March 2, 2017 5:55:17 pm
A modest target of 47 runs was gunned down in seven overs and Australia registered an emphatic 10-wicket win over India, inside three days, in the first Test of the three-match series back in 2001. It didn’t come as a surprise to many.
Steve Waugh and his men were on a dream run and continued to dominate both the limited-overs and the longer format. Before arriving in India, they had blanked West Indies 5-0 in a five-Test home series and seemed like doing no wrong. And, when they travelled to India, Anil Kumble’s injury eased teh pressure of playing spin in testing conditions.
India had the services of Harbhajan Singh, Rahul Sanghvi and Sairaj Bahutale but no one, at least before the start of the series, would have predicted what the first of the three went on to do against a formidable batting line-up. Harbhajan returned with four wickets from the match, was on the expensive side but his spell assured that better things are ahead, at least for him.
For India, however, tough ask lay ahead. A three-Test series is a tight affair and it’s never good to taste defeat, and a comprehensive one, in the opener. Nothing went as per script for the hosts and Kolkata was expected to be no different.
India vs Australia at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Rings a bell?
Historic! sensational! mind blowing! India came back from behind and fought their way back into the series with a 171-run win. VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh played their part and the series was set on fire after the Eden show. Australia responded in fitting fashion as Mathew Hayden smashed a double hundred in the first innings of the Chennai Test, the deciding match of the series. Harbhajan answered, so did Sachin Tendulkar and India won the match by two wickets, and series 2-1.
0-1 down and following-on in the second Test, India were struggling. Sourav Ganguly and his men did what none expected them to do. The series win injected a lot of belief in the squad led by a very aggressive captain.
Cut to 2017, a lot has changed. India, under Virat Kohli, have been at their consistent best and managed to remain unbeaten for 19 long Tests. Unlike the 2001 series, the 2017 four-Test series has odds heavily stacked in favour of the hosts. The squad wears a balanced look, and the skipper is walking most of his talk. But like 2001, the series is not off to a good start. India were outplayed in the first Test in Pune as they suffered a 333-run defeat and the critics were out with their swords again. They were in the sheath for 19 Tests but were out again, sharper than ever.
The spin-play was under the scanner again and the nature of pitches was questioned yet again. India had managed to win matches – against New Zealand and England – on good Test wickets but were trapped in Pune. There’s still a long way to go in the series and there’s no reason why India can’t get back to dominating ways when the second Test starts in Bangalore. The batting, even after twin failures in Pune, looks solid and the bowling department has never been this balanced. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are doing what they do best at home, and the seamers are on top of their game. Umesh Yadav showed his capability when he tested the Aussies on a slow surface in the first innings in Pune. Ishant Sharma too is chipping in from the other end.
16 years ago, Australia’s win in the opener didn’t come as a surprise to many but in 2017 it has. Action now shifts to the second Test in Bangalore and another spin-dominated contest shouldn’t be a surprise.
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