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Great Cricket Rivalries: India vs Australia

Modified 19 Dec 2019, 15:38 IST

There are rivalries which exist because of history. There are rivalries which exist because of geographical, political and economic conditions. And then there are rivalries which exist solely due to the desire of dominance of one over the other. It is this last type of rivalry that the two heavyweights of cricket – India and Australia have in between. Time and again have the situations gone out of hand, time and again has hue and cry been raised, but none can deny the excitement that comes alive when a India-Australia series arrives. Perhaps it has been rightly said, if both of these nations’ cricketers were the political heads of their respective countries, then India and Australia would have always been at war.


It was a rivalry which didn’t exist long back. In the 1980’s the rivalry, if it may be called so, was a tad different as it mainly arose due to some dubious decisions by the umpires and supposed racial discrimination. In the famous incident of the 1981 match at MCG, icon former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar staged a walkout and almost foreited the match. A contentious LBW decision by an Australian umpire was the spark and Gavaskar walked off the pitch with his partner Chetan Chauhan. It was only a timely intervention by the team manager, Air Force official Shahid Durrani, that the situation did not run out of hand. Yet, those quarrels and abuses didn’t yet amount to the form of rivalry as existent now, as somewhere down the line, Australia was still the stronger team. Competition after all, occurs between the equals of men.

But during the last decade, things began to change slowly. Here was an Australian team, who were struggling to keep their dominance in world cricket intact and then there was India, an emerging side trying to establish itself. Self-interests clashed and brought about a torrent of dubious decisions, ugly clashes, enthralling innings, quality bowling and lively cricket matches.

Things began to take a different dimension. Indians were strong at home, and nearly invincible for the Aussies. They were getting stronger outside their continent. Aussies were the number one in the world, a league apart from the others. Yet they had difficulty in winning a series in India. Moreover, now India was posing some problems for them in their own backyard. It was too much to digest for the Australian team. The Aussies started to indulge in mind games. They started sledging, challenging, harassing and clashing with the opposition team to unsettle the opposition player’s mental balance.

Each umpiring blunder was taken as something done intentionally by the common men, though it was never said so and reports only suggested the errors committed. India seemed often to be at the wrong end of the umpiring decisions, especially when touring down under, and controversies began to emerge in each match between the two nations.


1.     One day series, India, 2007

-          When Andrew Symonds toured India during the one-day series in 2007 (before the IPL), he was greeted with monkey chants from the Indian crowd. This prompted the tourists to accuse local crowds of racist comments against the star all-rounder.


The series also had its incidents with temperamental Indian fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who liked to have some heated exchanges with Australian batsmen. The ‘exchanges’ were defended by his team-mates as only trying to “meet fire with fire.”

2. Sydney 2007-08

Monkey and ‘teri maa ki’

-          In the test match at Sydney, in the 2007-08 series between the two teams, the match was going relatively peacefully. Then a sudden provocation took place from one of the sides and Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh became embroiled in a row which cost both of them dearly in future. Racial allegations were made by the Australian team that Harbhajan had called Symonds a ‘monkey’. Harbhajan, on the other hand denied having used the term and told he only called him ‘teri maa ki’ in anger in his native tongue.  Andrew Symonds later defended his actions saying he had seen Harbhajan hitting bowler Brett Lee while running down the pitch and so he had said some choicy words to how he felt about it and Harbhajan had retorted back blowing it out of proportion.

Harbhajan was initially banned from 3 tests after which the fine was reduced significantly. Later on though, it emerged Judge Justin Hansen thought Symonds was guilty for bringing about the row. According to facts, it was seen that Harbhajan had just patted Brett Lee on his back for quality bowling and Symonds objected to it. When Indian lawyer V. R. Manohar asked Symonds whether he had objected to Harbhajan patting Lee, the Queenslander said: “Did I have an objection to it? My objection was that a Test match is no place to be friendly with an opposition player, is my objection.” The Judge, in his verdict, replied back “”If that is his view, I hope it is not one shared by all international cricketers. It would be a sad day for cricket if it is.” He later added: “I have no doubt the participants in this game have reflected long and hard since its conclusion. Their actions do not reflect well on them or the game.”

