The current Indian team under Virat Kohli has already landed in Australia for a long 2 month tour. As we prepare for another thrilling India v Australia Test series, lets get into flashback mode and enjoy some past Indian glories on Australian soil.
India v Australia test series in Australia always had its own charm and romance. In early winter mornings ,the generation who were in their schooling days more than 30 years ago used to switch on their transistors while still under their blankets to hear radio commentary from 5:30 AM in the morning . Later we started having live telecasts with introduction of satellite TV . India’s test wins in Australia even after so many years have been few and far in between—5 wins to be precise. Here we shall go into flashback mode in 4 parts recalling those great victories.
3rd Test at Melbourne 1977-78 (30 Dec-4 Jan): India won by 222 runs.
The 1977-78 India v Australia series was a most memorable one. Before this test series,Australia had lost most of their leading players to Kerry Packer World series cricket which was the trendsetter in introducing coloured clothing, white balls and day and night matches . Hence Australia had to field virtually their 2nd string team for this these series as all the big names the Chappells, Lillee,Marsh ,Walters,Walker,Pascoe, Edwards etc had joined the WSC. Bobby Simpson one of the Australia’s leading cricketers during 1960s to early 70s was brought back from his retirement at the age of 42 to lead Australia in this series and Jeff Thomson was the only superstar who was available to face the Indians.
It turned out to be a terrific test series with the makeshift Australia XI putting a resolute performance to match the full strength Indian team comprising of the 4 great spinners and a fine array of batsmen in Gavaskar ,Viswanath,Mohinder Amarnath and a young Vengsarkar.
India had great chances to win both of the 1st 2 tests. At Brisbane chasing 341 to win ,India lost by 16 runs after Gavaskar’s brilliant 2nd innings 113 and solid contributions from Amarnath and Kirmani. At Perth setting 339 target to Australia in a high scoring game, India lost narrowly by 2 wickets even after great batting contributions from Gavaskar (127 in 2nd knock) and Amarnath (90 and 100) and bowling by skipper Bishen Bedi (10 wickets). Australia were rescued in the 1st inngs of this match by Bob Simpson who scored a marathon 176. So India reached Melbourne 0-2 down after two narrowest of defeats.
India batted 1st at MCG and were soon 0/2 with both openers dismissed by Thomson and Wayne Clark (Thomson’s opening bowling partner in this series). However Amarnath (72) fresh from his brilliant batting on the fast and bouncy WACA, batted resolutely with Vishwanath(59) to get India back on track with a 105 run 4th wicket stand. Some more useful contributions in middle order helped India to reach a moderate score of 256. Australia also lost 2 early wickets before Gary Cosier(67) and Craig Sergent (85) had a good stand but soon the whole match was turned on its head by a right arm leg break bowler from India sporting a beard.
Bhagwat Chandrasekhar has already created a reputation of taking control of matches and winning it for India. During his youth ,he had a polio on his right hand but little anyone knew that this polio hand will create havoc in World cricket later . Having done it in the past in overseas , here he suddenly started hitting his lengths and his leg breaks and flippers started to sting like a cobra on an MCG pitch having bounce. Australia’s inexperienced batting lineup have never seen such bowling before and they collapsed to 213 in 1st innings with Chandra taking 6/52 with great exhibition of leg spin bowling.
India put up a much better show in 2nd innings to build on the 43 run lead. Gavaskar(118) cracked his 3rd 100 of the series hitting some superb strokes and good contributions coming from Viswanath(54) and Amarnath(41) and India piled up 343 to set Aussies a daunting target of 387 on a 4th and 5th day pitch with Chandra in menacing form.
In 2nd innings as was expected it was a total demolition job done by Chandra , again taking 6/52 and this time assisted by the guile of Bedi who took 4/58 and Australia were skittled out for 164 with no resistance provided , this time Simpson was dismissed cheaply in both innings and India won their historic 1st ever test win on Australian soil by 222 runs with Chandra the obvious “Man of the Match” winner after match figures – 12/104. Brilliant win by India , Series now 1-2.
Brief Scores : India 256 and 343, Australia 213 and 164
4th Test at Sydney 1977-78 (7-12 Jan): India won by 1 innings and 2 runs.
Fresh from their win at MCG, India carried on the momentum at Sydney. Australia won the toss and batted and soon Bedi and Chandra were all over the Aussies batsmen. Australia’s one of the most successful batsman in this series ,Peter Toohey was run out and though Simpson played a dogged innings of 38 ,he had no support and Aussies were bold out for 131 with Chandra taking 4/30 and Bedi 3/49.
When India batted, Gavaskar (49) and Chauhan (42) batted resolutely against Aussie fast bowlers building a 1st wicket stand of 97. Jeff Thomson bowled extremely fast in one of his spells beating both batsmen many times but without luck. Building on 1st wicket stand Viswanath batted skilfully for 79 runs ably supported down the order by Vengsarkar (48) ,Kirmani (42) and left hand allrounder Karsan Ghavri(64). India posted an imposing 396/8 decl to take a huge 1st innings lead of 265 runs. Jeff Thomson bowled with great heart on a slowish pitch taking 4/83.
In the 2nd innings Australia fought harder with contributions from Cosier(68),Simpson(33) and Peter Toohey who battled hard playing some graceful shots scoring 85. However Prasanna bowled his 1st major spell in the series claiming 4/51 and others chipping in ,India bowled out Australia for 263 to win easily by an innings and 2 runs and level the series 2-2 with one test to play.
Brief scores: Australia 131 and 263, India 396/8 decl.
Both teams subsequently played a memorable 5th test match at Adelaide for 6 days (those days if any series was tied before last test match, the last test match had to be played for 6 days if no result is achieved after 5 days). Aussies made 5 changes to their team which worked as they put up 500 plus in their 1st innings and after 4 hard fought days India were set a target of 493 which they chased valiantly with big contributions from Amarnath (86) ,Viswanath(73) and Vengsarkar (78) but sadly fell short by 47 runs and thus missed out on a memorable world record target winning chase and Australia won a memorable series by 3-2.
Thus the 2 tests at MCG and SCG were the 1st two test wins by India on Australian soil.