Memories of Kolkata spur Indians in Sydney
Eight years ago, India broke Australia's chain of 16 Test victories on the trot in Kolkata. The memories are still alive with desire for a repeat performance.cricket Updated: Jan 03, 2008 13:55 IST
India alone has shown the class and competence to stand up to the marauding Australians in world cricket. The last time India broke Australia's chain of 16 Test victories on the trot by beating Steve Waugh's team in Kolkata eight years ago.
And five of the players who felled the giants, including the three most influential in Australia's defeat, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Dravid, were out at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Wednesday harbouring the desire for a repeat performance.
In 2000-01, Steve Waugh's side played cricket in an apparent state of grace, on a roll that developed a momentum of its own. But that supreme confidence took a beating in the heat of Kolkata when Harbhajan snared 13 wickets and Laxman and Dravid batted throughout the fourth day to set up victory after India had been forced to follow on.
Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly also played in that game - as did Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist of the current Australian side, currently shooting for their 16th record-equalling win.
Michael Slater, who opened the batting for Australia in Kolkata, suggests it is "hugely intimidating to play against that side that is on that sort of a run".
"You're reading, 'that's 14, that's 15, they're going for 16'. How do we stop this juggernaut that is so positive, so successful and, from an opposition point of view, it must be very hard to not think too much about things you can't control," Slater said.
"I'll never forget the Kolkata Test match, given that we were so far ahead and we enforced the follow-on. And then we went through a day with Dravid and Laxman and we didn't get a bloody wicket. We were chasing leather all over the park. It was a big way to lose."
In that game, Harbhajan snared Ponting for six and nought, while Gilchrist and Warne both left with pairs, Gilchrist's a king pair, out first ball both innings. Australia were dismissed on the last afternoon for 212 having been set 384 runs to win.
The defeat brought the Australian side "back down to earth with a thud", admits Slater. But it also empowered the Indian side to go on and win the series and begin a more successful era for the team.
"The guys that played against us in 2001 will never forget because they were the ones who stopped Australia in their tracks, going for 17," Slater observed.
"And these guys, if they are to stop it here, it means they've stopped this roll of consecutive wins and they're right back in this series."
Former Indian Test batsman Ravi Shastri says breaking the current Australian run will be driving the Indian side this match. "It would be huge, but the difference is they'd be doing it in Australia and that's a challenge to any cricketer," he said.
"Any cricketer who plays the game now would want to be in the side that beats Australia in Australia."