It was a hot summer of 2001 when the Australians arrived on the Indian shore with talks of conquering the final frontier, the unbeaten streak of Australians, the indomitable captaincy of Steve Waugh and the ice jackets. The Indians were under a captain who was just one year into the job, fresh off a match fixing scandal and had lost a test series at home for the 1st time in more than a decade (against the Porteas). The Indians had beaten the Aussies in 1998 at home in a series where Shane Warne was massacared by the Indians especially Sachin Tendulkar. The Aussies returned the favour in 1999 when they annihiliated the Indians 3-0 in Australia.The Indians this time were without srinath and Kumble,while the Australians had the likes of Warne,Mcgrath,Gillespie and Kasprowicz.The Indian attack depended on a young inexperienced Zaheer Khan and a young Harbhajan Singh.
The 1st test in Mumbai turned out as many expected as the Australians beat the Indians by 10 wickets. The focus now shifted to Eden Gardens, Kolkata. The Aussies began strongly and were at 4 for 252 when the 1st piece of magic happened for the Indians, Harbhajan dismissed Ricky Ponting(beginning his now legendary poor form in India), Adam Gilchirst(scored more than run a ball in the 1st test) and Shane Warne off three consecutive balls to take the 1st test hattrick by an Indian.The Aussies though fought back on the back of a Steve Waugh century (110) to post a mammoth 445 runs.
The Australians then bowled with fire as Mcgrath took 4 for 18 to sent the Indians packing for 171 only V.V.S Laxman showed any resistance as he scored a dogged half century. The Aussies enforced the follow on and Indians were 1 for 52 when Laxman walked out at one down, he was joined by Dravid with India at 4 for 232 and still trailing the Aussies. As the dawn broke for the 4th day,most Indians left for their daily work expecting India to lose by the time they came back home.Laxman and Dravid though had other plans, against one on of the best bowling attacks in the world they played the innings that legends are made off. They scored more than 300 runs on that day and did not lose a wicket. As Dravid cut and drove and Laxman danced down the pitch to flick Warne’s treacherous leg spinners from the rough into the boundary, the crowd at the Eden grew in number and voice. If Dravid was “The Wall”, Laxman was “Very Very Special”. Suddenly the Aussies looked mortal as they tried every trick in the book to get these two out which included the usual dose of sledging and Gillespie tried to run in like an eagle while bowling. The innings was characterized by Laxman audacious wrist work and timing. His backfoot drives went through covers, flicks off the turning ball from the rough ended as four, pulls, cuts and every other shot in the book was played and the Aussies appeared clueless against this audacious assault. Dravid on the other hand began carefully but soon started opening his shoulders as he cover drove, cut and pulled the aussie attack to bits. His copy book inpregnable defence, the perfect drives and the flawless cut shots made the Australian attack appear impotent and insipid on that day. If the audacity of Laxman and the perfectness of Dravid were not enough the runs came at close to 4 runs per over. On the 5th day the Indians declared 657 for 7 with Dravid scoring 180 and Laxman 281(the highest score in tests for an Indian then). The Aussies were left to make 384 runs off about 70 odd overs. As Harbhajan again spun his web and took 6 wickets,Tendulkar was not to be left behind on one of the most glorious days of Indian cricket as he took the wickets of Hayden, Gilchrist and Warne and India won the test match by 171 runs.
The test match was one filled with magic from Harbhajan’s hattrick to Laxman and Dravid’s innings the records tumbled. For only the 3rd time in more than 100 years of history a team following on came back to win the test match. Laxman from a young prodigy became the next in line of great Indian batsmen, Dravid from a dependable batsman took the path towards a legendary status and Harbhajan from a young carefree, indisciplined, brash bowler became the next one in the line of the Prasanna’s and the Bedi’s and the Kumble’s.
This broke the Australians unbeaten run of 16 consecutive test wins as India leveled the series one all and also won the next test in Chennai to take back the Gavaskar-Border trophy.The Aussies returned with their aura of invincibility gone, winning streak broken,final frontier lost again,Waugh’s captaincy failing and their ice jackets failing to provide any respite from the Indian heat.
P.S:Your’s truly was very fortunate to witness the test match from the stands of the Eden and cheered his throat hoarse.Losing a few marks in chemistry practicals didn’t matter as I and a whole group of friends bunked the 2nd half of practicals to watch the match and we were glad we did it.
Lagataa nahiin hai jii meraa ujade dayaar mein,
kis kii banii hai aalam-e-naa_paayedaar mein,
Kah do in hasaraton se kahiin aur jaa base,
itnii jagah kahaan hai dil-e-daag daar mein,
Umr-e-daraaz maang kar laaye the chaar din,
Do arazuu mein kat gaye do intazaar mein,
Kitanaa hai bad nasiib "Zafar" dafn ke liye,
Do gaz zamiin bhii na milii kuu-e-yaar mein
His Imperial Majesty Bahadur Shah "Zafar"