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The Fascinating Rivalry between India and Australia over the years across formats

ANALYST
Feature
601   //    23 Feb 2019, 16:30 IST

Virat Kohli is more in the Ganguly mode when it comes to confronting the Aussies
Virat Kohli is more in the Ganguly mode when it comes to confronting the Aussies

In Cricket, every match is a hard-fought contest as teams play to win at all cost. At the same time, there are some traditional rivalries amongst selected teams which make the context even more absorbing and fascinating. A match between India and Pakistan or the Ashes series between Australia and England assumes more significance than a normal cricket match.

One such rivalry from time immemorial is the rivalry between India and Australia across all formats of the game. Both are evenly competitive teams striving to give their best on the field. Both teams exchanged punches and counter punches over a period of time across seasons.

Apart from a few one-sided affairs, there was never a dull moment in matches involving India and Australia, both on and off the field. It was like watching a close boxing contest going the distance.

 The Indians should be proud of the fact that they had always given the Aussies a run for their money even when they were a dominant force. There were times at the dawn of this millennium that India was the only team who could challenge the mighty Aussies.

It all started in the early 80s when Sunil Gavaskar’s men managed to hold on to a draw in the Test series against Australia in Australia. That was followed by Kapil Dev’s Indians who very nearly won the Test series in Australia in 1985. As always, fortune favored the favorites in that series.

Back home in India, India and Australia were involved in only the second historic tied  Test match at Madras. They almost had a repeat of that in the ODIs in World Cup 1987, of all the places at Chennai. India lost that match by one run when Maninder Singh was once again in the hot seat. But this time around there was no umpiring error as Maninder was comprehensively bowled by Steve Waugh.

India made a counterattack by winning the next group match against Australia by 56 runs at New Delhi. India met with a similar fate in the 1992 World Cup match at Brisbane when Australia once again won by a margin of one run.

The early 90s saw the domination of Australia over India in matches mostly played in Australia. Then came the Shane Warne’s nightmare series in 1998 when Navjot Sidhu and Sachin Tendulkar repeatedly stepped out of the crease to Shane Warne and lofted him to the sightscreen.

After losing the first two matches of the series, Australia gave the counter assault by winning the last Test match at Bangalore and the Triangular ODI series that followed the Test series.

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Now it was India’s turn to exchange blows. It came in the form of Sachin Tendulkar’s desert storm in Sharjah when he scored two incredible hundreds against Australia which left Australia shattered.

During India’s tour of Australia in 1999-2000, Australia inflicted a 3-0 whitewash on India in the Test series. When it looked like Australia would take complete dominance over India, came the Kolkata Test in 2001 and the heroics of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid.


Laxman and Dravid - The trendsetters
Laxman and Dravid - The trendsetters

That Kolkata Test was an important event in the Indo-Australian rivalry as India continued to dominate in the next Test at Chennai and the series that followed in Australia. Before that, after the unexpected reverse in the Test series, Australia managed to beat India in the ODI series by a margin of 3-2.

Steve Waugh and Sourav Ganguly - Fierce competitors and rival captains
Steve Waugh and Sourav Ganguly - Fierce competitors and rival captains

A lot of credit for India’s spirited performance in the early part of this millennium should go to the Indian Captain Sourav Ganguly who was more than willing to meet fire with fire. Ganguly gave the Aussies a taste of their own medicine. He was even daring enough to keep the Australian Captain Steve Waugh waiting for the toss. Ganguly’s approach had softened the Aussies under Steve Waugh.

His daredevil approach as a leader had an infectious effect on his teammates as India successfully drew Steve Waugh’s farewell Test series in Australia.

Haunted by the drawn series in Australia, Australia retaliated on their tour of India in 2004 by winning the four-Test series by a margin of 2-1, an astonishing achievement at the time.

The First T20I World Cup was held in South Africa in 2007. India, led by MS Dhoni for the first time, knocked Australia out in the semi-finals and eventually went on to win the trophy.

India’s tour of Australia in 2007-2008 started disastrously with two losses in the first two Test matches at Melbourne and Sydney. India was down and out and needed thrust to stimulate them. That was when the monkeygate episode and the cluster of controversial umpiring decisions happened in Sydney.

The incidents at Sydney galvanized the Indian team led by Anil Kumble as they went onto win the next Test at Perth. Thereafter the baton was passed on to MS Dhoni who won the Commonwealth Bank series beating Australia in the finals. That was the first time India has ever won a tri-series in Australia.

India thumped Australia 2- 0 in the Test series in India in 2008. The rivalry was once again renewed in World Cup 2011 where India and Australia met in the crucial quarterfinals. When it appeared that the defending champions Australia was in total control of the match at Ahmedabad, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina took the game away from them. It was curtains for Australia.

It was Australia’s turn to knock India out in the ICC T20I World Cup 2012 in Colombo. India blanked Australia at home in 2013 winning the Test series 4-0 and the ODI series 3-2. In the T20I World Cup in 2014, India bundled out Australia for 86 and won by a massive margin of 73 runs.

India’s 7 match winning streak was interrupted by Australia in the semi-finals of World Cup 2015. With the kind of form they were in, India could have won the semi-finals against any other team except host Australia. While India was responsible for the then-defending champion Australia’s ouster in World Cup 2011, Australia returned the favor in World Cup 2015.

In the must-win super 10 matches at Mohali in the T20I World Cup 2016, India terminated Australia’s campaign. Steve Smith’s Australians were overpowered by India at home in 2017.

India winning a Test series in Australia for the first time
India winning a Test series in Australia for the first time

To top it all, the Indian team led by Virat Kohli has won both the Test series and the ODI series on their recent tour of Australia in 2018-19. That was the first time India has ever won a Test series in Australia.

To sum up, any series involving India and Australia has always been exciting. The fortune and outcome kept fluctuating from one team to the other right through the past. There have been punches and counter punches all along. But it seems India had the upper hand in recent times.

It remains to be seen whether the momentum gained by India of late will have a telling effect on the outcome of the upcoming series in India. More than this series, it would be exhilarating to observe as to who would deliver the knockout punch in World Cup 2019.

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