Happy birthday, Venkatesh Prasad: Throwback to when the Bengaluru seamer produced magic in the 1996 World Cup
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but at times it tastes better on shattered timbre. No one would actually vouch for the latter part of the maxim than former Indian fast-bowler, Venkatesh Prasad. As we celebrate his 53rd birthday today, let’s rekindle a memory that would be etched in golden letters in the antiquity of the Indo-Pakistan rivalry at the Cricket World Cup.
It was the 1996 Cricket World Cup and India was up against Pakistan in the quarter-final. Navjot Singh Sidhu spearheaded the Indian charge with a finely crafted 93 that was well-supported by crucial cameos from the others with Ajay Jadeja being the second-highest run scorer in the Indian camp with a valuable 45.
Chasing 288, Pakistan was off to a flyer, thanks to a brilliant opening stand between Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail, Pakistan’s captain in the 1996 World Cup. The duo stitched together 84 before another Bangalore fast bowler, Javagal Srinath drew first blood for India. A second partnership started taking flight between Ijaz Ahmed and Aamer Sohail that compelled Team India to retreat.
It was the 15th over of the innings and Team India had their woes piling up with Ijaz Ahmed and Aamer Sohail putting up a stinging display. Ijaz cracked Prasad for a boundary on the opening ball of the over. As there was a change of ends, Aamer who had already savored a fair bit of luck by then would once again be fortunate enough to escape as Prasad bounced him and the cherry went flying past the southpaw.
It seemed that the Pakistan batter was not willing to sit back and be silenced with those nasty bumpers as the latter cooked up a solid response off the following delivery, walking down the track and whipping Prasad for a cracker, as the cherry flew down to the ropes faster than a bullet and the fielder at deep point stood transfixed, barely moving an inch.
Well, if it was just a normal boundary it wouldn’t have been this hyped up. Sadly, it wasn’t and Sohail wanted to thump his chest which came in the form of a bullish sledge against Prasad, showing a finger to the ropes, uttering a few inaudible words that spawned hellfire in the Indian quick, the effect of which will consume Pakistan in the very near offing to arrive.
The towering Indian medium-fast bowler would hare in with fire in his eyes. He unleashed what seemed like a curling fireball, destined exactly to that one spot, they call the fast bowler’s paradise. It was pitched outside the line of the off-stump and had a menacing death wobble adorning it.
As Aamer once again walked down the track, the ball had already embarked upon the trajectory of death for the marauding Pakistani southpaw, and even before he could complete his fierce swing, the cherry had kissed timbre, sending it for a walk at least by a mile. The storming Sohail who had just committed the irreparable mistake of irking an ice-cool Prasad was headed on a long walk back to the pavilion, probably contemplating what could have been a heroic display, but in the end, had simply been blown to ashes.
It was payback for the Indian fast bowler, a gentleman who had never lost his cool, no matter the circumstances. It was cricketing beauty ingrained in the deepest of memories, in the boldest of letters in the Indo-Pakistan rivalry at the biggest stages of all. It was cricketing emotions unveiling at their magnificence. Add to that India’s thumping win that saw Pakistan crashing out of the tournament. It was one of those days that will be remembered in the history of the game; a day when a hometown lad from Bangalore had produced a moment of brilliance as India vanquished their arch-rivals and made it to the semi-finals on the grandest stage of them all.