India vs Australia - History of Test Cricket Down Under Part 2: 1980-81 to 1999-00
When one talks about the biggest rivalry in cricket, there is little doubt that fans would look beyond The Ashes. England and Australia are the pioneers of the gentleman’s game and their rivalry in Test cricket has over the years assumed the numero uno status. The other rivalry which is as intense and bitter, if not more, is between the Asian neighbours India and Pakistan. But volatile political climate has ensured there has been little or no bilateral cricket between the two nations of late.
The vacuum created by the absence of Indo-Pak cricket was filled by another rivalry towards the beginning of the new millennium as India and Australia locked horns in fierce battles both on the pitch and off it and soon the clash became one of cricket’s marquee contests. As Virat Kohli and his men get ready to launch a fresh campaign down under, it is time to look at the history of Test cricket between the two countries in Australia. India have been on a Test tour to Australia 11 times and their record is miserable to say the least. In 44 Test matches, India have been victorious on only 5 occasions while they have lost 28 matches and 11 have been drawn.
In part two of the series, we will look at India’s sojourns down under through the 80s and 90s, when both Indian and Australian cricket went through drastic changes.
1980-81: Series drawn 1-1 - Kapil, Viswanath star as India draw series for the first time
Australian cricket was still recovering from the after effects of Kerry Packer’s ‘Circus’ but several top names were back on international duty to bolster the team. India were led by Sunil Gavaskar, whose heroics on the last tour almost landed India a series win. But the start to this series wasn’t great as the pace duo of Dennis Lillee (4/86) and Len Pascoe (4/61) ran riot as the tourists were dismissed for 201 after choosing to bat first in Sydney. Australian captain Greg Chappell was in the form of his life and stamped his class on the series with a double century (204) to nullify five-wicket hauls of India’s pace duo of Kapil Dev and Karsan Ghavri, as the Aussies amassed 406. Lillee and Pascoe made short work of the Indian batting with Gavaskar’s men folding for 201 again to hand Australia victory by an innings and 4 runs.
The second Test at the Adelaide Oval was a high scoring affair with Australia scoring 528 in the first innings, thanks mainly to a Kim Hughes double century (213) and Graeme Wood’s 125 at the top of the order. India responded with 419 all out powered by Sandip Patil’s tour de force, which saw the middle order batsman slam 22 boundaries and a six in his knock of 174. Australia declared their second innings on 221/7 to set India a target of 331 runs to win the match. The Australian bowlers had the tourists on the rope but India survived by the skin of their teeth, and the match was drawn.
The decider in Melbourne was played on a tough track where Lillee (4/65) and Pascoe (3/29) made the ball talk. But a gutsy 114 from the willow of Gundappa Viswanath saw India post 237 in their first innings. The stylish middle order bat was streets ahead of any other Indian batsman as he pulled and cut with elan to keep the Aussies at bay.
A young Allan Border showed glimpses of greatness as he scored 124 to power the Aussies to 419 all out. The hosts had a sizeable lead and they were well placed to win the match. But the Indian opening duo of Sunil Gavaskar (70) and Chetan Chauhan (85) put on 165 for the first wicket to keep the tourists in the game. India were eventually bowled out for 324 and the hosts had to chase a target of 143 to wrap up the match and the series. Australia were the odds on favourites to win the match but once Ghavri and spinner Dilip Doshi made early inroads, there was no stopping the young Kapil Dev, who put on a show of world class swing bowling to rip the heart out of Australia’s middle and lower order. Kapil finished with figures of 5/28 as the hosts were bowled out for 83 and India won the match by 59 runs.
1985-86: Series drawn 0-0 - Batsmen rule the roost as both teams draw a blank
By the time India visited Australia next, this time under the leadership of Kapil Dev, the tables had turned completely. India were the reigning world champions of one-day cricket and a difficult team to beat in Test cricket too, while Australia were in a rebuilding phase under the stewardship of Allan Border. The first Test at Adelaide saw batsmen from both sides cancel each other out. David Boon (123) and Greg Ritchie (128) scored centuries for the hosts while an ageing Gavaskar was still the best India had as he piled up an unbeaten 166.
The second Test at Melbourne saw India take the lead again as handsome contributions from the top and middle order led them to 445. The pressure was on the hosts and their captain, Border, responded with a superb knock of 163 to help his team set a target of 126 runs for India to win. India needed a one-day like chase to pull off a victory but instead they decided to crawl and finished at 59/2 in 25 overs as the match was drawn.
