Legendary Aussie captain Steve Waugh was one the meanest ever. Playing tough games on the field, mental disintegration and the most controversial sledging were all parts of the tricks of his trade. When he visited India in 2001, many expected a repeat 3-0 of what he had inflicted India in the previous series.
But he didn’t count on Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, who believed in matching fire with fire and aggression with aggression. Ganguly led from the front and taught his team to look at all opponents straight in the eye and to give as good as it got.
The result was a thrilling 2-1 series victory in what could be called one of the best of all time. When we visited Australia, Ganguly’s aggression saw him through and we tied one of our toughest series ever.Waugh got a taste of mental disintegration in his final career match as India piled up 705-7 in the first innings.
It was Waugh who was battling to draw the match and had to watch the Indians celebrate with the Border-Gavaskar trophy after his farewell.
Waugh got the better of the whole world except Ganguly. They captained seven Tests against each other and Ganguly won that battle 3-2.
When Jellybeangate happened at Trent Bridge in 2007, the Indians didn’t flinch. Jelly beans were placed on the pitch in an effort to make fun of the batsmen and Zaheer Khan wasn’t amused.
He took 9 wickets in the Test to emerge as the man of the match as India won comfortably by 7 wickets. In the final Test at the Kennington Oval, the Indians amassed a whopping 664 to shut England out of the series.
In the very next year at Monkeygate, the Indians were down in the dumps. At 0-2, they were looking at a whitewash and the whole controversy left them drained.
In the next match at Perth, our hosts put up a green pitch and picked up 4 fast bowlers. India was expected to self-destruct. However India won comfortably by 72 runs in the end to make a fine comeback.
In the final Test, India put up a commanding 526, but that only ended in a draw. We may have lost 1-2, but we went down fighting.
The trend of the opponents suffering if they messed with India continued as Andersongate in the first Test in the current England series led to a fine fight-back by India. On the greenest of pitches at Lord’s, India checkmated the English to take a 1-0 series lead.
Then the tables turned and England won the third Test and English fast bowler James Anderson escaped a ban. Anderson kept abusing Indian spinner Ravindra Jadeja and threatened to break his teeth.
He got away scot free. To make matters worse, the English crowds booed Jadeja when he was on the field. Anderson abused. Anderson got away. Jadeja faced the flak.
The Indian team was fuming on the eve of the Old Trafford Test. This is usually the time when Team India plays well. It fights well when the chips are down.
However they self-destructed in no time. While there can be 2700 balls bowled in an innings, the Indians lost the plot in a mere 31 balls. India was 8-4 after 5.1 overs and probably lost it at that point.
England on the other hand went from 140-5 to 367-9.While our first 4 wickets put on 8 runs, their last 4 wickets put on 227 runs! A spectator may have well wondered whether India was playing or Bangladesh!
In the second innings things were no different. At a time when any of the English bowlers can put up a 50-run partnership at will, the Indian openers haven’t done so on a foreign pitch for goodness knows how many years.
India lost 20 wickets for 313 runs.
All this happened despite the fact that Stuart Broad was injured and he couldn’t bowl with the new ball. We are now looking at a disgraceful 1-3 series loss.
The Indian team has plummeted to new lows.
Our bowlers struggle to get top order batsmen out early. Our bowlers struggle to get the tail out early. Our batsmen struggle against fast bowlers. Our batsmen struggle against spinners.
It’s been a dreary 3 years on foreign pitches with the Lord’s victory being the solitary bright spot.
We next travel to Australia in December.
You can already start putting your money on a 0-4 whitewash!
The fire that Ganguly had lighted is well and truly dead.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/