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World Cup flashbacks: When India and Pakistan sent joint team to play in Sri Lanka in 1996

Arjuna Ranatunga

Bengaluru, May 14: When the ICC Cricket World Cup returned to the sub-continent in 1996, the region also had become one of the most disturbed ones in the world.

The menace of terrorism was making its presence felt in what the non-Asians had often termed as the final frontier in cricket.

The country that became the focus of the menace was not Pakistan but Sri Lanka, a country which was still in the middle of a bloody civil war. A powerful bomb blast ripped through the city of Colombo, killing several and injuring many more.

The tragedy took place just days before the World Cup was scheduled to begin and two former champions - West Indies and Australia - refused to go to Sri Lanka to play the hosts.

For the organisers, it was virtually impossible to shift the matches as the West Indians and Australians demanded because there was too little time.

There were even calls to the International Cricket Council from the organisers to take the United Nations into confidence and put pressure on the two boycotting countries. But the two nations were adamant over not playing in Sri Lanka owing to security concerns.

All three teams were in Group A of the tournament. Two other teams - Zimbabwe and Kenya - though said that they would play the Lankans on their soil.

Finding no other way to console the Sri Lanka fans who would miss witnessing some of the top performers of world cricket in the first-ever World Cup the country was hosting, and also to send a powerful message that the cricketing world is not frightened by the cowardly act, the organisers decided to field a joint India and Pakistan team to play the Sri Lankans to make up for the loss.

The presence of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar and Anil Kumble in the same side had a magical appeal and the audience at the R Premdasa Stadium in Colombo where the match was played was enthralled.

Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin was the captain of the side named Wills' India and Pakistan XI and it was the first-time ever that players from the arch-rivals came together in one playing XI.

Pakistan's Intikhab Alam was named the team's manager and he hoped that the cricketing ties between the two nations would also resume after that historic tie.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who eventually ended up winning the first World Cup for his country that year, thanked both India and Pakistan for the gesture.

Kaluwaitharana c Tendulkar b Akram

Played on February 13, the match was a 40-over affair and won easily by the joint XI. Sri Lanka could manage 168 for nine in their allotted overs with Kumble picking 4 for 12.

Asanka Gurusinha top scored for Sri Lanka with 34 and there was no Aravinda de Silva in the game. The scoreline of Romesh Kaluwitharana caught Tendulkar bowled Wasim Akram remains a dream for the cricket-lovers of the sub-continent.

For the joint side, Tendulkar top scored with 36 and Azharuddin hit 32 as they won the game in the 35th over with four wickets to spare. Muttiah Muralitharan and Upul Chandana took two wickets each. Kumble was named the man of the match.

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Story first published: Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 16:43 [IST]
Other articles published on May 14, 2019
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