There is No Fate But What We Make: February 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What are the greatest comeback stories you've ever witnessed or heard about, and why?


World cup quarter final 1996. Played in Bangalore. Thanks to Siddhu and Ajay Jadeja, India posted a decent total, batting first. India's bowling had quite a few local Kannadiga boys (Venkatesh Prasad, Srinath, Kumble). Pakistan batsmen Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail played brilliantly and hit all over the stadium. It was a brilliant, elegant and fairly risk free assault. Not blind slogging. India must have feared it was losing grip on the match. The local boys were the ones who bore the brunt of that assault. Then Aamir's cockiness got the better of him and he showed with his body language what he thought of Venkatesh Prasad's bowling. Next ball, Aamir gets his off stump knocked off. It was an epic comeback by Venkatesh Prasad. Pakistan didn't quite recover from that knock and went on to lose the match.
While it was just a match, to me, it was a turning point in history. The mental shackle Pakistan cricketers had on India was broken. In the 1980s till mid 90s, India had lost most of the matches to Pakistan. That day in Bangalore, India turned the tables and since then there was no longer any mental baggage taking Pakistan on. Pakistan still produced better fast bowlers but India took them on fairly successfully. Of course, victories and defeats have both happened since then. But it was no more a big deal. The era that started with Miandad's last ball six off Chetan Sharma was ended by Venkatesh Prasad.
On a different plane, Pakistan's political fortune also had a parallel. By the late 80s, Pakistan started having an upper hand in Afghanistan. The mujahuddin started winning against Soviet backed forces. USSR collapsed. Najeeb was publicly executed. Pakistan's puppets were installed in the government in Afghanistan (Taliban and predecessors). After this victory, the same mujahuddin model was executed by Pakistan in Kashmir. Militancy started in 1989 and peaked in the early and mid 90s. Militants were able to strike at will at Indian forces in Kashmir. Bomb blasts were also triggered all over India. Pakistan's strategy was working. India was on the mat. But then things started turning around. Musharraf pushed too far and tried Kargil. India lost men but managed to recover lost grounds. Pakistan was recognized and censured as the aggressor nation. Then 9/11 happened. World's (especially west's) tolerance for non-state actors vanished. America turned against Taliban and Pakistan's assets were driven out of Afghanistan. The new Afghan regime of Karzai was not unfriendly to India. Over a period of time, the world came to realize Pakistan's duplicity of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. To the point of US now regularly drone screwing Pakistan, killing its assets. Pakistan can't do anything about it (except pocketing money that it gets as a client state).
In a surreal way, I find that come back by Venkatesh Prasad as the turning point and a great comeback since it not only turned things around in Cricket but also heralded a new era when India was no longer just a victim of Pakistani aggression.