Abhishek Nandwani: India have won just five of 36 Test matches on Australian soil. What will this tour throw up?
It's that time again. No matter what kind of form India and Australia happen to be in, Test matches between the two always shape up to be crackerjack contests. Recent tours have been loaded with excitement, drama and confrontation, be it in India or Australia, with both teams putting up engaging shows on the field to make for scintillating series. You don't need a highlights package to showcase the rivalry between the two teams.
From the infamous Monkeygate controversy to questions of adhering to the spirit of cricket to Ricky Ponting’s ‘clean’ catches to unnecessary overreactions to wickets and the shoving of shoulders, India versus Australia Tests have seen it all. The infamous SCG Test of 2007-08 is still fresh in memory on many Indian fans.
India are still looking for their first series win Down Under and many feel that this will be the chance to get the monkey off their backs. Not only is it a chance to right the wrongs that have occurred in past series but once again take the No. 1 position in the ICC Test rankings which they surrendered to England so abjectly this summer.
India first toured Australia in 1947-48 and were comprehensively beaten 4-0 in the five-match series. The first Test in Brisbane was won by Australia, by an innings and 226 runs. The second Test in Sydney was drawn, with India’s tail managing to see out a rain-marred affair, while the third Test in Melbourne was won the Australia, by 233 runs. Australia won in Adelaide, by an innings and 16 runs, and completed the crushing series defeat with a 177-run win in Melbourne.
The next time Australia hosted India was in 1967-68 and they swept the series 4-0, completely outclassing their visitors. The first time India tasted success in Australia was in 1977-78; though they won two Tests the series scoreline finished 3-2 in favour of the hosts.
Here is a list of the Test matches India have won in Australia.
Melbourne, 1977-78, third Test:
Coming into this Test down 2-0 in the series, India recorded their first win in 12 Tests on Australian soil. Bishan Bedi won the toss and elected to bat, after which Australia’s bowlers found some assistance in the first session but
thereafter it was a good batting wicket. India started off badly with both openers back in the hut for ducks and the pressure was right back on the middle order, but thanks to gutsy batting by Mohinder Amarnath, Gundappa Vishwanath, Ashok Mankad and Dilip Vengsarkar they were able to score 256 in the first innings.
The Australians had the Indians on the mat and the only way India could be on top was to bowl them out for a score close to their own and hope to perform better in the second innings. Thankfully, the Indian spinners did just that as BS Chandrasekhar ripped through the Australian line up with six wickets to keep them to 213, giving India a slender lead of 43. In the second innings India managed to score 343 with Sunil Gavaskar scoring a century with useful contributions from Chetan Chauhan, Syed Kirmani, Vishwanath, Mankad and Amarnath. Set a target of 387, Australia started of steadily but once the opening pair was separated Chandra ripped through the line-up for a second time and had identical figures of 6 for 52 in the second innings to give India a well deserved victory by 222 runs.
Sydney, 1977-78, fourth Test:
After a good performance in Melbourne, India came to Sydney with hopes of doing well here and winning to make it 2-2 for the series, which would set up a decider in Adelaide. Australia won the toss and elected to bat first. The opening partnership was steady, but Amarnath drew first blood when he got Gary Cosier and there after it was mayhem as the wickets fell like nine pins to the spin trio of Bedi, Chandra and EAS Prasanna. Australia were bundled out for 131 in less than 49.4 overs.
The onus was on the Indian batsmen to give a good start and capitalize on the good work done by the spinners, and that is what they did with all the batsmen contributing after a sound start of 97 given by Chauhan and Gavaskar. India declared at 396 for 8, meaning Australia had to score 265 to avert an innings defeat. Once again, after a sedate start the spinners were back in action getting wickets at regular intervals. Despite a patient 68 from Cosier and a fighting 85 from Peter Toohey, Australia were bowled out for 263 in the second innings giving India a win by an innings and two runs. Prasanna picked four scalps in the second innings.
