The Glory of Cricket Down Under
With sights to behold like nowhere else in the cricketing world, for the gigantic grandstands and the pristine lush green outfields, for the flocks of seagulls wandering ever so near the boundary ropes (not so much of late), for the fans basking in the sun, lying on the grassy banks with a glass in hand and lots to munch, the experience of watching cricket in Australia is simply unique.
No surprise then that viewers in India, comprising even habitual late risers, insomniacs, and late-night party animals, have no qualms whatsoever in being up and awake before the crack of dawn to tune in and not miss a minute of the action every single time a match is on in Aussie Land.
Fast and bouncy tracks
Purists will no doubt argue otherwise, but for many, there is no better sight on a cricket field than watching a genuine fast bowler with a long run-up, steaming in to bowl those ripping bouncers with four slip fielders crouched behind. The sight of a batsman hopping and ducking for cover trying to avoid a cricket ball hurled at anywhere between 140 to 160 kilometres per hour, does leave viewers stunned and open-mouthed, while watching a master batsman hook such a delivery to the fence is an equally exhilarating experience.
Pacers, however, do need assistance from the track and with fast and bouncy pitches in abundance, they simply relish the conditions in Australia.
Widely regarded as the "fastest" wicket in the world, the WACA (Western Australian Cricket Association) ground, may according to reports, not see much top level Test cricket in future after the just-concluded Ashes test. A sad development indeed for all who have witnessed history unfold over the years at this very venue.
With many a lethal bouncer bowled over the years on the WACA turf by the Aussie greats and the fiery West Indian pacers of old, the ground had a fearsome reputation of destroying formidable batting line ups. Watching footage of the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, and Micheal Holding bowl here helps clear up any doubts one may have as to the monstrous nature of the pitch.
So, not surprisingly, when in January of 2008, Anil Kumble's India took guard against the four-pronged Aussie pace attack of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Stuart Clarke, in the first innings, not much was expected from the visiting side. It was the third test of the series and India were down 0-2, having been beaten comprehensively in Melbourne and Sydney.
Could India stage a comeback in Perth at the WACA? Not a chance thought most, the prospect of an Aussie whitewash far more likely. What unfolded, however, was the stuff of dreams. Dravid, Sachin, and Laxman scored the runs, while Irfan Pathan and RP Singh wrecked the opposition. India won the test match in what was unquestionably one of our greatest Test victories abroad. Cricket in Australia is synonymous with such inspiring tales and great fightbacks.
India's Thunder Down Under
It was in Australia that India won the World Championship of Cricket under Sunil Gavaskar, steered on course by "Champion of Champions" Ravi Shastri, which made the cricketing world sit up and take notice in 1985.
Years later, the trio of VVS Laxman, in association with the great Rahul Dravid and the master Sachin Tendulkar, ensured by their exploits Down Under that India were no longer weaklings on fast and bouncy tracks. Perhaps the Indian cricketer who most relished Australian conditions and has made no secret of the same was VVS Laxman who has a staggering record against the Aussies.
Innovation, tradition, and history
Aussie cricket is as much about tradition as it is about adopting novel concepts like Day Night cricket and colored clothing both of which were path breaking developments and helped package cricket as a television sport. It was in Sydney on November 27, 1979 that the first Day Night ODI was played, and in a magical coincidence the first Day Night Test was played on that very date, November 27 in the year 2015 at the Adelaide Oval.
It is difficult to speak of Adelaide, the city of Churches, from a cricketing perspective and not mention the infamous episode in January 1933 when England captain Douglas Jardine had asked Harold Larwood to target Sir Donald Bradman with what has since been called "bodyline" bowling.
What is it, if not tradition, that the Aussies have so defiantly preferred to write wickets before runs defying the English system since the 1890s!!! So, 3/200 it is and not 200/3. Whats the big deal one may ask? Be forewarned, never tell an Aussie that!
Tradition too dictates that the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosts the Boxing Day Test, starting December 26 every year with a spirit of joy and fervor that is quite unique. Can England salvage some pride in this year's Boxing Day Test? While we cannot answer that one for sure, we do know that this time next year, Team India will be touring the Land of the Kangaroos, in a series that will no doubt create new history, create some new legends, scores and records, and of course, India will play the great Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
So, hoping for a great Boxing Day test, both this year and the next, it's time to "grab a feed" as the Aussies say, and "bog in!!"