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India's finest cricket victory in 40 years
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jan 19, 2008
By Gulu Ezekiel - Dreamcricket Special Columnist

It was a few years ago that the late captain GS Ramchand rather bitterly commented at an awards function: “Indian cricket did not start in 1971.”

That sentiment emanated from his anguish over India’s first Test victory over Australia at Kanpur in 1959 (under his captaincy) not being adequately acknowledged by the Indian cricket fraternity.

It was indeed a memorable victory against a mighty team led by the redoubtable Richie Benaud.

However it is generally accepted that Indian cricket did indeed come of age in 1971 when Ajit Wadekar led the side to rubbers in both the West Indies and England for the first time.

India’s record at home had always been exemplary. But on spin friendly tracks with our own umpires (till recently) and crowds backing the team, some of the sheen of beating Australia and England was invariably lost.

It was said for many years that the Indian team was like a fine wine—it did not travel well.

That has been dispelled in the 21st century with first Sourav Ganguly and then Rahul Dravid leading India to a series of memorable wins on foreign soil, a true test of a team’s mettle. Indeed, our record abroad in this period has been the best for any team save for world champions Australia.

It was fascinating to hear Sunil Gavaskar state on TV shortly after Anil Kumble and his men had wrapped up the Perth Test that this will go down as India’s finest victory over the last 40 years.

Personally I had always placed the Oval Test triumph of 1971 as being at the top of the list. But Gavaskar rightly pointed out that Perth was extra special as India were trailing 0-2 in the series.

At the Oval both the first and second Tests had been drawn, largely due to the weather. And when India clinched the second Test at Port-of-Spain for their first win over the West Indies just a few months earlier, it had followed the drawn Kingston Test where the home side had been forced to follow-on.

Gavaskar did not say so in so many words—Anil Kumble spelled it out later—but Perth was extra special considering all the turmoil surrounding the tour following the acrimonious preceding Test at Sydney.

It was heart breaking for Kumble to watch from the other end as the last three wickets tumbled in that dramatic penultimate over at Sydney even as he remained not out on a valiant 45.

The very thought of abandoning the tour following all the bitterness at Sydney was negative and self-defeating.

I had written an article for a newspaper last week stating that the best answer to all the acrimony would be to stay on and level the series.

I must admit that even as I wrote those words, I felt the task would be well nigh impossible. Perth was looming as ‘Fortress WACA’ for the home side.

Now the odds favour India as we head into the fourth and final Test at Adelaide!

Who would have believed this scenario just a week back?

 
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