in deep existential crisis..

A Journal by Sara

Indo-Aus Cricket – Surpassing the traditional rivalries!

Somewhere down a decade, cricket in India was only meant as a proxy war with Pakistan, it was considered more than cricket, with patriotism and enmity overruling the sport. Also, the quality action of cricket complementing the rivalry, it went on to be the battle to win for both cricket crazy nations. On the other side, the rivalry between Australia and England was beaten ashes to ashes and dust to dust by the mighty Australian team and the contest lightened up to remain one another England drubbing with only year and place acting as variable parameter.

Pakistan, in turn had slowly started losing the venom they carried in plenty, and the contest started cooling down a little since the wake of the 21st century with their players even dropping in at the opposition’s camp on many occasion and appreciating each other’s brilliance, some unusual acts unlike earlier. Also, the sheer quantity of matches played between them added to the contest losing its significance. The cricketing world craved for a fresh rivalry after these 2 pairs of arch-rivals clashes stopped enthralling the cricket lovers across the globe.

Surprisingly, in the past decade or so, India grew up to be the only team to consistently challenge the invincible Aussie team. Though, India was ranked second for most part of the last year in the ICC Cricket Rankings, one can easily make out first and second is a distant reach in cricket, if Australia occupies the number one slot.

How did the Indians who were largely known in the 90’s as Tendulkar’s team, could able to consistently match up the best in the business for more than a dozen of year? Could the answer be ‘Yes, they were largely tendulkar’s team in the 90’s, but they did consistently raise their game when happened to face the best team’? Let’s find out.

India toured Australia in 1991/92 to play a 5 test series, with a modest batting line up under the captaincy of Azharuddin. Australia crushed India to death handing them 4-0 defeat but for India their little cheeky lad really didn’t do that bad with either his cause in Sydney crafting a masterful century or an unexpected century at Perth. It took another half a dozen years for two teams to play each other except for one –off test at Delhi in ’96 which India won convincingly.

The last time India lost a test series at home was when Nawab of Pataudi’s (Jr.) men were outplayed by Bill Lawry’s Australia. India could have salvaged a series draw then, if they had won chasing 250 odd runs in the final test at Madras. Following that series loss, India fought back in ’79-’80 to win the 6 test series 2-0 and drawing a 3 test series 0-0 in ’86-’87.

By the time, Mark Taylor’s men landed in India for ’97-’98 series, they were looking for that rare series win in India. They were brimming with confidence as especially they were taming every other team overseas. Perhaps, Australia thought it is time to rewrite the history extending their dominance in India too.

Hence, Australians were up in Indian soil to win a series that was last won 27 years ago. Tone was set right here for a great rivalry and Aussies had a reason to focus and charge themselves up breaking free from their otherwise routine tour of thrashing teams one too many times.

First test in Madras, India crushed Australia by 180 runs. Sachin belted Warne all round the park with his scintillating century to set Aussies firmly on the backseat. If Mark Taylor has to conquer the final frontier and march his team to a rare victory, he must win 2 back-to-back games. A rare occasion where the pressure was on Australia, with Sachin shining in form, Australia clashed with India in the second test. A make or break pressure game for Australia. The wind was heavier this time for Australia who was again at the receiving end with the humiliating loss of an innings and 219 runs. With Azharuddin striking the ball as elegant as ever and posting a memorable century, Australia was left demoralized. Yes, the gate was closed, and Taylor’s men lost the battle. Meanwhile, India toured Australia under the leadership of Tendulkar in ’99-’00 and for the first time earned a whitewash losing all the three tests, with Tendulkar promptly stepping down from captaincy. The lone consolation was the glimpse of VVS Laxman toiling Australian bowlers in Sydney.

In the following years, scenes changed dramatically for both team; Australia grew from stronger to strongest; while India marred by match fixing charges and also the change of leadership. Sourav Ganguly took charge and transformed it to the team to reckon. He nurtured a young team and inflicted aggression into it which until had a bunch of individuals lacking direction and vision.

Again in 2001, Steve Waugh’s men with 15 consecutive victories in the bag, landed in India still searching for that rare win to turn it into a twin delight. They were successful to an extent with handing a resounding defeat to India in the first test at Mumbai. Adam Gilchrist carted Indian bowlers to an aggressive century. The lone consolation however for India is their star batsman, Sachin showed some flashes of brilliance. The second test followed with immense pressure on India. History was recorded with VVS Laxman and Rahul Sharath Dravid sharing a 376 run partnership in the follow-on innings and in turn Australia falling nine pins in the final innings losing the match by 171 runs. Sachin shone with the ball removing in-form Gilly for a duck along with Hayden and Warne.

