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December 16, 2003
Time to doff the cap to Rahul Dravid, India's Most Valuable Player
© Getty Images
Petrus Stephanus de Villiers - Fanie to most - produced an indefatigable spell of 6 for 43 and was the man of the moment the last time Australia went behind in a home Test series. That debacle at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 1994 also resulted in Damien Martyn being made lamb to the slaughter, though every single Australian batsman was culpable for a lily-livered performance.
Almost ten years on, it was Rahul Dravid - no javelin-thrower himself - who did a de Villiers, changing the destiny of the match with two superb innings and a blinder of a catch. Sachin Tendulkar has made India a massive draw the world over, but perhaps now it's time to doff the floppy hat to a man whose contribution in recent seasons had been no less significant.
There's a lack of flourish to Dravid's batting which means that the average spectator will never take to him as they do to a Tendulkar or an Adam Gilchrist. But like the no-frills German sedan that keeps going while the expensive Italian jobs blow a gasket, he would be the discerning man's choice, nine times out of ten.
India made it hard for themselves, though. Virender Sehwag's crude charge and scythe across the line wouldn't have been out of place in a harvest field in Punjab, but on a cricket pitch, it was an unforgivable sin. Tendulkar showed brief glimpses of being back to his normal self before padding up to one that pitched in line. When you offer no stroke, more often than not, umpires will exercise that itchy finger.
VVS Laxman batted with nerveless elegance until he got carried away, but by then the job was done. Three fours in a MacGill over soon after he got to the crease defused the tension, and after that, only the most pessimistic Indian followers nursed worries.
Australia, despite Jason Gillespie going off with a groin strain, never compromised on effort. If Brad Williams was indeed carrying a serious injury, that spell in the morning - when he had Dravid dropped by Gilchrist - deserved a red badge of courage. It was 39 degrees in the shade, but instead of wilting, Steve Waugh and his men kept going right to the bitter end, by which time even the seagulls had given up on them.
Syd Gregory made 201 and George Giffen - who has a stand named after him here - a century the last time Australia made more than 550 in the first innings, and still lost a Test match. That was 108 years ago at Sydney, as Johnny Briggs and Bobby Peel spun England to a remarkable 10-run victory on the final day.
The last time an Indian dominated a Test match in Australia, Ravi Shastri made 206 and took vital second-innings wickets at the SCG in 1991-92. On that occasion, India finished agonising yards - well, two wickets - short of the finishing line. On this unforgettable afternoon at Adelaide, Dravid - India's Most Valuable Player - ensured that there wouldn't be a similar hard-luck story.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be following India throughout this series.