Once the India-Australia rivalry was the stuff of true legends—Intense competition, close matches, non-stop sledging and tensions on and off the field. You never knew which way the series would swing and whom fortune would favour at the very end.
But in the last few years, a wee bit of one-sidedness has set in this great rivalry. In Tests, first Australia whitewashed us 4-0 on their turf and then we gave them exactly the same treatment back home. In the 2015 ODI World Cup despite India leading the table and taking 70 wickets in 7 matches in the leagues and quarters, Australia annihilated us in the semis in yet another one-sided contest.
Which way would the pendulum swing in 2017 Australia tour of India? One would have thought that the Aussies would put up a semblance of a fight, but that was not to be. In the ODI series we quickly took a comfortable 3-0 winning lead and the Aussies managed to take just one match during the dead rubber phase.
Captain Steve Smith is looking clueless off late. First New Zealand beat them in an ODI series, then they exited early in the ICC Champions Trophy and finally India won 4-1. His batting average was just 28.4 in the series and that severely affected the team’s fortunes.
When Australia crashed to 118-8 in the first international T20, another one-sided series loomed large. At that point something new and fresh was required to bring life into the rivalry and that is exactly what happened.
Jason Behrendorff was making his international debut at the old age of 27. When he was hit for two fours in just his first three balls he seemed a total pushover and the script looked to continue unchanged. But then in an astonishing little burst, Behrendorff took 4 wickets in the space of 12 balls and totally destroyed the Indian batting attack.
That short spell was the only real brilliance that the entire Aussie team showed in the whole tour. It was enough for them to win the match and tie the series 1-1, setting the stage for the decider at Hyderabad.
But even that turned out to be a damp squib and was called off—not due to rain—but a wet and unplayable outfield! Such contradictions are still part and parcel of India cricket. We are by far the richest cricket board in the world and are yet to sort out infrastructure issues and that too in a large city like Hyderabad, where the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium is located.
Other stadiums of the world have developed excellent drainage systems and super soppers, while the ones in India may still see no play even if there’s no rain on that particular day. No matter how many reforms happen in Indian cricket nobody knows how much money comes in and where it goes.
Usually we wake up only after a debacle takes place and it remains to be seen whether there will be meaningful upgrade of the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. The T20 series could have seen a maximum of 120 overs, however the crowds saw only 89.4 overs due to rain, batting collapses and a wet outfield.
As it is there’s a conspiracy against T20 matches and even when there’s a market for 7-match T20 series, the ICC will squeeze in just a one off T20 in an entire long tour. We made our international T20 debut on December 1, 2006 and since that day India has played a good 293 ODIs and just 85 iT20s even though there is a greater appetite for the latter when it comes to bilateral series.
A single ODI makes much more money than an iT20 and so the ICC will stick to its golden egg laying goose even though fans would want more of the latter. Washouts like the current India-Australia T20 series also don’t help anyone’s cause.
Of course the only plus side in all of this is that after India’s 1-4 thrashing at the hands of Australia in January 2016, we are yet to lose a single international bilateral series that featured at least two completed matches.
During this period we have won a whopping 18 bilateral series in all. One struggles to think such a dominant performance by Team India in a long long time. We are at the number one spot in both the Test and ODI ICC rankings.
With the upcoming New Zealand tour followed by Sri Lanka, India have a golden chance to prolong their global domination till the end of 2017 and break many more world records in the process.
Coming back to the Australia tour and one-sided streaks, an odd statistic has also come to light. From 1998 to 2009, Australia won all their ODI series and tournaments that they won in India, six in all. Most of them were not one-sided but close affairs and the Aussies held their nerve at the end.
But the tide turned then and how. In 2010 India beat Australia in the only ODI played, the other two matches being abandoned due to rain. In the 2011 ODI World Cup, India beat Australia at Ahmedabad in the quarters to end their streak of three straight world cups and become world champions ourselves.
After that we won both the 2013 and 2017 bilateral ODI series with Australia. The only sad end to the tour was the Aussie team bus being stoned by irate fans thanks to their brilliant victory against India at Guwahati in the second T20.
That hurt was somewhat assuaged by fans holding placards and apologizing to the Aussies for that incident.
But still, it was a tour that the Australian cricket team would rather forget than remember and one in which India’s global domination streak marched on.