The rivalry between India and Pakistan is one of the most intense sporting matchups in the world. When it comes to cricket, the excitement surrounding these clashes supersede any other event. And in both countries, whether it’s a weekday or weekend, all activities come to a standstill with dozens glued to their television sets either at home or on the streets.
Like most intense rivalries, matches between India and Pakistan – both in men’s and women’s cricket – are one of two extremes: incredibly close matches, or extremely one-sided encounters.
With little cricket – or any sport – taking place, Women’s CricZone decided to look back at India’s first-ever T20I against Pakistan in 2009 through the eyes of one of the protagonists.
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It was a memorable game for two players from Bengal. The duo of Priyanka Roy – who became the first bowler to take a five-for in a T20 World Cup – and Rumeli Dhar – who ripped through Pakistan’s top order – headlined India’s five-wicket win. For the record, India had played only three T20Is before that encounter whereas their opponents had featured in four.
Having suffered losses in their opening games, both teams were no doubt desperate to secure their first points in the tournament. While Pakistan came into the game on the back of a four-wicket defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka, India had suffered a humiliating 10-wicket thrashing against hosts England.
“It was a bad day,” Roy tells Women’s CricZone in a free-flowing chat. “A bad day can happen with any of the teams in such tournaments. T20 is a game of three hours, and the side that plays better in those 180 minutes wins.”
Ahead of the clash against Pakistan, Roy admits that India’s main aim was to find a way to “come back into the tournament.” Not only did they find a way back, but also made their way to the knockouts (where they eventually lost to New Zealand).
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On the morning of June 13, 2009, after winning the toss, Pakistan opted to bat first on what appeared to be a relatively flat deck in Taunton. Skipper Sana Mir’s decision completely backfired on Pakistan with their top three, Bismah Maroof, Sajjida Shah, and Syeda Nain Abidi, back in the hut with just 27 runs on the board. Seamer Dhar found a way to blast through their batting line-up with a spell of sensational swing bowling. Left-arm spinner Gouher Sultana was the next to join the party, first removing Urooj Mumtaz caught and bowled for five, before running out Asmavia Iqbal (10) - one of only three batters to reach double figures.
With Pakistan in dire straits at 42 for 5 in 10 overs, Roy came into the attack and completely turned the match on its head. The leg-spinner picked up all of Pakistan’s remaining wickets with her viciously spinning deliveries. Javeria Khan was Roy’s first victim, stumped by wicket-keeper Sulakshana Naik, before Armaan Khan fell two balls later. Roy repeated the same – taking two in an over – in her next when she had skipper Sana Mir and Qanita Jalil in the 16th over to leave Pakistan tottering at 55 for the loss of nine wickets.
Almas Akram tried to push the score up with a 19-ball 12, but returned a simple catch to Roy to end the innings at 75. Roy thus picked up her maiden five-wicket haul – her 5 for 16 only the second five-for in T20Is after New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite.
“No player steps onto the field thinking she will get five wickets on the day and it was same for me,” the 32-year-old reminisces. “When I got the fifth wicket, I realised that it has become a record. I was very happy to perform at that time, to contribute to my team’s victory, it was a great feeling altogether.”
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The Bengal duo of Roy and Dhar combined for eight of 10 Pakistan wickets that day. The former said their main target was to contain the runs – the old tactic of dot balls leading to wickets. “There was no planning between us as such. The only thing we discussed is that we will aim to bowl as many dot balls as possible, not to let the opposition batters open up.”
“We always knew that whenever a batter is struggling to score runs, she will throw her wicket away. There is a saying, ‘one throws a wicket more than one purchases it.’ So our whole plan was about trying to limit the runs and pressure them into going for the big shots.”
Chasing what appeared to be an easy 76-run target, India slumped to 16 for3 which soon became 36 for 4 when Roy was dismissed for seven. However, Anjum Chopra held firm in her unbeaten 52-ball 37, stroking five fours in the process as India reached their target in the 18th over.
Asked whether the team felt any extra pressure playing Pakistan, Roy brushed it off, saying, “There may have been something in the back of our minds because it’s was an India-Pakistan match after all,but our focus that time was to perform well, give our best and progress in the tournament, and fortunately, it happened.”
Roy, who took six wickets to emerge as India’s joint-highest wicket-taker in the competition, didn’t forget to give credit to fellow state-mate Jhulan Goswami saying that the Indian skipper was like a guardian to the entire team. “Jhulan di was very supportive all throughout. Even when we used to play for Bengal, she was there behind us, backing us all the time. She was like a guardian, leading from the front, so obviously all those things helped,” stated Roy.