Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day January 19, 2008

A great rivalry revived

It would be ridiculous to suggest that a new world order is upon us but one thing has been re-established at Perth: Australia v India is the Test rivalry of the decade

India achieved their win through teamwork and not individual brilliance © AFP

Australia must wonder why they always run into India when in full flow. The same opponents had halted them in 2001 by conjuring a miracle in Kolkata; now they have done one better by overwhelming them at the bastion of Australian supremacy. Perth didn't quite live up to the hype, but it was still the paciest, bounciest track the Indians have experienced this summer and it is likely to remain so.

More significantly, though, after a blip in Melbourne, a great rivalry has been restored to health. Just over four years ago India had taken a Test off Australia in Adelaide and now they have done it again. It would be ridiculous to suggest that a new world order is upon us but one thing has been re-established: Australia v India is the Test rivalry of the decade. England popped up spectacularly in 2005 but only India have been able to match, fight and beat Australia over a sustained period.

Since India's disastrous tour in 1991-92, the teams have met 21 times in Test cricket; the numbers now stand at 10-8 in Australia's favour. In the corresponding period Australia's record stands at 27-9 against England, 12-2 against Pakistan, 15-4 against South Africa and 9-1 against Sri Lanka. And India were the last team to humble Australia in a home Test.

Till 2001, contests between India and Australia followed a familiar pattern: India were hopeless in Australia and Australia could never beat India in India. Steve Waugh's team, though it lost that great series, actually started the change - Australia were two wicket-taking balls away from winning the series - and Sourav Ganguly's Indians continued it during a magnificently competitive series in 2003-04.

There was a real danger of this series ending as a washout. A less resilient side would have been shattered by the heartbreaking last-minute loss at Sydney, and the other distractions it brought. India are fortunate to have a man of Anil Kumble's resolve and calm, and a bunch of steely senior players in the dressing room. Instead of licking their wounds when they retreated to Canberra after the stand-off, they renewed their spirit to fight on and found the calm to be able to do so. Kumble spoke after the win about the special bond within the team and this is as united a team as India have ever been.

Kumble had no hesitation in ranking this win the greatest of his career and he is hardly off the mark. The good thing about this Indian side is that the wins have been getting better and better. Adelaide in 2003 was special because no one had given them a chance of competing against Australia before the series and, more so, because they were 85 for 4 in the first innings chasing 556. Like Kolkata, it had a touch of the miraculous to it. And of course, Australia had contributed to their defeat by some reckless batting.

Not so here. This was a Test in which India looked Australia in the eye from the first session and never blinked. Apart from batting and bowling better than their opponents, they even caught more safely. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid showed what difference technique can make by batting through a challenging period when Brett Lee and Stuart Clark were at their best on the first day; when they failed in the second innings VVS Laxman stood up. Virender Sehwag's two wickets in successive overs hastened India's win but his contribution with the bat was equally vital. He got India off to quick starts in both innings and in fact had looked to have regained his form in the second innings. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is still far from his booming best but this is his first tour of Australia and his restrained 38 in the second innings saved India from a collapse.

This was a Test India dominated pretty much throughout. Apart from batting and bowling better than their opponents, they caught more safely

But the bowlers won India the match and, staggeringly, they outbowled their rivals. Even more staggeringly the bowling line-up, had injury not intervened, would have read Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel. Rarely has the gap between expectation and delivery been so huge in a positive sense. Even though Perth was expected to deliver pace and bounce, the Indians always knew they had to do it with swing and, irrespective of what the pitch did, they were prepared to throw it up.

Teamwork has been a feature of India's recent wins and, as in Trent Bridge and Delhi, there were no singular performances here. Wasim Jaffer and Sourav Ganguly were the only failures of the match, and even Jaffer played his part in the first innings. It's a sign of strength and a healthy departure from the not-so-distant past when they were over-reliant on individual brilliance.

The result in Perth was also a victory for world cricket and there were few Australian journalists in the press box who were not alive to the fact; they were even prepared to rejoice over it. Australia's dominance has been boring and unhealthy and, even though this is not a sign of a decline, to see them challenged itself is uplifting.

The Australian season began in misery with Sri Lanka belying their promise. Now, Test cricket is alive again. The trophy has been won but there is a series that can be shared. Adelaide is a salivating prospect.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anthony on January 20, 2008, 12:13 GMT

    The constant theme here has been that India is challenging Australia with the 10-8 margin constantly being quoted and that India are surging. Trouble is they typically lift their game for an occasion and then fall right away against other opposition. Australia on the other hand have only dropped an occasional game and with the exception of England in 2005 when the series has already been one (INCLUDING THIS ONE!) India have not managed to string more than 6 wins in a row in their history. When India can win maybe 8 games to be even halfway compared to the Australian team, then start dancing. India have one win and the reaction is just as hysterical as the losses in Melbourne and Sydney. Get some perspective.;result=1;result=2;result=3;result=4;spanmax1=20+Jan+2008;spanmin1=20+Jan+1998;spanval1=span;template=results;type=team

