The Australians were a ruthless bunch during the last decade. They did not show their opponents on the cricket field any mercy. Match after match, series after series, tournament after tournament, the Australian cricket team remained undisputed champions.
But there was area where their supremacy was challenged. Despite possessing a superb batting lineup and a mean bowling attack, Australia found it tough to beat India in India. They did conquer the final frontier in 2004, but there were also three Test series defeats to a determined Indian team in the same decade.
India-Australia encounters for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy were akin to an enthralling movie or crime novel, laced with drama and intrigue. This unique rivalry reached its peak after the epic fightback from VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid in 2001 at Kolkata. From a hopeless position, India came back hard to level the series emphatically. With that unforgettable win at Eden Gardens the India v Australia contest was ratcheted up several notches and even came to displace the Indo-Pak and the Ashes rivalry as cricket's marquee series.
The Ashes, barring the 2005 summer, remained largely one-sided; India and Pakistan did not meet so often and when they did the cricket was not always engaging; England against South Africa was intermittently eye-catching. For sheer joy of watching Test cricket, no series could hold a candle to India v Australia. It just became an institution of electrifying drama.
And obviously, the credit must be given to two of cricket's finest fighters - Dravid and Laxman. The pair stood up to Australia time and again, most famously in Kolkata and Adelaide and Sydney, and helped instill in the team a new hop and sense of adventure. Through these two, largely, the Indian players were able to challenge the Australian might.
But time moved on. Dravid and Laxman's batting prowess receded, as happens with aging cricketers. The bowlers dried up. Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly retired. The last India-Australia series was a brutal 4-0 drubbing by the Australians in which there was nothing exciting. What was expected to be another of dazzling Test series turned out to be a heavily mismatched one.
Does the Border-Gavaskar Trophy still have charm? Will it still generate the same thrill? In Chennai on Friday, a new edition of the contest begins. Both teams are in transition. There is plenty of young talent in the side. Being the home team, India will enjoy the advantage mostly and look set to exploit a brittle Australian batting lineup with spin. To many, another one-sided affair is on the cards. If that happens, this unique rivalry will lose further charm and excitement. Test cricket cannot afford the dramatic legacy of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy fading away. For that, here's hoping for a series that keeps the fans tuned in.