FLASHBACK: BORDER-GAVASKAR TROPHY
Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Perhaps no other trophy or tournament has shaped the way of Indian cricket as it is today than this singular series played against a singular opponent. The 10 India vs Australia Test series so far since the initiation of this Trophy have provided us with something more than just cricket - it has given us hope, elation, anger, depression, and above all memories that have been unendingly etched in our heads and history.
It is not a historic battle like the Ashes. It is not a neighbourly fight like the India-Pakistan or Australia- New Zealand series. It is not a clash for supremacy like India-England. But the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is no less a clash of the titans. The India-Australia rivalry occupies a special place in cricket. Ever since India halted Australia cavalry charge in 2001, India has become Australia’s biggest nemesis and India was the Final Frontier the Baggy Greens were desperate to capture. Of course they managed to finally win a Test series on Indian soil in 2004 under Adam Gilchrist. Australians may have the Ashes as the most testing Test series but as an Indian, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has always been the pinnacle of Test achievement.
Ever since the Border-Gavaskar Trophy came into existence in 1996, India and Australia have played each other ten times, in India and thrice in Australia. Of these, India has won five series and Australia have won three. Of course all these wins have come on Indian soil, the three times that India played in Australia, they were whitewashed, drew and lost.
With the first India vs Australia Test starting in Chennai, let’s have a Border-Gavaskar Trophy Flashback.
1996 – The debut of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was also the debut of Sachin Tendulkar as captain with a one-off Test played at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi from the 10th to 13th October with India cruising to victory in 4 days. Brad Hogg and David Johnson (Remember him? Anyone?) made their debut but the show stealer was, wait-for-it, Nayan Mongia! Australia, having elected to bat, were bundled out for 182 with a Kumble 4-fer with contributions from Sunil Joshi and Aashish Kapoor. Opener Mongia then scored a century which was the highest score of the match. India had to chase a meagre 56 and Tendulkar had the precious trophy.
1998 – The next time Australia toured India was in 1998 and vouched for a thrilling 3-Test series that India won 2-1. This series will probably be best remember for the epic duel between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne – among the best batsmen and bowlers of that time. It was after this series that Warne famously claimed that SRT starred in his nightmares. Australia suffered heavy losses in the first 2 Tests at Chennai and Kolkata, sealing the fate of the series, but fought back admirably in the third to restore some pride. Yet the Final Frontier remained unconquered for Waugh & boys while his Indian counterpart Mohd. Azharuddin enjoyed a fruitful series. Sachin Tendulkar was named Player of the Series with for 446 runs in 3 matches and drew his strongest comparisons with Sir Don Bradman.
1999-2000 – This was the first year that the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was held on Australian soil and the result, as many expected, was a 3-0 whitewash. The only silver lining for India was then Captain Sachin Tendulkar being named Player of the Series. In hindsight, another, although hitherto unknown, silver lining was the initiation of the man who would go on to torment Aussies for more than a decade. VV Laxman scored a sublime century at the SCG opening the batting and thereby started his love affair with Australia and the Sydney Cricket Ground. But nothing could prevent massive losses for India, with Australia playing like Champions. Debutante Brett lee tore through Indian order on Boxing Day at MCG, Glen McGrath troubled with his razor sharp line and length and finished with 18 wickets, Ricky Ponting began his own affair with Indian bowlers with an average of 125. On the back of the fixing scandal, entering the new millennium with new player things could not have been worse for Indian cricket.
2001 – The Border-Gavaskar Trophy was back on Indian soil and Australia faced a new look Indian side. Under new captain Sourav Ganguly, in the absence of spearhead Anil Kumble and with a host of new faces, India looked the weaker side against a team on the brink of a World Record consecutive Test victories. Australia won the first Test at Mumbai by a comfortable margin of 10 wickets and were on a 16 match undefeated streak when the 2001 Kolkata Test began. Australia won the toss and elected to bat putting on 445 runs on board and then bundled out India for 171, enforcing follow on. (Here I have to take a moment and thank Steve Waugh, sincerely Tugga you saved our country, thank you!) And the rest is history, and a pile of numbers – VVS Laxman - 281, Rahul Dravid - 180, Harbhajan Singh - 13, Indian victory - 171, the tears of joy priceless! India won the third Test at Chennai by 2 wickets thanks to a brilliant century by Tendulkar and an insane 15 wickets by Harbhajan, also the Player of the Series. India won the series 2-1 and Indian cricket was reborn.
2003-2004 – This time a new look Team India went to Australia under talismanic skipper Sourav Ganguly and Coach John Wright. Everybody believed that it was the best chance India had to defeat the Aussies at home. India came close with some fantastic cricket in the first Test at Brisbane studded with a Ganguly century and a Zaheer Khan fifer (Which was his last game, as his mistress, injury, visited him) but that Test ended in a draw. India then went on to register a historic 4-wicket win in the second Test at Adelaide with Rahul Dravid’s 233 (mingled with a million tears) and a six-wicket haul by Ajit Agarkar. But Australia won the next Test at Melbourne with comprehensive 9-wickets making the last Test at Sydney the decider. Unfortunately for India, Aussies fought out a draw in Skipper Waugh’s last Test despite a wonderful batting performance by India (and a Laxman century, obviously!) posting a target of over 700. Rahul Dravid was adjudged the Man of the Series for his fabulous batting performance. The series saw some of India’s best performances as a team in Test cricket ever and it was indeed disappointing to see it end in a draw.
