Border-Gavaskar Recap: Brisbane 2003

We talk of the glorious Indian Test batting, and Sourav Ganguly is hardly mentioned on purely batting terms — perhaps because he shared the order with four more accomplished batsmen. His famous knocks are fewer in number as compared to them, but his gutsy innings at the Gabba is one of my favorite Test innings of all time.

Three years into the new setup, Team India had found the right balance of experience and youth. The 2003 WC was a good outing, but every Indian will painfully remember how Australia steamrolled India in the tournament, not once but twice. The expectation from the tour was to be as one-sided as one can imagine. They said you had a better chance of winning the Powerball than winning a Test in Australia in 2003.

Never mind the weather-affected first Test at Brisbane in the 2003–04 tour Down Under. Although the match had lost a lot of its time, batting against Australia’s 323 was not an easy task. With Dravid and Tendulkar back in the pavilion (arguably the guys with the best techniques to tackle these conditions), a middle-order collapse looked almost certain (First Test blues?). As Ganguly walked in towards the pitch, the commentators joked about his inability to play the short ball, and how Gabba will produce working overs for him. The Day-4 morning session buzz was around whether Australia could get these remaining wickets cheaply and wrap India up by Tea, then play at run a ball and declare to push for victory. The fighter from Bengal wasn’t gonna let that happen.

After the small initial struggle, Ganguly looked like a man on a mission. Cuts, drives, and more importantly pulls absolutely shut down the Channel 9 commentators, who were graceful enough to quickly shower praises on him though. A crucial partnership with Laxman essentially ‘saved the Test’ and killed any Aussie hopes of victory.

After Laxman got out, Ganguly played with the wagging tail to get India a healthy lead of 86. Interestingly with a long last day to make up for the time, the pressure was on Australia — they couldn’t afford a collapse when they trailed by 86. Some good batting by the Australians thereafter sent the short Test to a draw.

I don’t think anyone anticipated this counter-attack, which made it special. It symbolized that the Indian team was here for a fight, and who better than the skipper leading the way. Following this, India and Australia won one Test apiece. India dominated the Sydney Test and should have gone on to complete their first series victory on Australian soil, had the declaration come sooner or some crucial catches been taken.

We always talk about 233, 148, 241*, 6–41. Somewhere this 144 was special too: It set the tone for his amazing tour.

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