India in Australia, 2003-04 December 2, 2003

A history of defeat

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Kapil Dev: starred in a historic win at Melbourne in 1980-81
© Getty Images

Over the years, Indian teams touring Australia have had some torrid times. India's best chance came in 1985-86, when they dominated all three Tests, but they failed to clinch the issue. That was the last time the Indians dominated a series in Australia, and "whitewash" became the familiar buzzword thereafter. In our build-up to the upcoming series, we look back at India's previous tours to Australia.

Lala Amarnath was the captain on India's first tour to Australia in 1947-48, but they were no match for the 'Invincibles,' who hammered them 4-0. The Indian bowling was torn apart by Don Bradman, who finished with an average of 143, with his 201 at the fourth Test at Adelaide being the high point. The Indian batting depended largely on Vijay Hazare and Vinoo Mankad. Hazare's hundred in each innings at Adelaide could not avert an innings defeat, and Mankad's two centuries were also scored in lost causes. India were dismissed for less than 100 three times and never came to grips with the fearsome attack of Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, William Johnston and Ernie Toshack.

Things weren't too different when the Indian team visited Australia 20 years later. In the very first Test, Bob Cowper and Bob Simpson hit centuries to put India on the back foot. ML Jaisimha was the only Indian batsman to score a hundred in the series, and the batting fell woefully short of expectations. Graham McKenzie ripped through the batting line-up in the second Test at Melbourne, claiming seven victims, and only MAK Pataudi's 75 hinted at some resistance. Erapalli Prasanna spun out 25 wickets in the series, a rare spark in a forgettable summer.

This was India's most exciting tour to Australia, where they nearly pulled off a historic series win. Bob Simpson, who had played a huge role in the 1967-68 series, made a comeback after 10 years and captained the side. Australia, though depleted due to the Kerry Packer World Series, managed to eke out wins in the first two Tests. Sunil Gavaskar's brilliant hundred in the first Test at Brisbane went in vain, and Australia managed to wriggle out of a tight situation to win the dramatic second Test by two wickets. That was when India began a famous comeback. BS Chandrasekar's 12 for 104 destroyed Australia in the third match, and a good allround display levelled the series at two apiece in Sydney. India nearly rewrote history in the fifth Test, but fell just 47 runs short of both a great run-chase and their first series win in Australia.

India's next two tours were the most successful campaigns, with both series ending in draws. In the 1980-81 tour, India collapsed in both their innings of the first Test but hung on for a draw in the second - a Test that was characterised by two flamboyant innings from Kim Hughes and Sandeep Patil. India squared the series at Melbourne when Kapil Dev's 5 for 28 rattled Australia in the fourth innings as they folded up for a paltry 83. Gundappa Viswanath had earlier hit a vital 114 in the first innings, when the batsmen around him were falling cheaply.

India missed a glorious chance to record their first series win in Australia on this tour. Their batsmen dominated in all the matches, and the final scoreline did not reflect the difference between the teams. India's four totals in the series were 520, 445, 59 for 2 and a staggering 600 for 4 declared. Sunil Gavaskar hit two hundreds, while Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Mohinder Amarnath helped themselves to one each. The Australian bowling was toothless on most occasions but they escaped unscathed, largely due to the batting efforts of David Boon and Allan Border. Shivlal Yadav had a consistent series with the ball, while Kapil Dev produced a memorable performance of 8 for 106 in the first innings at Adelaide.

The Mohammad Azharuddin-led Indian side that toured Australia suffered a humiliating 4-0 drubbing. The Indian batsmen were all at sea in the first two Tests, with Craig McDermott and Bruce Reid exposing their technical frailties. However, the batting showed a marked improvement in the next two, and India got into positions of ascendancy. Ravi Shastri's double-hundred at Sydney and Azharuddin's elegant 106 at Adelaide were delights to the eye, but India failed to win both Tests by slender margins. Australia romped home in the final Test at Perth, with Mike Whitney's 7 for 27 derailing the Indian second innings. The only consolation came in the first innings when Sachin Tendulkar hit a magical 114 - an innings he still regards as his best ever. David Boon feasted on the ragged Indian bowling and finished with a series average of 79.42.

The story was similar in the 1999-00 series, when India crossed 250 only twice, with Tendulkar's 116 at Melbourne and VVS Laxman's 167 at Sydney providing stray glimpses of artistry. Ricky Ponting led the mass slaughter and finished with a series average of 125. Justin Langer and Steve Waugh joined the party, and 400-plus totals for Australia became par for the course. Brett Lee made his debut in the second Test and, along with Glenn McGrath and Damien Fleming, cleaned up the top order with minimal ease every time.