Australia has always been an iconic cricketing destination. The Indians, in particular, have witnessed some of the most memorable victories on Australian soil. Both teams enjoy a rich cricketing history. A history that has seen the Tendulkars and the Pontings score mammoth double centuries. Encounters between the two sides are termed as high-voltage and are known to grab a lot of eyeballs across the globe. While the Indian team under Virat Kohli looks to create history by registering its first series win on Australian soil, let us go back in time a bit in order to revisit one of the greatest partnerships of all time.
The 12th day of December 2003 marked the beginning of one of the finest test matches the Adelaide Oval had ever witnessed. The second test of the 2003-04 Border-Gavaskar Trophy saw one of the best “come-from-behind” victories in the Indian cricketing history. Some would remember the match for Ajit Agarkar’s match-winning spell of 6/42 in Australia’s second innings. Others would remember it for Ponting’s imperious batting display, but fans such as myself would always remember it for the partnership between Dravid and Laxman. A partnership that saw them replicate the heroics of the 2001 Kolkata test match. A partnership that helped the Indians to claw back from the brink to register an improbable victory, arguably one of their finest on foreign soil.
The first day of the test match saw the sun shining brightly over the Adelaide over. The Indian pace battery faced an acid test against a formidable Australian batting line-up. A hard and dry batting strip greeted the Aussies after they had elected to bat first after winning the toss.
As one would expect, runs flowed freely and the Aussie great Ricky Ponting sent the Indians on a leather hunt. The Aussies piled on more than 400 runs and Ponting raised his bat for a second time in the day to celebrate his double century.
The second day saw the Aussie tail frustrating the Indian bowlers. 40 odd runs scored by Jason Gillespie Australia’s first innings total went beyond the 550-run mark. The alarm bells had started ringing for the Indians.
The Indians Let the Bat do the Talking
Despite a promising start, the Indians found themselves reeling at 85/4. A deficit of 471 stared at them. Out walked VVS Laxman as the Indians began a phase of rebuilding the innings and giving him company at the other end was Rahul Dravid, his partner from down south. Some watchful batting from the two helped the Indians to reach 180/4 by the end of the second day. The duo had stitched a 95-run stand in a little under 30 overs, but the job was far from done.
Ain’t no Mountain High Enough
The third day’s play at Adelaide saw Dravid and Laxman unleash their powers to turn the script in India’s favour. The duo stitched a monumental 303-run stand to steer the ship out of tumultuous waters. Both batsmen played freely and score at just about three runs to the over for the most part of their innings. While Dravid preferred caution over aggression, Laxman scored rather freely to suck the life out of the Aussie bowling attack. The partnership, in all fairness, was quite similar to the one we saw in Kolkata. What stood out in that partnership was the composure of Dravid and the sheer elegance of Laxman. Both the batters kept knocking the ball around to keep the scoreboard moving. All the villanies of nature had befallen the poor hosts.
The 303-run stand for the 5th wicket smashed many records. Both batsmen made good use of the excellent batting conditions on offer. The absence of Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Glenn Mcgrath meant that the Aussie bowling attack lacked adequate firepower. The rock-solid pitch offered little or no assistance to the bowlers. The heat was engulfing the Aussies. They were getting a taste of their own medicine. Even as Laxman was dismissed for 148 with the scorecard reading 388/6, Dravid showcased great vigil and batted with the tail to get India’s total to 523, just 33 runs shy of Australia’s first-innings total.
An Iconic Stand
The partnership between Dravid and Laxman redefined the way overseas tours were perceived by Indians. More often than not, the Indians were known to squander the advantage while playing in Australia, but this time it was different. Sourav Ganguly’s men knew how to play. They knew how to clip the feathers of a flying eagle. India, under Sourav Ganguly’s inspired captaincy, had mastered the art of pulling-off unexpected victories. They could win a match from anywhere and against any given opposition. They were a bunch of believers and a cricketing powerhouse and this partnership between the two stalwarts was proof of the team’s growing dominance.