On December 6, India will commence their first Test tour of Australia in nearly four years. Matches between the two sides in the longest format of the game have been feisty affairs in the past. This time around though, India will be facing an Australian side in transition following the lengthy bans that were handed to David Warner and Steve Smith for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Although India have the weight of history to deal with – they have never won a Test series in Australia and have managed to win just five out of 44 Test matches they have played in the country against the hosts – this is being touted as the best chance they have of breaking their duck. This is a stark departure from buildups to previous rubbers, particularly during those periods when Australia would beat almost anyone who dare cross their way. Since the turn of the century, India have toured the country five times.
1999/2000| Three-match series; Australia win 3-0
Sachin Tendulkar, who was captain at the time, has since called this series the toughest he has ever played. VVS Laxman scored his first Test century but that was pretty much it as far as positives were concerned for India. This was the time when Steve Waugh’s ‘Invincibles’ were steamrolling teams across the world and India were no different. They lost the first Test by 285 runs, the second by 180 and the third by 141.
2003/04| Four-match series, drawn 1-1
Waugh’s farewell series turned out to be one of India’s most successful Down Under. The second Test featured Rahul Dravid’s vintage 233, a knock that Waugh admitted he grudgingly admired despite being opposition captain. Virender Sehwag scored a brutal 195 in the third Test while Sachin Tendulkar, who had a terrible series until then, scored 241 in the fourth. Ricky Ponting had gone into overdrive in that series, scoring half-centuries in both innings of the first Test before back-to-back double centuries in the second and third.
2007/08| Four-match series, Australia win 2-1
Although India were given a 337-run hiding in the first Test, they found their way back, winning the third and drawing the fourth. Adam Gilchrist retired from the longest format and eventually called time on his international career following the limited overs series of this tour that followed the Tests. Sachin Tendulkar had a great series and ended up top scorer with 493 runs. But the cricket was overshadowed by the bickering in this series.
India accused Australia of unsportsmanlike conduct, with captain Anil Kumble invoking the Bodyline era Aussie skipper Bill Woodfull in saying, “Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that’s all I can say.” The second Test in Sydney saw some extraordinary umpiring blunders which led to Steve Bucknor being taken off for the one that followed. But, in dark corners of cricket’s hall of infamy, this match – and, by extension, the series – would be associated with the word ‘Monkeygate.’
2011/12| Four-match series, Australia win 4-0
India’s Test setup was cut open in this series. Australia won the first Test by 122 runs, the second by an innings and 68, the third by an innings and 37 and the fourth by 298. Questions were raised on MS Dhoni’s ability as a captain in long-form cricket and Virat Kohli entered the conscience of the Australian public through his finger.
2013/14| Four-match series, Australia win 2-0
MS Dhoni retired, Virat Kohli took over. The series was the first Australia played after the tragic death of Phil Hughes. Kohli went on to become the protagonist, picking fights with the Australians and scoring runs on a canter. Dhoni dropped the retirement bombshell after the drawn third Test. Australia won the first match by 48 runs and the second by four wickets before the third and fourth draws.