Here is an update on recent India Australia cricketing rivalry. Let me start from where I remember.
Season 1997-98 (home); we won the Border Gavaskar trophy at home for the first time, defeating Australians 2-1. We won the first two tests (The second one at Kolkata by an innings and 99 runs) but lost the third at Bangalore thanks to an inspirational bowling spell by Michael Kasprowicz.
Season 1999-2000(away); we lost miserably, 3-0 to be specific. The only highlight of the series was VVS’s maiden century (167, his first) at Sydney where he batted as a make shift opener. The trophy was lost again.
Season 2001(home); We lost the first test and almost lost the second when Australia scored 445 and dismissed us for 171. A follow on was imposed and we were reduced to 115 for 3 when Sachin Tendulkar departed. But some minor regrouping from Ganguly took us beyond 200, still in deficit when Ganguly departed. It took the monumental efforst from the stalwarts of Indian cricket, VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) and a hat trick by Harbhajan to win the test despite following on. Indian won the third test at Chennai to claim the trophy back.
Season 2003-2004(away); A century from Ganguly at Brisbane, a double from Rahul Dravid at Adelaide, A 193 from Sehwag at Melborne and a double again from Sachin at Sydney ensured we tied the series 1-1 and retained the trophy. It marked the end of Steve Waugh’s playing career, who left with an unfulfilled dream of capturing a series victory in India.
Season 2004-2005(home); Aussies arrived without Waugh and Without Ponting (the captain who took over the reigns from Steve). The surprisingly enterprising make shift captain Adam Gilchrist lead them to victories at Bangalore and Nagpur. Ganguly received lot of flak for chickening out of the Nagpur test and eventually we lost the series 2-1, also the trophy at an unlikely captain in Adam.
Season 2007(away); India had a new captain in Anil Kumble. We lost the series but amidst huge contraversies surrounding the Sydney test for poor umpiring by Steve Bucknor. It was by far one of the toughest fought test match series on Australian Soil. For the first time ever some one had challenged the Australian domination in world cricket.
Season 2008(home); Indians were fresh from memories of the Australian Tour. We had one the one day series under Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It all started out evenly at Bangalore with centuries from Hussey and Ponting and a fifer from Zaheer. The match ended up as a draw. In mohali, Anil Kumble sat out thanks to an injury and the reigns of the captaincy fell of MSD’s shoulders. And boy, what a performance he delivered. A century from Ganguly, an 88 from Sachin and a 92 from Dhoni meant we posted a decent score on a good wicket. Then came Amit Mishra, the lucky leggie from Delhi who spun the air out of the Australians. A century by Gambhir in second innings and a lethal combination of pace and spin meant we comfortably won the test by 320 runs (Biggest defeat for Australia in many years). Anil Kumble was back for the third test in Kotla, only to announce his retirement on the fourth day. Gambhir and VVS amassed double hundreds. Australian batsmen too improved their batting records. It was a placid wicket on which, forcing a result wasn’t worthwhile. The stage was now set for Dhoni to deliver the killing blow in the fourth and final test in Nagpur. It was a wicket that had some thing for every one. Sachin scored a century, so did Katich. The test was evenly poised until the last day. FInally with some luck and perseverance from spinners, India posted a 172 runs victory, handing the australians their worst series loss in last 20 years. Indians were jubilant.
The series was historic in many ways. Sachin overtook Brian Lara to become the leading run scorer in test cricket. Anil Kumble retired in the middle of the test at Kotla, a ground that has scripted his name in the history books for claiming all 10 wickets against Pakistan. And Sourav Ganguly, the prince of Kolkata, the most elegant southpaw, the most successful captain for India retired too. With Dada and Anil gone, the pressure on other seniors (VVS, Rahul and Sachin) is mounting too. May be it is time we welcome the new generation of cricketers. A Rohit Sharma, an Ishant, a Robin, a Mishra and their leader the invincible MSD.
Frankly speaking, I’m not too ecstatic thinking about the retirements of these guys. I grew up looking at Sachin making a debut at 16. I was 8 than and dreamt even I will be famous cricketer at 16. Sadly I was busy sweating it out for board exams at 16. I remember I had a paper cutting of Dada reading ‘CEO no. 1’ feature in a supplement of Economic times adoring my wall. They were my demi gods. With Sourav gone and Rahul already on decline, I think I will stop watching cricket matches when they drop Sachin from the squad. After so many long years, suddenly a sinking feeling is coming to my mind. Suddenly my childhood has ended.