Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin the BATSMAN & more legendary Men in Blue… How many of these magical performances do you remember?
The Border – Gavaskar trophy 2020/21 has been a series to remember as it all boils down to Brisbane with performances from both sides so far that have left us spellbound, but what’s even more evident is that India vs Australia is no longer just another series. For many Indian fans over the years, India vs Australia matches often felt like a fight between underdogs and mighty Champions and it took India 31 years to seal a series victory over the Aussies for the first time back in 1979. It took several decades more for India to find their first series win Down Under, 71 years since India first toured Australia to be precise. Through those times though, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag, Kumble, Harbhajan, VVS Laxman, Kohli and several others added several dimensions to a growing rivalry that Jason Gillespie today feels is “on par with The Ashes”.
With the 2020 Series coming to an end soon, we at Man’s Life thought it was only right to turn back the clock and revisit some of the most incredible performances by Indians down under that made everyone in Australia and the world stand up and take notice. This particular list of just 10 performances leaves no room for a few special ones and while it seems almost cruel to leave out Sehwag’s 195, honourable mentions must also go to Anil Kumble, Bishen Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar and Md. Shami whose magic Down Under narrowly missed out this time.
1. RAHUL DRAVID – 233 IN ADELAIDE, 2003
By the year 2003, Dravid’s reputation for playing match-winning knocks was known far and wide, especially by the Aussies who were at the receiving end of the miraculous partnership with VVS Laxman in 2001 that saw India pull of one of the greatest heists in Test Cricket history at the Eden Gardens. Dravid’s first tour of Australia way back in 1999 however wasn’t close to being memorable with a highest score of just 35 throughout the tour.
The Aussies batted first in Adelaide in 2003 with Ricky Ponting’s majestic 242 setting the tone for the hosts and with India reeling at 85 for 4 when the ominous partnership of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid came together to torment Australia again, this time on home soil.
Dravid’s marathon knock of 233 helped India post 523 runs and he followed it up with an unbeaten 72 to help India chase down 230 and take a 1-0 lead vs Australia IN Australia!
2. 19 YEAR OLD MAGIC FROM SACHIN IN PERTH
Perth in 1992 was perhaps considered the quickest, bounciest, most lethal track on the planet with the might of the Australian fast bowling unleashed too. All of that did not faze the 19 year old Sachin Tendulkar though, who scored one of the most special hundreds of his career at the WACA. In his own words in 2014, Sachin said “One innings that changed my career or gave shape to my career was in Perth, 1992. Perth at least at that time, was regarded to be the fastest wicket and the hostility of the Australian fast bowlers was something which was difficult to handle. I was able to score a 100 and I was only 19,”.
The Indian side were battered and bruised by then, going 3-0 down in the series despite a hundred from Sachin in Sydney earlier in the series too. Glorious straight drives, cut shots to anything loose and evading searing deliveries that buzzed around the 5 foot 5 inch batsman’s head, Sachin gave us all an early glimpse of his greatness with 228 minutes of sheer brilliance at a time when the rest of India’s batting seemed to be crumbling.
3. BOOM BOOM BUMRAH’s 6/33 THAT CRUSHED AUSTRALIA AT THE MCG
India’s first Test Series win 71 years since first touring Australia was as much about the bowlers as it was the batsman and it was the young Jasprit Bumrah that took our breaths away during the series. Just seven wickets fell in the first two days’ play at the MCG on a seemingly ‘dead’ pitch before Bumrah, still in his first year in Test Cricket broke through the Australians in a fiery display of toe-crushing precision.
Bumrah’s 6/33 made him the first Asian bowler to take a five-for in South Africa, England and Australia in the same calendar year and it also gave him India’s best figures in Tests at the MCG, surpassing Bhagwath Chandrasekhar’s 6/52 way back in 1977.
4. AJIT AGARKAR’s 6/41 IN ADELAIDE, 2003
Cricket is today known to be batsman’s game, but always remember that the only way you can win a Test is by picking up 20 wickets! Everyone that speaks of India’s incredible Adelaide performance in 2003, remembers it for Rahul Dravid’s 233 and VVS Laxman’s 148 but the man that ensured victory was within grasp was Ajith Agarkar, who’s display with the ball gave India a reachable target of just 230, after skittling the Aussies for just 196 in the second innings.
5. KAPIL DEV’s 8/106 – INDIA’s BEST BOWLING FIGURES DOWN UNDER TILL DATE
Indian cricket seems to have some sort of love affair with the Adelaide Oval and it’s hard not to, for the performances that many legendary Indian cricketers have showcased at the City of Churches. Kapil Dev’s 8/106 in 1985 rocked the Australian batting line-up with the wickets of Allan Border, David Boon and Greg Ritchie who were set to build a mammoth total for the hosts. The former Indian skipper’s spell saw India sniffing victory, with the visitors requiring just one wicket to clinch the win as the sunset on the final day of play at the Adelaide Oval.