2004 – This is the series, dubbed the Final Frontier series, which I am most likely to forget. (In fact I’m pretty sure, I had managed to repress it in some deep, dark corner of my brain before I started writing this!) Australia came under stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist for a 4 Test series which was also Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath's last tour of India. The first Test at Bangalore saw debutant Michael Clarke start his life-long -tormenting-India campaign with a splendid century which gave the visitors a comprehensive win. The second Test at Chennai was a rain affected draw and all eyes shifted to the next at Nagpur which proved to be the undoing of India. A ‘alleged’ green-top-resultant-injury for skipper Ganguly meant Dravid was the unfortunate one to have captained the historic match when Australia finally conquered their Final Frontier after 35 years winning a Test series in India. A stunning performance by Damien Martyn and India’s collapse against pacers on a bouncy top meant that there was only pride to play for in Mumbai. Ponting returned and Indian ‘authorities’ retaliated by preparing a crumbling turner which ended a low-scoring match in 3 days. (Which I am, incidentally, still mad about as I had passes for only day 4 & 5!!) The proof of the pitch is that even Michael Clarke extracted 6 Indian wickets! Damien Martyn was named Player of the Series, and an unrelated Fun fact – Gautam Gambhir made his debut here!
2007-2008 – A lot of water (and tears) had passes under the proverbial bridge when India went Down Under with a new captain at the helm, the indomitable Anil Kumble, for a series that is sadly remembered more for controversy than cricket. India lost that series 2-1 with Brett Lee being awarded the Man of the Series for his 24 wickets. Australia won the first Test at Melbourne comfortably by 337 runs with India getting bowled out under 200 twice. The second Test at Sydney also went to Australia by 122 runs who took an unassailable lead. However this Test was marred by the ugly Monkeygate Scandal and even worse, the horrendous umpiring errors. As Kumble promised, India managed to wipe out the negativity and win the third Test at Perth by 72 runs, a truly terrific performance at the bouncy WACA. The fourth Test at Adelaide petered down to a draw. Australia may have regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but this series lost them a lot of respect.
2008 – The 2008 India vs Australia series will be remembered for a lot of things aside from the 4 Tests. Two Indian legends played their last Test in this series (almost 5 years have passed and we still haven’t found their ideal replacements, FYI) The first Test at Bangalore, where Zaheer Kahn grabbed both a fifer and a fifty, was drawn. India claimed a comprehensive victory in the next Test at Mohali with a power-packed performance by MD Dhoni in both innings. It was a record-breaking match for Sachin Tendulkar who became the highest run scorer in Test match history surpassing record of 11,957 runs marks and on the way becoming the first man to score 12000 runs in Test cricket history as well as for Sourav Ganguly who crossed 7000 runs in Test cricket on the way to scoring his last century in Test cricket. The third Test at Delhi was an emotional one as captain Anil Kumble announced his retirement after suffering from a finger injury. Despite double tons from Laxman and Gambhir, the match ended in a draw. The fourth Test at Nagpur was Sourav Ganguly’s swan song (apt huh, considering what happened there 4 years back) and India gave him a fitting farewell with a 172 run victory reclaiming Dada’s most beloved piece of silverware - the Border-Gavaskar Trophy! Ishant Sharma was named Man of the Series (Yes an Indian seamer in sub-continent conditions!)
2010 – Back again in India, this 2 Test series was special for one reason – India actually whitewashed Australia in a Test series! The first Test was at Mohali, one that would go down in the history books as being the most topsy-turvy India vs Australia Test ever! Here is how it went – Aus make 428 in first innings, India reply with 405, bowlers restrict Australia to 192 in second innings, India need 216 to win and Day 4 ends on 55/4, Aussies strike early & hard on day 5, Tendulkar, Zaheer & Dhoni gone leaving a back spasm-ed, in-pain VVS Laxman with the tail. Australia sniffed victory when India needed 92 runs to win with just 2 wickets remaining at Lunch, but cometh the Aussies, cometh the Laxman! With runner Raina, tail-ender Ishant and under Laxman’s guidance, India inched closer to the target when tragedy struck in form of Ishant’s wicket at 190. Ojha was the last man in and more drama ensued with an umpiring gaffe, overthrows and scampering runs. In the end, India won by 1 wicket, Laxman top scored with a precious 73 and Zaheer Khan received the Man of the match. In words borrowed from Ravi Shastri, all 3 visits were possible till the last ball was bowled, it did go down to the wire! India won the second Test a Bangalore with 7 wickets, completed the whitewash and retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Tendulkar was named Player of the Series and another Fun fact, Cheteshwar Pujara made his debut in the Bangalore Test, with his half-century helping in victory.
2011-2012 – The less I think about this the better. Before the start of the last the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia, I wrote ‘Why this is India’s bets chance towin a Test in Australia’ and I don’t think I have ever been so wrong in my entire life! India were whiplashed and whitewashed 4-0, the worst overseas Test series ever without a single silver lining (Unless you count Zaheer Khan playing an entire Test series without getting injured as one)! Oh wait, I forgot Virat Kohli’s century at Adelaide, but it was a placebo. The very trophy that made Indian cricket, destroyed it. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy gave birth to the new, fearless Indian team 10 years ago and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy killed it. Innings defeat, not crossing even 300 runs, lone Indian ton, not being able to bowl out Australia even once... the agony piled on from Melbourne, Sydney, Perth to Adelaide. New captain and Player of the Series Michael Clarke ripped apart a hapless India and after a disastrous performance, Dravid and Laxman retired. Indian cricket will never be the same again.
These were the 10 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series held so far. With the 11th coming up, here is hoping that this new look India does what they did back in 2001, a new icon is born and Indian fans get back their hope faith.
Thanks for reading!