3. The 2007-08 series

Monkey chants

-  The series was mired by poor umpiring and decision-making. Steve Bucknor always seemed to think the Aussies were right and the Indians wrong in appealing. He gave not out to Andrew Symonds when he edged the ball at 30, a decision even Symonds said was wrong at the end of his innings. Symonds went on to score 162 not out in that innings. India protested and Bucknor was removed from the later matches. In fact, Bucknor later retorted while saying that he had been removed because of India’s financial power “I have survived for a long time,” he said.

“Had it not been for strong-willed people within the ICC I might have been out due to negative reactions from certain quarters. When you speak to a captain and he’s not happy you are reported.

“If his (national) association is strong enough they may believe that they should take action.

“Because they are more equal, they seem to have more say. And what they say, especially influenced by money, they seem to have their way.”

Unforgettable Moments for India :

1. Australia, Sharjah, UAE , April 24, 1998

-           It was the final of the tournament and Australia managed to put up 272, considered a mammoth total those days. The pressure was huge on the Indians. But Tendulkar took the game away that day. There are many who say that the great batting maestro buckles under pressure, but on this particular final, he smashed a 158, and India won with a over and three balls to spare.

2.       Kolkata, 2001

-          When there is no hope, there are only two people who can save you. One is god. Another is V.V.S Laxman. In the 2001 test series between the two heavyweights, India were one down in the first test and were made to follow on being 274 behind in the second test. All hope of an Indian victory seemed lost.  Then came Venkatsai Laxman’s magnificent 281 and India won the match. No amount of sledging by the Australians worked. It caused double humiliation for the Aussies. The defeat was a sore one ultimately causing them the series and it also ended the 16 match winning streak of the Aussies.

3. Australia, The Gabba, Australia, March 4, 2008

-           India pulled off a remarkable series victory over the mighty Aussies in the one-day series with the home team losing 2-0. The Australians tried hard, with Hayden scoring 55 and Symonds 42 but the new discovery then, swing bowler Praveen Kumar took 4 wickets and ended the Australian challenge.  The defeat sent the vice-captain Adam Gilchrist into retirement.

Unforgettable moments for Australia:

1. ‘Final Frontier’

-          Australian captain Steve Waugh referred to India as the “Final Frontier”. It was the only place where the then mighty Australians had not won. Being the undisputed world beaters and World Champions until a few years ago, they hadn’t won a single series in India over thirty years and that stuck in their ego. The Australians finally got the sweet smell of victory, after Waugh’s retirement, in 2005 under the captainship of Adam Gilchrist. The win came after 35 years and the Australians wrapped up the series 2–1.

Adam Gilchrist after conquering the ‘final frontier’:

2. 2003 World cup Final

-          The Indians were thrashed ruthlessly in the 2003 world cup final. High on confidence,  the Indians had put up a good show throughout the tournament.  A billion Indian hearts were throbbing for the Indian team but the ruthless Aussie cricketers had something else in mind. They tortured the Indians from the start, each of the bowlers getting hits for runs and Gilchrist and Martyn powered the Australian total to over 350. Virender Shewag’s 82 and nature’s rain too could not save India from defeat by 125 runs that day.

3. 1967-68 series

-          A match of the times when the Indian cricket team was still in its nascent stages. Batsmen and bowlers were still in the making. Australians though, were world beaters then too. Needless to say, the  Australians brushed the Indians aside 4-0, making a clean sweep of the series. The first test match was won by 146 runs, 2nd by an innings and 4 runs, 3rd by only 39 runs and the 4th by 144 runs. It was one of the worst defeats of India is the hands of Australia.

Result Australia 4 India 0, Drawn 0

Present Status:

Both these nations are scheduled to play each other again soon in 2011 and many more incidents can be looked forward to. Andrew Symonds though won’t be there, as he has been banned by the Australian cricket board as a result of repeated indiscipline. The final nail in the coffin came a few years back; he broke the Cricket Australia (CA) board rule of not drinking in public to the players. Still a lot awaits with 4 tests, 2 T20’s and a Triseries in Australia in December 2011.

Also read about the legendary India vs Pakistan rivalry.

Published 14 Sep 2011, 19:19 IST
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