Extraordinary year for Indian cricket

After starting 2003 with a morale-shattering experience in New Zealand, the Indian team made a dramatic turnaround and are now on the verge of ending the year with what could possibly be an unprecedented series win in Australia.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2003 19:22 IST

After starting 2003 with a morale-shattering experience in New Zealand, the Indian team made a dramatic turnaround and are now on the verge of ending the year with what could possibly be an unprecedented series win in Australia.

It is a challenge for the country's arguably best ever team.

Among the high points of the Sourav Ganguly-led team was reaching the World Cup final against all odds and beating world champions Australia in the Adelaide Test this month to take a 1-0 lead in the ongoing series. It is a feat that no touring team has achieved against Australia's cricket team under Steve Waugh's captaincy.

If India also wins the third Test, starting at Melbourne on December 26, it will be the first time that the Asian side has won a Test series in Australia since 1947 - when the two teams first met in Test cricket.

If there is ever a contest for the best Indian team, there will be several votes for Kapil Dev's World Cup-winning side of 1983, which had its own pluses.

But what stands out in the present team is its grit, determination, the will to fight and a new found aggression under the positive-thinking Ganguly that helps win matches.

It was a strange coincidence that Ganguly's team, which is a better one-day side than a Test outfit, played just five Tests during the year, including the upcoming Melbourne Test.

The two other Tests, against New Zealand at home in October, had ended in draws, as did the first Test of the ongoing series at Brisbane.

But the year had begun on a gloomy note, when the touring Indian team lost its third successive one-day international to New Zealand in Auckland on January 1.

After losing the next match too, India, stung by all-round criticism for the batsmen's inability to cope with sheer pace, fought back to win the fifth one at Wellington.

India won one more at Eden Park, before New Zealand wrapped up the seven-match series 5-2 on what some people dubbed as under prepared pitches.

This drubbing followed a 0-2 whitewash by New Zealand in the two-Test series in December 2002 - not an ideal preparation for the World Cup that was less than a month away when the Indians returned home battered and bruised.

First Published: Dec 27, 2003 15:37 IST