However, India failed miserably in the fifth and final Test to lose the series 3-2.
Melbourne, 1980-81, third Test:
Coming into this match, India needed a victory to avoid another series defeat and they did not disappoint their fans at all. After losing the first Test in Sydney and drawing the second in Adelaide, India defeated Australia by 59 runs after bowling them out for 83 in the second innings.
It was one of the most scintillating matches played between the two teams, not only because of Australia's stunning collapse in the second innings but because India came near to forfeiting the match when their skipper, Gavaskar, disagreed with an lbw decision against himself and wanted to call off the contest. Opting to bat first, India made 237 thanks largely to a magnificent 114 by Viswanath. In reply, their bowlers struggled as the Australian batsman helped post a huge total of 419 thanks to brilliant tons by Allan Border and gutsy knocks by Greg Chappell and Doug Walters.
Needing 182 to avoid the follow-on, Gavaskar and Chauhan played solidly to end the third day having reduced Australia's lead of 182 by 108, and on the fourth they added another 57 before Gavaskar's content_cnious dismissal and dramatic walk-out. With Vengsarkar, Man-of-the-Match Viswanath and Sandeep Patil helping rebuild the innings - India at one stage were 296 for 6 – matters looked promising, but a lower-order collapse left Australia 143 to win. That is when Kapil Dev stepped to the fore, bowling his heart out to take five wickets and skittle the home team for a paltry 83. Kapil played the match with a thigh strain that forced him to take a runner the previous day while batting, and truly it was a memorable performance by the legendary allrounder.
Adelaide, 2003-04, second Test:
Rahul Dravid was the star as India clinched their first Test win in Australia for 22 years. He scripted an epic 223 in the first innings, adding a mammoth 303-run partnership with VVS Laxman in the first innings after Ponting’s 242 carried the hosts to 556, after which Ajit Agarkar's unexpected six-wicket haul on the fourth afternoon set up a target of 230. India started the fifth day's play resuming their first innings at 37 for 0 with Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag. A couple of wickets left India at 79 for 2 when Sachin Tendulkar walked in to join Dravid. The pair proceeded to keep runs ticking over and India inched closer to their target of 230.
After lunch, a faulty shot send Tendulkar back, following which Sourav Ganguly popped a catch to Simon Katich at gully off Andy Bichel. At 170 for 4, with victory still 60 runs away, India were starting to sweat. However, VVS Laxman stepped up in trademark fashion to ease tensions. His dismissal nine short of victory was a momentary hiccup, as Dravid hit the winning runs to cap an epic match unbeaten on 72. This win changed the shape of India cricket, and though Australia won the next Test a draw in Sydney meant India had held the mighty Australian juggernaut to a series draw.
Perth Test, 2007-08, third Test:
India’s infamous visit was marred with more controversy off the field than on it. Australia won the series 2-1 but in no way was it a fair reflection of the way the four Tests panned out. India were expected to put up a much better show but were crushed at the MCG in the first Test with consummate ease. Then, in the second Test in Sydney, they had their chances to draw the series but some poor umpiring meant India combusted in the final 15 minutes of play on day five. That they bounced back to win the third Test at the WACA in Perth, traditionally a pace-filled and bouncy pitch, was testament to their collective will.
Almost seven years prior to this win, India had famously beaten Australia in Kolkata – after following-on – to bring to a screeching halt a streak of 16 consecutive Test wins. That was Steve Waugh's team. This time it was Ponting's men, seeking to emulate that streak, who were stopped by India.
Dravid and Tendulkar were the stars in the first innings with fine knocks of 93 and 71 respectively, helping India set Australia a target of 413. In reply, they were bowled out for 340 in 87 overs. It was a remarkable show of character by the Indians who did not allow the acrimonious events of the Sydney Test affect them as they went about plotting the demolition of a then champion team. The Man-of-the-match Irfan Pathan was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 54 while RP Singh, Kumble and Sehwag chipped in with two wickets apiece. It was a memorable win for India.