A flat track at Sydney meant the Indians made merry in the first innings. Sunil Gavaskar (176), Kris Srikkanth (116), Mohinder Amarnath (138) made the Aussies sweat as India declared on 600.
Aussie openers David Boon (131) and Geoff Marsh (92) put on 217 for the first wicket, but the Aussies were bowled out for 396 as the spin duo of Shivlal Yadav (5/99) and Ravi Shastri (4/101) got into the act. The hosts were made to follow-on but they hung on by 4 wickets to draw the Test and the series.
1991-92: Australia beat India 4-0 - Resurgent Aussies humiliate India at home
Australia were crowned ODI world champions in 1987 and under Allan Border they had become the world’s best team in both the formats, reclaiming the glory of the old days. India on the other hand were led by a young captain, Mohammed Azharuddin, on their tour of Australia in 1991-92, which was to be followed by the 1992 World Cup down under.
The first Test at Brisbane was all about the Australian pace battery tormenting the Indians. Fast bowler Craig McDermott was the stand out performer as he picked up 9 wickets in the match to guide the Aussies to a 10-wicket victory.
The second Test at Melbourne had a similar script as the Indian batsmen found the going tough on the bouncy pitches. Left arm paceman Bruce Reid was the wrecker-in-chief this time as he picked up 12 wickets in the match to guide the hosts to an 8-wicket win.
The third Test at Sydney was drawn as the Indians finally stood up to the challenge. After David Boon’s 129 not out had carried Australia to 313, Ravi Shastri decided to camp at the wicket. He faced 477 deliveries to score 206 runs and was aided by an unbeaten 148 by a certain Sachin Tendulkar as India posted 483 to all but put an end to any chances of a result in the match.
The fourth Test at Adelaide was a close affair with India bowling the hosts out for 145 in the first innings. India managed to take an 80-run lead as they were bowled out for 225 with McDermott taking another fifer. Mark Taylor (100), David Boon (135) and Border (91) tormented the Indians in the second innings to put 451 runs on the board and set a 372-run target for India to win the match. Azharuddin (106) and Manoj Prabhakar (64) tried to delay the inevitable but eventually India lost the match by 38 runs and surrendered the series.
The last Test at Perth saw Australia take the upper hand, thanks to their all-round display. Left-arm medium pacer Mike Whitney picked up 7 wickets in the second innings and ran through the Indian batting to guide the Aussies to a 300-run victory and a 4-0 series win.
1999-00: Australia beat India 3-0 - Ruthless Australia torment Tendulkar’s India
Under Steve Waugh’s captaincy, the Aussies had become world beaters in all formats and would go on to become the most dominant team in the history of Test and ODI cricket. India, under the captaincy of Sachin Tendulkar, faced the brunt of this hostile Australian team.
The difference in quality was visible in the first Test at Adelaide as Waugh (150) and Ricky Ponting (125) guided the hosts to 441 in the first innings. The Indian middle order stood up against the fierce Australian pace attack and Shane Warne’s guile but no one got a big score and the tourists were eventually bowled out for 285. Aussies did enough in the second innings to set India a stiff target of 394 runs to win the match. Tendulkar’s controversial leg before wicket dismissal stole the limelight as Damien Fleming (5/30) and Glenn McGrath (3/35) ran through the Indian batting to hand Australia victory by 285 runs.
At Melbourne, Australia put up 405 in the first innings with opener Michael Slater top scoring with 91 runs. Sachin Tendulkar responded with a majestic 116, but there was no one else to support him as India conceded a big lead. The Aussies declared their second innings on 208/5 and asked the Indians to chase 376 to win the match. Tendulkar top scored with 52 again but there was little resistance from the rest as India lost the match by 180 runs to concede the series.
At Sydney, India were blown away by the precision of Glenn McGrath (5/48) and the raw pace of a young Brett Lee (4/39) to be bowled for 150 in the first innings. Australia responded with a mammoth 552/5 declared as Justin Langer smashed 223 and Ponting was unbeaten on 141.
VVS Laxman relaunched his international career with a magnificent 167 at the top of the order in the second innings but McGrath picked up 5 wickets again to give Australia victory by an innings and 141 runs. The whitewash ended quite a few Test careers and also initiated the process of Tendulkar’s eventual decision to relinquish captaincy of Indian cricket team.