With pressure even on both sides, they clashed in the all important final test. Hayden scored a double century and Tendulkar crafted a century to hand a close win to India in a tense contest. Yes, the gate was sealed again and Australia lost the battle one more time. This time, the humiliation was their star batsman Ricky Ponting got tormented by Harbhajan Singh and scored as many ducks as he lost count of.

With the able and aggressive leadership of Ganguly, India went on to perform beyond measure in Australian soil for the first time in ’03-’04, setting up a classic contest in 4 test series. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman for India and Ricky Ponting, Mathew Hayden for Australia shared the honors and the series was leveled 1-1.

Again, it’s time for the final frontier, with Ponting and Tendulkar out due to injury; Adam Gilchrist took charge as Captain and led his team to the test series. Michael Clarke, the debutant, played one of the classic knocks in test cricket along with his captain to lead Australia to a resounding win in the First Test at Bangalore. The second test followed in Chennai, and Kumble ripped through the Australian line-up in the first innings. The match was evenly poised and the Aussies set 229 runs for India to win. A benign and dead pitch, India closed the fourth day with 20 for no loss with Sehwag in no mood to stop hitting the ball out of shape. They turned back on the final day with intent to level the series, much to their dismay only to find the rain wiping all the 3 sessions. A great opportunity, considering the conditions and the target, Mother Nature has denied India that easy win.

The pressure now was intense on India, both the teams traveled to Nagpur for their third test. To the horror of India, it was a green top as you might find common in the stadia around Australia and definitely against the home advantage. Sourav Ganguly claimed illness and stood down, much to the shock of his team. It was an immense distraction for the team, later Vice-captain Dravid took over. Australians were thanking their own gods and were raring to go in full steam, with pressure doubling on Indian camp. The result as expected, India was crushed by 342 runs and the final frontier was won at last with the able and calm leadership of Adam Gilchrist. Gilchrist has done what the other Australian captains had failed in their tour to the country, beating India in India. He deserved for his leadership. But India humiliated Australia in the final test in Mumbai under spin-aiding pitch, dismissing them in double digits score. Later, hue and cry was made by Australia over the pitch. Regardless, they cherished the victory and to have conquered at last the Final Frontier.

India toured with vengeance to Aussie land, to reclaim the coveted trophy in ’07-‘08. The contest, as usual, started with a thumping defeat to India in the first test, and putting them in the backseat. The captain, this time, Kumble backed his team effectively and the second test started in Sydney. Australia registered an infamous win extending their run to 2-0, with as many as 13 umpiring blunders going against India, creating a nationwide stir and even Kumble threatening to pull off from the tour. The itinerary gave them a much needed break, allowing India to gain some confidence back, ahead of important testing times at Perth, the fort of Australian Cricket for the third test. Indian fans prayed that India should fight and lose the test in Perth by a decent margin.Because no one in the right frame of mind would bet against Australia losing a test in WACA.

No one could have imagined even in their wildest dreams that, India would go on to win the test wrapping up Ricky Ponting’s men surprisingly under just four days. A famous historic win was recorded, but India still trailed 2-1 in the series. Adelaide was the final contest, an only opportunity for the fabulous Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virendar Sehwag to prove their mettle in Australia for one last time and earn India a series draw, but with Australia matching up every century with India, the game saw pile of centuries diminishing the Time much needed to force a result, effectively ending the game in a draw, thus handing a series defeat to India. Personally I considered India as the real winner of the series 2-1, regardless of what the official score goes down in history with sydney as India’s.

Australia and India had run-up lot of times against each other in the last two decades matching up arm-to-arm and brain-to-brain twirling up an archetypal battle every time they clashed. The score card reads 10-8 in favor of Australia, with India not far behind, challenging the lead every time they met.

The team that stayed through most part of this illustrious history had arrived at the fag end of their career, setting up one last fight for the glory in the next coming month.

For both teams and its countries, the contest has reached a far above status than what their tradition held so far, outshining the Ashes and Indo-Pak rivalry. Such an evenly poised fight consistently over a decade is too good to be ignored by any cricket lovers.

Wait for a breathless action of cricket!


October 8, 2008 - Posted by | Aus Tour Ind '08-'09, Cricket, Sports

1 Comment »

  1. Very good, lot of data…good show

    Comment by Gurdeep | October 14, 2008 | Reply

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