  • Tricky on January 20, 2008, 11:02 GMT

    Dear Poppy-corn,I totally agree with you. Australia is very dignified while playing as was shown in sydney by myself and my skipper-to-be puppy-clarke. We both rubbed the ball cleanly on earth before appealing for the catches. And our mates i.e. blind-bat *ucknor and benson were so unbiased that they gave it out only once, i.e. only for puppy's catch and not for my catch, so this is what we mean when we say it "even out". Even out in oz's language means when we appeal for two wrong reasons, one appeal should go in our favour. In sydney, our third umpire from australia broke all reacords of unbiased decisions and gave Symo not-out, even when whole world watches it in replays that symo was out stumped. This is called un-biased decisions because the third umpire was un-biased of every other human beings thoughts and visions. In sydney, we only got 14 umpiring un-biased decisions on our favour and indians got 2, and they were so undignified to complain about it.

  • Jarrod on January 20, 2008, 10:18 GMT

    Does anybody seriously believe that this single loss signifies the end of an era. Let us not forget that India drew the series in 2003-04 yet Australia (apart from Ashes 05) continued their dominance. Everybody wants Australia to lose so badly, that they are blind to the fact that they are contributing to the enourmous hunger for success this Australian side has.

    By the way, the twelfth man running on to the field with the flag after winning a test? No one considers this over the top do they? Hypocrites.

  • John on January 20, 2008, 9:35 GMT

    Finally a real contest. India played to their undoubted potential and Australia had an off day at the office. No excuses, that is what cricket is all about.

    Adelaide promises to be a cracker.

  • Manikandan on January 20, 2008, 9:28 GMT

    Indians were really fighting hard to pocket a win against Australia and the green baggies were fighting to avoid a loss till the end. Great Cricketting stuff from both teams! Now,not only Pakistan is a great rival for India but also the Aussies.. I think the one day seires ahead will have breath taking stuff, especially when sreesanth is back in the side.He really brings the ground alive :)

  • Jordan on January 20, 2008, 9:10 GMT

    Congrats to the Indian cricket team for the ourstanding cricket played. As an Aussie it was a hard test to watch at times, but it was exciting. Great work. However, to those fans and journalists who are proclaiming this Indian victory as "the end of an Australian era", I have two words: "Ashes 2005" Back then, England beat us in a series (not just a single game) and proclaimed themselves the new leaders in world cricket. I think we all know what happened next....

  • Adrian on January 20, 2008, 8:10 GMT

    I like Kunashah's comment. Yep, it was a great Test, and it was good to see Australia challenged at last. What I didn't like was the hysteria which greeted a couple of umpiring mistakes in Sydney. Umpires are human; Bucknor has been one of the best umpires for years, and should have been allowed to retire with grace.We just have to accept mistakes - they've been part of cricket forever. Have you ever tried to actually umpire? I've found it hard - trying to do so with hawk-eye examining your every move must be terrifying. If Indian fans scream 'cheats' and burn effigies every time they lose (combined with their growing control of the purse-strings) we'll never have an level playing ground.

    For now though, well done Anil Kumble, and it was such a joy to see those batsmen of yours in full flight. Let's keep up the rivalry between our two great nations, but let's not get hysterical about it.

  • Vivek on January 20, 2008, 8:02 GMT

    though one may be critical of Asad Rauf's LBW decisions in this game (Tendulkar and Dhoni in Indias's innings and Hussey in Aussies innings) it must be noted that he has been consistent with his decisions. Even though hawk eye showed that the ball was heading over the stumps, when he felt he was out, he gave it out....The fact that he was consistent when either team was batting evened things out when one considers the bigger picture

  • Shiji on January 20, 2008, 6:07 GMT

    Kudos to both teams.India,for bouncing back in the series strongly,the way they dominated through all 4days of the test against top opposition,and winning quite convincingly in the end.Australia,for their ever positive and attacking approach to the game even in the face of defeat,the way they fought till the end,and for accepting defeat gracefully like champions.I hope Adelaide is fought with ultimate hunger from both teams.No doubt Australia will be hungry.Defeat is the ultimate appetizer,more so for champion sides who've not tasted many.With Hayden back in the side and the bowling confusion sorted,Australia will resurge.Even the best of Indian teams from the past generally had two pblms - inability to sustain hunger and consistency,and the lack of killer instinct when having the oppnent flat on the mat.But something tells me,this youthful Indian side,under an ambitious experienced captain like Kumble can do a lot of things differently.As Sambit put it,Adelaide indeed is salivating.

  • vijay on January 20, 2008, 5:22 GMT

    The real moment of victory,good batting and superb bowling by Indians,Aussies were seen under pressure while feilding they dropped some catches,openers were dismissed early and wickets were falling at good intervals,The back of Pathan and Ishant is a good prospect,RP is continuing his form,Inclusion of Sehwag is crucial,a blazing start had taken Aussies bowlers on defensive approach.Overall a good VICTORY and point had proven.

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