were exchanged on the field. Once the lights came on, the tooth-and-nail battle was resumed. The players were taking the game dead seriously, never mind its 'unofficial' status. Such is the rivalry between the two teams. To the delight of the crowd, the match went down to the wire, and India snatched a memorable win in the final over with Kirti Azad playing an outstanding innings. Those who watched that game still remember it as Kirti Azad's match, for he had taken three wickets earlier in the day.
Pakistan next visited India in 1986-87. The tour opened with a one-dayer at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Cricket Club of India. It was an unofficial game, but once again, both sides went flat out to win. India won a tight game. Incidentally, one of the 'substitutes' who fielded for the Pakistan XI in that game was a 13 year-old who had been inducted into the CCI team at that young age - Sachin Tendulkar! I do not recall any interaction between players of both sides on the field when the game was in progress.
There was some on-field humour in the second Test of the same series at Kolkata. It was the fourth day. The pitch was lifeless and the crowd listless. The game was heading towards a draw, when, in an attempt to prove the Pakistani team's contention that the wicket did not have anything in it, Javed Miandad ran towards the pitch from the covers, put his ear to the ground and pretended to hear the 'heartbeats'. He then stood up and 'declared' that the pitch was 'dead'. Everybody present on the field, and the entire stadium burst out laughing.