There’s something special about watching India play a Test series in Australia, isn’t there?
Growing up as a cricket fan in the 90s in India was special for many reasons. The easy availability of live telecast, the coloured clothing, the many exploits of Sachin Tendulkar to name a few. But there was one series every Indian fan couldn’t wait for — India’s tour of Australia.
Not that the series produced many memorable wins. That wasn’t the case, historically. Never mind a series win, India have won just five out of the 44 Tests played in Australia.
Heartbreaks, now those were aplenty.
Yet, you always looked forward to it. Waking up early in the morning, even if it didn’t come natural to you; watching cricket being played on lush green outfields with birds getting vantage viewing points; vast grounds and pacy pitches where a batsman had to work hard for his runs; a scorecard at the bottom of your televison screen where wickets came before runs; a duck that hangs his head and walks off disappointed when a batsman falls for zero; the voice of Richie Benaud and Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell, to go with the likes of Harsha Bhogle and Sunil Gavaskar.
It didn’t matter the results rarely went India’s way, but you were still excited to watch it all unfold.
Part of the reason for that was the aura that the Australian team had in their own backyard. For a major part of two decades, they were the team to look up to, for the ridiculous high standards they set themselves and lived up to it. They were the benchmark for world cricket, especially Test cricket.
Up until 2003-04, when India toured Australia, you knew deep down that the result was unlikely to go in their favour. But that hardly mattered, because the thought of Sachin Tendulkar facing up to Glenn McGrath and Co was mouth-watering. To see how Javagal Srinath would step up was tantalising. Then came the Sourav Ganguly army. Your hopes were higher than usual, to see if the Fab Four can carry the team Down Under. With Ganguly leading the way in Brisbane, and Rahul Dravid being Rahul Dravid at Adelaide, they almost pulled off the unthinkable. If not for Steve Waugh’s one final act of defiance, history was in the making. But it didn’t matter, ultimately, that the series win continued to prove elusive, you were still left with the satisfaction of watching the purest form of cricket in the best possible setting.
And it wasn’t, and wouldn’t be, always about the big names. The moments that made your jaw drop came from sources least expected. A young, promising batsman by the name VVS Laxman announcing his arrival by scoring a 167 in a lost cause at SCG, the much-maligned Ajit Agarkar running through Australia’s previously invincible batting line-up in Adelaide, a long-haired, lanky Delhi boy Ishant Sharma troubling the mighty Ricky Ponting with a hostile spell of bowling at the WACA pitch in Perth. These moments, you tell yourself, is why even defeats and whitewashes in Australia are worth staying up for.
Because you never know when a young cricketer can turn into a cult hero. And that’s what success in Australia guarantees — a place alongside the biggest names in the Indian cricketing folklore.
So, come Thursday morning, the alarm clocks around India will be set for earlier than usual for a majority of the cricket fans. At 5:00 am, when Kohli walks out for the toss alongside Tim Paine, both in their blazers, another Test series Down Under will begin and countless Indians will be awake to see it. ‘This is the year when history is made’ one part of your brain would say. ‘Australia are going to be good again, aren’t they?’ another voice would tell you. ‘Does it really matter, this is why I watch Test cricket,’ is where that argument would finally settle as you make yourself a cup of coffee and switch on the television.
There will be nerves, there will be expectations. Expectations, perhaps, greater than ever.
But most of all there will be a sense of excitement that only an Australia-India Test can generate.
Let the action begin.