India vs Pakistan, ‘nagin dance’, Ashes : A look at cricket’s top rivalries

A bloody partition, a mock obituary, cross-border tensions and a serpentine dance – cricket has a history of bitter rivalries.

Cricket fans
India and Pakistan's rivalry traces its roots to the 1947 partition of India into two countries [File: Ajit Solanki/AP Photo]

Some of the most thrilling encounters in sport have been between nations or athletes with historic rivalries that add an extra layer of anticipation and drama.

In cricket, these rivalries range from sour relations stemming from decades-old conflicts to colonial history and some newly-formed bitterness.

The ICC T20 World Cup will highlight some of these top rivalries as in the tournament’s group stage and, perhaps, the Super Eights.

Here is a look at some of the most thrilling match-ups in the history of the game:

India vs Pakistan

The clash that has been the biggest, quickest-selling and most anticipated match of every multilateral cricket tournament.

The rivalry originated in 1947 when India was partitioned into two countries following British colonial rule. Pakistan and India have since fought three wars, and diplomatic ties between both countries have mostly remained bitter.

On the cricket field, the head-to-head record favours Pakistan in Test matches (12-9) and one-day internationals (73-56) while India have the upper hand in T20 matches (8-3).

When it comes to World Cup history, the scale is heavily tilted in India’s favour. Pakistan have never beaten India in the ICC ODI World Cup in their eight meetings and have only won once in their seven encounters in the T20 World Cup.

Their last clash, at the Cricket World Cup on October 14, went India’s way again as romped to a seven-wicket win at biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.

The South Asian rivals will meet at New York’s newly-built Nassau County Stadium on Saturday, June 9 in front of a sell-out crowd of at least 34,000.


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India’s Virat Kohli shakes hands with Pakistan’s Shadab Khan following the T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan in Melbourne, Australia on October 23, 2022 [File: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP Photo]

Australia vs England

The oldest rivalry in the game – dating back to the 1800s – originated when a British newspaper famously wrote a condescending and racist article on Australia’s cricket team.

It was set in stone when, in 1882, British tabloid The Sporting Times published a mock obituary of English cricket following their Test team’s defeat to their trans-continental rivals, saying “the body [of English cricket] will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”.

The bitterness originated from Test cricket and comes to the fore during the Ashes Test series, but has carried on to all sporting encounters between both countries.

In Cricket World Cup history, both teams have met on nine occasions. Australia have won six of those matches and England three.

England’s first T20 World Cup title also came at Australia’s expense, when they won the 2010 final in the West Indies. Their second one was won in Australia, when they beat Pakistan to lift the title.

The T20 Cup 2024 edition of Australia vs England is set for June 8 at Barbados.

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England’s captain Eoin Morgan, left, celebrates with teammate Joe Root after winning the Cricket World Cup semifinal match against Australia on July 11, 2019 [File: Rui Vieira/AP Photo]

Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka

It started with a dance, specifically the “nagin dance”, in 2018.

Bangladesh bowler Nazmul Islam had been doing the nagin (cobra in Hindi) dance to celebrate his wickets for some time, so when his side beat Sri Lanka in the T20 series in January 2018, he pulled it out again for all four of his wickets.

Sri Lanka’s Danushka Gunathilaka did not take kindly to the serpentine celebration and did his own version to mock Islam when he dismissed two of Bangladesh’s batters.

A few months later, the celebration gained traction during the triangular Nidahas trophy, which also included India. When Bangladesh recorded their second win against hosts Sri Lanka, their entire team broke out into an overzealous “nagin dance” celebration on the pitch.

The night ended with shattered glass in the visiting team’s dressing room and nothing has changed since.

Every time both teams meet, there is no shortage of provocative placards in the stands and venomous celebrations on the field.

In ODI cricket, Sri Lanka have won 42 of their 53 ODI meetings between both countries, while Bangladesh have won nine. They also hold the upper hand in the ODI World Cup, four wins in five matches.

Sri Lanka have beaten Bangladesh twice in their T20 World Cup meetings, but the Bengal Tigers tamed the Lankan Lions with a two-wicket win in a thrilling match at the 2024 edition in Dallas.

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Bangladesh’s team members perform the ‘nagin dance’ as they celebrate their team’s victory over Sri Lanka in the Nidahas triangular series on March 16, 2018 [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]

Afghanistan vs Pakistan

Afghanistan and Pakistan have been involved in a complicated geopolitical and cultural relationship for several decades and share a porous border that is often subject to violence and abrupt closures.

The political tensions have translated into a fierce on-field rivalry, especially over the past few years as Afghanistan have swiftly built a reputation as world beaters.

Several members of the early Afghan cricket team, including former captains Gulbadin Naib and Mohammed Nabi, picked up the sport while living in Pakistan as refugees during the decades of war and turmoil in their home country.

Pakistan’s National Cricket Academy in Lahore hosted the players for training sessions. Some of the earliest coaches of the Afghan team also came from Pakistan.

However, the historical tension between the countries has often come to the fore when the teams have met in recent years. Although Pakistan hold a 7-1 lead over their neighbours in ODI cricket and a 4-2 lead in T20 internationals, some recent matches have seen last-ball finishes that have gone Pakistan’s way.

Fast bowler Naseem Shah has been a consistent thorn in the Afghan side by twice taking Pakistan home when a loss seemed certain.

This mix of history and last-ball finishes has ended up igniting a fire in both sets of fans. Things got particularly ugly when Afghan fans vandalised the stadium and threw chairs at their Pakistani counterparts after losing a thrilling match in the 2022 Asia Cup. This came after tempers flared on the pitch when Pakistani batter Asif Ali angrily waved his bat at Afghan bowler Fareed Ahmad.

The Afghans famously beat Pakistan at the ODI World Cup in India in November, sparking wild celebrations on the field and back home in Afghanistan.

Both sides could meet in the Super Eight stage of the T20 World Cup, should they manage to qualify.

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Afghanistan’s Fareed Ahmad, left, and Pakistan’s Asif Ali, right, react after Ali was dismissed by Ahmad during an Asia Cup match in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on September 7, 2022 [File: Anjum Naveed/AP Photo]

Australia vs India

While these two of the sport’s “big three” have been playing against each other since the 1940s, the contest picked up traction in the 1980s and became a full-on rivalry in the 2000s.

Most of the heated exchanges and thrilling encounters have taken place in Test cricket’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy, especially since the famous Eden Gardens Test match in 2001 that saw India come back from a follow-on to win the match by two wickets.

A heated exchange between Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds led to the famous “monkeygate” scandal, which saw Singh get banned and then unbanned during the series.

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India’s Yuvraj Singh celebrates as Australia’s Brett Lee walks by after India won their Cricket World Cup 2011 quarterfinal match in Ahmedabad on March 24, 2011 [File: Reuters]

In the Cricket World Cup, both teams have met in the knock-out stages of the tournament in recent years.

In 2011, India famously beat Australia by five wickets in a closely-contested quarterfinal to win the World Cup at home.

Australia returned the favour four years later when they eased to a 95-run win in Sydney and went on to lift their World Cup fifth title.Both teams opened their 2023 campaign against each other in a thrilling tie on Sunday in Chennai, which India won by six wickets after a rocky start to their run chase.

The overall ODI record of 150 matches still favours Australia, with 83 wins compared with India’s 50. The five-time champions have also won in eight of their 13 meetings in the Cricket World Cup and India have won five.

In T20Is, India have won 19 of their 31 meetings and Australia have won 11.

The two sides could meet in the Super Eights of the T20 World Cup 2024, should they qualify.

Source: Al Jazeera