March 15, 2011

A forgotten anniversary

Sambit Bal
VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid walk back after their unbeaten 357-run stand, India v Australia, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 4th day, March 14, 2001
Ten years ago, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid constructed a partnership that would change Indian cricket  © AFP
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While the senses are riveted on the World Cup, a landmark day in Indian cricket has gone unheralded, unacknowledged even. Ten years ago, on March 14, the foundation for the golden age of Indian Test cricket was laid by two remarkable men. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid looked defeat in the eye and refused to blink.

Faced with a follow-on and an opposition which had won 16 Tests in a row, they batted on and on and on till hope and spirit drained off the Australians. For the record, they batted out the day, put on 376 runs for the 5th wicket, and the next day, which is ten years to the day today, Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar spun out Australia for 212 to secure the improbablest of wins.

This would remain the defining moment of Laxman's career, but the feat would have been less significant had it just remained a freak event. But not only was this match and series turning, it also changed the course of Indian cricket. The momentum carried India to a win at Chennai, the confidence derived from beating the one of greatest-ever Test teams carried them on a journey that ended with them becoming the No. 1 Test team in the world.

I should confess that I didn't remember the day myself. But then I am hopeless with dates. It was Jaideep Varma, the rationalist half of our Running Between the Cricket team, who messaged me breathlessly from Eden Gardens. He was chuffed already to step in to one of cricket's iconic venues for the first time in his life, but when he realised what day it was, he couldn't believe his luck. "What an honour to be here today," he wrote, "on the 10th anniversary of the greatest day in Indian cricket."

I had a busy afternoon and it was quite late when I got around to reading his message. I then messaged Dravid, asking him teasingly if he knew the significance of the day. He replied a couple of hours later. No, he hadn't known till late evening when a journalist from Kolkata called him.

But would you have guessed who his dinner guests were for the evening? VVS Laxman and family. It was a coincidence. Laxman's wife had spent the day at Dravid's house, and Laxman, who is in Bangalore to train at the National Cricket Academy, joined them for dinner. There are things you can plan, but some things are just meant to be.

Earlier this evening, I spoke about the day to John Wright, who is in Mumbai on duty as the New Zealand coach. The day before Dravid and Laxman's partnership, with India 254 for 4 after following on, Wright had been counting his days as India's first foreign coach. "That day, that Test, changed my life, and Harbhajan's."

We spoke for a while. I asked for one memory, and he gave me half a dozen. "It's all so vivid still." The fire in the stands after the win ("and then I looked back, and it was gone"); the noise when the wickets were falling ("I was asking myself how intimidating it must be for the opposition batsmen"), Laxman driving the first balls after the lunch and tea breaks for four ("just how can anyone manage to do that coming out of a break?"); and driving back with Sourav Ganguly after the press conference ("we were quiet, but a great weight had lifted off our shoulders").

India is a different country now. And Indian cricket is unrecognisable from then. Victories are now expected, taken for granted even. But Indian fans must find a quiet moment, rewind to that day, and feel grateful for it.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Keywords: Nostalgia

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by mosab on (November 1, 2011, 21:40 GMT)

even i am a Pakistani but still i remember every ball of that series.... i watched it ball by ball..... i use to hate australia for there long run of one sided victories.... the way VVS and dravid batted and batted long... it was a treat to watch.... and for my hate for steve waugh's team i was backing indian team the whole series......

Posted by Achintya Dwivedi on (July 31, 2011, 11:05 GMT)

I feel so unlucky today that i was not able to watch that match on television and now i'm reading this nostalgic article. Thank you for reminding me such a gr8 memory.

Posted by shivpujan singh on (July 21, 2011, 4:49 GMT)

wow excellent articale , that victory can,t be forgoten by cricket follower , who admier with indian team and their journey , that old memory refresh cricketing knowlege and give happiness to serious cricket lover

Posted by Sourabh on (May 12, 2011, 12:09 GMT)

wow!!....nostalgia.....

Posted by Rakesh Chaudhary on (March 30, 2011, 19:03 GMT)

I think it was the best test match I have ever seen in my life.Being one down in three match series and then asked to follow on in the second, everything was looking bleak for India.But the way VVS and Rahul batted they literally pulled victories from jaws of Australians.Also Harbhajan took 15 wickets in the match to ensure a chimerical Indian victory.I totally agree with the author that this victory was the stepping stone for Indian rise to no.1 Test team in the world.I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to watch the live and enjoy the special feeling of victory

Posted by Harsh Thakor on (March 24, 2011, 7:46 GMT)

The Laxman-Dravid stand was one of Cricket's most unforgetaable moments which laid the base for a miraculuos win for India who virtually ressurected themselves from the grave.It was magnificient witnessing the artistry and innovative ability of V.V.S.Laxman with the technical brilliance and tenacity of Rahul Dravid.It was fitting that such a game broke Australia's record unbroken run in test cricket wher India faced a follow on.It displayed India's capacity to rise up from the most adverse circumstances.

Posted by Rakesh on (March 21, 2011, 14:50 GMT)

great article, i was preparing for +2 board exams , on those two days i did not read anything so exited thanks for bringing back memories.

Posted by Pavan on (March 18, 2011, 16:37 GMT)

I remember the day so well (or should i say night) - i was still doing my masters in US and the game being played in India meant we had to be up all night and sleep the whole day. My room mate was system administrator - we watched the game in our university server room on one of the servers! THANKYOU Dravid and Lax!

Posted by Rahul on (March 18, 2011, 13:20 GMT)

Superb use of words to describe one of the greatest wins by India. I have already copied the content and will read as and when I feel down and out.....just reading about it gave me lots of +ve energy....Great job, thanks CricInfo and KUDOS to Sambit.........

Posted by chaitanya on (March 18, 2011, 10:45 GMT)

nah mate.. never gonna forget that day,ever. the best day ever. I remember I was jumping on my bed and the kicking the pillows. became a true cricket fan ever since.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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