Kapil Dev was known for his smarts with the ball in hand and he unleashed his different variations on the Aussies through his final spell which took his figures from 3/99 to 8/106 within the span of 21 deliveries.
6. Bhagwath Chandrasekhar’s 12/104 (6/52 and 6/52) at the MCG in 1977/78
There is a special charm about the Boxing Day Test and it’s a match soaked in rich cricketing history with the Aussie locals looking forward to the outing through the year. We’ve seen some scintillating performances from India at the venue that holds 90,000 spectators today, but perhaps the most memorable bowling performance at the venue by an Indian bowler was the identical figures of 6/52 in each innings by BS Chandrasekhar in 1977 leaving the Australians bewildered.
India had lost the first two Tests before the third at the MCG and in response to India’s 256 in the first innings, the Aussie batters fell like a pack of cards to Chandra’s wizardry. BS Chandrashekhar, overcame Polio to make a name for himself in international cricket and his guile and control with the ball had the great Gundappa Vishwanath once saying, “You will never get another match-winner like Chandra.”
The legendary leg-spinner also holds a record of being one of those rare players to have taken more wickets than runs scored in Test Cricket…but we’re certainly glad to have witnessed him spin a web over the best in the world.
7. SACHIN TENDULKAR’s 241 with NO cover drives!
“I had got out a couple of times to balls bowled outside the off stump. So I decided not to play the cover-drive.” – Sachin Tendulkar.
The Aussie were inside the mind of the Little Master and plagued the Indian maestro by bowling consistently outside the off stump. The legend in response, conjured up one of the most incredibly disciplined executions of a plan the game has ever witnessed as he parked one of his favourite shots, in an epic knock of 241 at the SCG in Sydney.
Steve Waugh, arguably one of the greatest captains to have played the game, spoke of the “incredible fortitude, mental strength and discipline” which was a lesson for the Aussie legend even in his final Test Match.
The emotion was visible on Sachin’s face and he went on past triple figures to finally remain unbeaten on 241 off an incredible 436 balls over a span of 613 minutes!
8. VIRAT KOHLI – THE LOVE AFFAIR WITH ADELAIDE (UNTIL THE 36 ALL OUT OF COURSE)
The Indian skipper might be on paternity leave for the birth of his daughter with Anushka Sharma, but this list would not be complete without the inclusion of this modern-day cricketing legend. Virat’s maiden Test match hundred was a special knock of 116 batting at no. 6 at the Adelaide Oval in 2012, but it was his staggering 141 runs in 175 balls chasing 364 in 2014 that puts him on this list. Considered by many as the finest fourth-innings performance ever seen in Australia, Kohli himself rates this particular knock among the best in his Test career in a Test match where he not only scored twin hundreds but also led team India in the absence of MS Dhoni due to injury.
If the 116 marked the beginning of a legendary career in Test Cricket, the 141 stamped his authority as one of the most fearless to play the game!
9. AJINKYA RAHANE – MCG, 2020
From the Indian skipper to the mighty man of few words but plenty of character, that took his spot post Virat’s departure. Following a humiliating defeat after being bowled out for 36 in Adelaide, the weight of the world was on Ajinkya Rahane’s shoulders, especially without key men, Virat Kohli, Mohd. Shami and Ishant Sharma. With their backs against the walls, however, Rahane led from the front with a gritty 112 to have his name etched on the honours board of the MCG, while India completed a comeback for the ages to prove naysayers wrong.
Ajinkya doesn’t just make this list for his batting masterclass but for the leadership qualities, determination and steely resolve to make tough choices under immense pressure, with pretty much the entire cricketing community writing India off following the debacle of the Adelaide Test.
10. HANUMA VIHARI & RAVICHANDRAN ASHWIN – Battered but NOT Broken, SCG 2021
It’s not often that two men make a list of this stature for unbeaten knocks of 23 & 39, but when it comes of 161 and 128 balls respectively playing through pain, battling bruises, negotiating a top Australian bowling attack and sledges coming their way…these men who took India to arguably one of the most memorable draws in our Test Cricket history deserve a spot (and an ice bath)!
Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin had batted 42.2 overs, in a marathon three-hour long partnership enduring a barrage of fast bowling, banter and their own injuries to carry the hopes of a nation with them and keep a Test Series alive on Aussie soil. It was even more fitting that it unravelled on a certain Rahul Dravid’s birthday too. The duo visibly shattered, walked off the field with no major celebrations but while the bruises might swell externally over the next few days, it was evident that internally every member of that Indian dressing room was swelling with immense pride!
[Image Credit: Indian Cricket Team]