Back in the 90s and early 2000s, beating Australia was a herculean task for any team. Any condition or any side, the Australian line-up was in their top form at that time. With the likes of Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, and Damien Martyn in the batting line-up, there was no scope for the bowlers to take a breather.
But then came a time, when India was emerging as the world beaters in the game of cricket. In the history of Indian cricket captains, the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ Sourav Ganguly has a special place. The Bengal Tiger took over the leadership role from Mohammad Azharuddin at the turn of the century and he was the one who resurrected the team from the looming shadow of match-fixing. But more importantly, he instilled in the team a new-found confidence and went on to build a match-winning outfit.
Ganguly has some of the greatest names in his team. During that era, the team had legendary players like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, and Sourav himself. Tendulkar was regarded as the best batsman of that generation but it was Rahul Dravid who emerged as the match-winner on many occasions. He took the team out of many problematic conditions as his workmanlike innings was often the fulcrum that proved to be the foundation of the team.
Whenever there was a crisis, Dravid would come as a superman and save the Indian side from a humiliating defeat.
One of the greatest heists that were pulled off by Ganguly and his men came on December 3, 2003, when they defeated the mighty Australians in their own backyard. The Aussies, true to their nature, started the series with their mind-games by sending out a series of statements in the press about how the Indian would never be able to Australia on such bouncy pitches.
The first match ended in a draw at Brisbane thanks to a brilliant century by the Indian skipper. But, what they did in the Adelaide Test match was something magical. It seemed like India came inside the ground to create a historical moment for the Indians all around the world.
The Aussies started the match with a bang. Skipper Ricky Ponting played an extraordinary inning of 242 and took the team’s total to a mammoth 556 in the first innings. Anil Kumble bowled 43 overs and took 5 wickets by giving away 154 runs.
Despite having a good start, India slipped to 85 runs for the loss of 4 wickets. Legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly did not even reach the double-figure mark. Rahul Dravid was still at the crease and VVS Laxman came out to join Dravid at the crease. India was still 471 adrift of the Australian total. The Australians were not fond of this pair, thanks to a fairytale victory inside the Eden Gardens only a couple of years ago. But still, the Indian team needed a “Herculean Effort” for India to make a comeback.
The batsmen did not disappoint and played the innings of their lives. The pair stitched together a 303-run stand to take their team closer to the Australian total. In the first innings, Dravid played a 594-minute marathon inning which was a perfect example of him waging a personal battle against the Aussies. Rahul was in top-form and Steve Waugh needed something magical to break the partnership. Fast bowler Jason Gillespie was brought into the attack, who was bowling really good in that Test match.
But even Gillespie could not contain the master batsman and Dravid welcomed him with a towering six to complete his hundred. Waugh was running out of bowling options and he was trying anyone & everyone to go out there for bowling. Dravid’s ‘beast mode’ continued to haunt the Australians. When he was off-strike, the ‘very very special’ Laxman would start to torment the Australian bowlers with his wrist work.
Known as the ‘Wall’ of Indian cricket, Dravid’s 446-ball inning finally came to an end on the fourth day of the match. He came in at number three and he was the last batsman to get dismissed. With the help of his innings and Laxman’s superb knock of 148, India posted a mammoth total of 523 on the scoreboard. Now, it was up to the bowlers to bowl out their skins to win the match.
While coming out to bat, the Australians had to give it back to the Indian bowling unit. But, Ajit Agarkar had different plans. He was considered to be an underdog in the team and was never a constant in the Test squad. Agarkar started the proceedings by taking the wicket of Justin Langer in third over of the Australian innings on the score of 10. But his moment of glory came when he picked up the wicket of skipper Ricky Ponting on the last ball of the seventh over. Ponting was dismissed on a rare duck and the mighty Aussies were in big trouble.
Steve Waugh and Damien Martyn stabled the inning for their team. Surprisingly, it was Sachin Tendulkar who broke this crucial partnership. In a gap of two overs, the Master Blaster bamboozled the two champions of the Australian side with his spin.
On the other hand, Agarkar continued to pierce the Kangaroos with his amazing bowling skills. The Aussies were bowled out for 196 and the Sourav Ganguly-led side wanted 230 runs to win the match and once again it was Dravid who took Indian to the home. Australia had a golden chance to dismissed the batsman cheaply but shockingly Adam Gilchrist spilled a relatively easy chance.
After that drop, Dravid was determined to take his team to the victory. He battled the bowlers with sheer determination and did not worry about the wickets that were falling down at the other end.
The moment was here, Stuart MacGill decided to ball a short and wide delivery. Dravid promptly dispatched the delivery to the boundary line. The moment the ball hit the boundary line, his immediate reaction was to take his arms into the air and kiss the Indian cap. This reaction showed the world that achieving a victory for his country meant everything to him.
They had achieved a milestone. India had beaten the mighty Australians in their own backyard. At that time, it was almost impossible to beat them in any given condition but to beat them in home conditions was something extraordinary.
India won the match by 4 wickets and Dravid was named ‘Player of the Match’. He scored more than 300 runs in the Test match.
The Adelaide Test triggered an Indian Renaissance, which was led by none other than Dravid. This victory will always remain ‘one of the most defining moments of Indian cricket’.
About the Author
Sports Journalist by profession, a Cricket Fanatic by passion. Aayush Sharma has been following the game of cricket since childhood and considers Sachin Tendulkar as his idol. When in free time, he loves to read books or go out and play some gully cricket with friends. For him, Tennis ace Roger Federer and F1 Legend Michael Schumacher are the only sportspersons that reach the level of Tendulkar