The Australian team arrived in India a couple of days ago. For the first time in 6 years, they are playing a test match in India. Their arrival has never been short of buzz. This time too the visa delays for Usman Khawaja, Ashwin’s carbon copy bowler in the Australian training camp, and practice pitches in Alur have created some buzz. Every India-Australia match is always a closely fought contest, none as close as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy test matches though. Named after two of the most impactful batters of their generation, the BGT never fails to amaze us.
In such a drama-filled series, both sides feel the heat on and off the field, usually starting from the press conferences. Mind games aren’t a new armory for Australians. It’s the Indian retaliation that makes the rivalry all the more intense. What used to be a fiery exchange or a cheeky attempt at “mental disintegration” has now made its way into cricketing folklore. I’ll need a separate blog to discuss the frenemies saga of the BGT though.
A lot – including the team management on both sides – has changed since the last time these two teams met in the Gabba. What remains intact is the willingness to beat the best. There’s something more at stake for the Indians this time, the WTC Finals.
There are all the possibilities that BGT2023 can write a few more chapters in the Indo-Oz rivalry. In the series of blogs, I have fetched the pages of history to pen down five memorable test matches that made the BGT special.
BGT #5: Bangalore 2017
The BGT 2017 was action-packed if I can put it that way. On the 7th of March 2017, the friction between the teams was felt beyond the boundary cushions of the Chinnaswamy. One major reason for this test match being etched in our memories goes back to the previous meeting in Pune.
India entered the Chinnaswamy test after being humbled at Pune for 105 and 107, respectively, in their two innings. The wounds inflicted by Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann were still pretty fresh. The “experts” had started raising questions about this team. So, the team entered the field to find some answers.
- The start of the second test match gave no respite to Virat Kohli’s headaches, as India was bowled out in the post-tea session for a paltry 189. KL Rahul was the lone soldier against the Aussie brigade led by Nathan Lyon, who registered career-best figures of 8/50.
- The Aussies replied with a solid batting performance but kept losing wickets at regular intervals. They were eventually bowled out on the third morning, having amassed a lead of 87.
- The Indian reply was led by the very defiant Cheteshwar Pujara, who missed a well-deserved ton by a whisker.
- Contributions from KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane propelled India to a tricky total of 274.
- The chase was well and truly on. 188 was never going to be easy on a fourth-day wicket, and the Indians sensed a little blood.
- The seamers were breathing fire. With Umesh Yadav firing all guns blazing, someone may have considered Ishant Sharma as a second fiddle. But not the man himself, who struck in just the fifth over. Umesh Yadav clinched the key wicket of Steve Smith.
- Once the Indians sensed a panic in the Aussie lineup, Ravichandran Ashwin ran through the lower order scripting one of the finest comebacks in the recent past.
At the end of the first day, the Indians were down and out. What followed was a sight Indian fans would witness quite a few times in the coming years. The Indians meant business led by their charismatic skipper Virat Kohli. The world saw 11 warriors reclaiming their fortress with determination and vengeance. Special mention to the Chinnaswamy crowd, who were well and truly the 12th man for Virat’s side.
Read More: Is Usman Khawaja the ideal opener for Australia?
BGT #4: Sydney 2021
The New year’s BGT test match at SCG, welcoming 2021, wasn’t just a test match; it was a story of defiance etched in the memories of every ardent cricket fan. A lot had transpired in the last month. Within the span of a fortnight, the Indian team had made the headlines for being bowled out for 36, as well as for defeating the home team in a Boxing day test match. With the series level at 1-1, Indians had to make the most out of the “close to home” SCG conditions before moving onto the Australian fortress Gabba.
- The home team posted decent first innings score thanks to a “ton for the ages” from Steve Smith.
- Marnus Labuschagne, too, missed a well-deserved ton but managed to push visitors on the back foot.
- Steve Smith, who had been kept quiet by Ravichandran Ashwin thus far, looked like a “man on a mission” at SCG. It was a delight watching him counter one of the best spinners in the world in pure Steve Smith fashion!
- The Indian reply started well but soon faltered, owing to several careless mistakes by the visitors. The Indian innings included 3 runouts, and the hosts clearly had the upper hand.
- The hosts cruised their way to 312/6, with a valuable contribution from Steve Smith and fireworks from Cameron Green towards the end.
- Having a target of 407, only two results seemed possible. But the feeling lasted only until India lost 3 wickets after a decent start.
- Rishabh Pant, who had forgotten to read the book “Conventions of Test Cricket” came out
with Gunall guns blazing. What followed was a mauling of the BEST BOWLING lineup in the world.
- Here was a man, stepping out to Nathan Lyon on the fifth day Sydney pitch tonking the cherry out of the ground. What the world saw in the Aussie eyes that day was fear, fear of something unknown, something new, and most importantly, something absolutely unreal. It’s a shame he missed his ton by a whisker, but some 97s hold a special place in fans’ hearts!
- Both teams could smell victory, but defeat too was lurking around their necks simultaneously.
- The Aussies capitalized by picking up a defiant Pujara‘s wicket, and now on the crease, stood a limping Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin.
- With a session and a half remaining, victory now seemed out of Indian sight, given their long tail and the incapability of this batting pair to run between the wickets.
For the next 40-odd overs, there was an exhibition of DEFIANCE on the 22-yard strip by two wounded Indian soldiers. I may not be able to win, but will neither allow you to get past the finish line.
The beauty of test cricket isn’t in a victory or a defeat. There’s a spirit, a determination to not let your opponent get past you, to stand your ground, head held up high. That’s precisely what transpired in those 40 overs. At the end of the day, the scorecard showed a draw, but one team was visibly happier than the other. Ultimately, test cricket won in a true sense. That’s a difficult thing to understand if you haven’t watched test cricket before, and a very good reason to start the same!
Continue reading the Second Part of this Blogging Series: Top 5 Stories of Indian Defiance in the Last Decade – II
What Do you Think?
Until we work on the remaining 3 stories of Indian defiance in BGT, we would love to hear your pick of the stories from the last decade. Do share it in the comment section or write us on our Twitter handle CricBloggers.