Rewind: How India Fared in Their Last 5 Test Series in Australia
India vs Australia. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The 21st century’s defining Test tussle.
Since the turn of the millennium, there has been an edge to this contest like few others in world cricket. Somehow, the series contested Down Under have been particularly epochal.
From Steve Waugh’s farewell in 2004, to Virat Kohli’s pronouncement as ‘King’ (or at least captain) ten years later, and from Rahul Dravid’s Adelaide epic in 2003/04, to that Test in Sydney four years on – Indian tours to Australia have stayed long in public memory in both countries.
Perhaps it’s down to the fact that Australia, at one stage, just didn’t lose. Perhaps it’s down to India knowing they just had to beat them to be taken seriously.
One way or the other, Indian fans have had little trouble because of the early morning starts – as this jog down memory lane will remind you.
1999/00: When India Didn’t Stand a Chance
Like we said, the course of this rivalry changed after the turn of the millennium. Just before that, Australia were approaching the peak of their powers, and India were at least one year from their cricketing revolution.
Eleven international matches through the tour yielded one ODI win, against Pakistan, with India already out of contention in the tri-series. The longer format was a total disaster.
In Sydney, with Y2K just having dawned, India were pummelled inside three days. But with the team hurtling towards their innings thrashing, one VVS Laxman, playing his 17th Test, would make 167 out of a paltry total of 261.
It wasn’t the last the Australians were going to see of him.
2003/04: India’s Finest Hour Down Under
A lot had changed in four years – down entirely to one series, and largely, one particular game. Kolkata 2001 altered India’s belief when taking on Australia so drastically that they went from not even competing in 1999/00, to very nearly winning a series in 2003/04 to ruin Steve Waugh’s swansong.
Most of that four-Test series is etched in the memory of Indian cricket followers.
Sourav Ganguly’s 144 in the series opener at the Gabba to announce India weren’t bothered by ‘chin music’. Rahul Dravid taking over the Adelaide Oval for three days, and Ajit Agarkar delivering the spell of his lifetime, to script arguably India’s most famous win in an away Test. Sachin Tendulkar’s 241* vigil at Sydney. Anil Kumble’s 12-for in the same match.
From the depths of the 1999/00 tour, India rose so staggeringly that three of their batsmen totalled over 450 runs in the series – Dravid amassing 619 at an average of 123.80. Two Indians also led the wicket-taking charts in Kumble and Agarkar, and Australia very nearly paid dearly for the absence of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
It took an ‘iceman’ effort from Waugh in his final Test innings to deny India a first-ever Test series win on Australia soil. The visitors came within one missed Parthiv Patel stumping of claiming their greatest-ever triumph.
2007/08: Monkeygate/Sydneygate. Need We Say More?
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2007/08 pushed the India-Australia rivalry over the brink, from fierce and feisty, to dark and dirty.
“Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game,” said India captain Anil Kumble after the Sydney Test of 2008, and he had his reasons.
Trailing 1-0 after a 337-run mauling at Melbourne, India had Australia on 193/6 on the opening day when Andrew Symonds nicked a delivery from Ishant Sharma – the former later rubbing salt by admitting he knew he was out – but while everyone at the SCG heard it, Steve Bucknor didn’t.
Australia went on to score 463, with Symonds finishing undefeated on 163.
India responded with 532, with Sachin Tendulkar holding the bat with a magnificent 154. During his 129-run association with Harbhajan Singh came the moment which would infuse acrimony into an already-aggressive rivalry. ‘Monkeygate’ ensued.
Then, on Day 5, with a draw to end Australia’s 15-match winning streak the likeliest outcome, the following sequence of events transpired: Rahul Dravid was given out caught behind with clear daylight between bat and ball (to Andrew Symonds, would you believe it!), Sourav Ganguly had to walk off after Michael Clarke claimed a catch that had seen more grass than a drug peddler, and the same Clarke took three wickets in an over to spin Australia to a victory with seven balls to spare.
India would go on to claim another of their more famous away wins in the very next Test at Perth – but the series would only be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
2011/12: Down, and Under
In the land where they had taken the first steps to becoming Test cricket’s premier side in the previous decade, India would slide to their darkest hour in the longest format post-2000.
As of July 2011, still brimming in the high of their World Cup triumph, India were the top force in world cricket. By the time the Australian tour of 2011/12 concluded, the world’s number one ranked Test team had suffered two 4-0 whitewashes in the span of six months.
India’s ‘golden generation’ – such dogged customers in lifting the notion of being poor travellers – would have to live with hurt of their last visit Down Under being, arguably, their worst. Rahul Dravid endured a particularly troubled tour, managing only 194 runs while seeing his stumps castled in six out of eight innings. It would prove enough for ‘The Wall’ to decide he needed to go.
But just like in 1999/00, the final Test of a drubbing would augur a positive that was set to explode into something special. In his eighth Test, with his team being played out of the park, a 23-year-old would score his first Test century.
There were a few more in store come India’s next visit.
2014/15: King Kohli & The Turning of the Tide
Okay, the larger picture didn’t make great reading. India did lose a four-Test series 2-0. But as far as potential generation-defining moments go, the Australian tour of 2014/15 can already be looked at as right up there in the bracket of shape-shifters.
This was when the mantle of Indian Test captain changed hands. With it, Indian Test cricket changed gears.
Either side of MS Dhoni relinquishing the Test captaincy, Virat Kohli lit up the Australian summer in a manner few visiting batsmen ever have. Six hundred and ninety two runs in four Tests, four centuries, the first man in Test history to hit hundreds in his first three innings as captain. Kohli had arrived. Kohli’s India, were coming.
If it weren’t for his opposite number, Steven Smith, being even more outrageously extraordinary – with 769 runs, to be precise – India’s 32nd Test captain might even have had a few results to show for his genius.
“Give this team 12 months, and they will be back in the top-two,” then team director Ravi Shastri had bellowed during the contest.
Shastri’s baritone-laden bellowing may usually lead to sweeping statements with little to back them, but now-coach Shastri will be helming a side which makes the latest trip Down Under as the world’s top-ranked Test unit.