India must show its first of fury

Dec 06, 2018, 05:58 IST | Clayton Murzello

Kohli & Co will have to reverse the lose-first Test-lose-series trend which has blotted the visitors' sheet Down Under over 71 years

India must show its first of fury
Indian captain Virat Kohli at a press conference ahead of the first Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval on December 5. Pic/AFP

Clayton MurzelloThe fact that India have yet to win a Test series in Australia has been drilled into the head of every cricket enthusiast here. But there is more sadness to that history: India lost the opening Test in all their eight series losses Down Under. Let's start at the very beginning of the rivalry. Lala Amarnath's independent India took on Don Bradman's stalwarts at Brisbane in 1947. Australia ended Day One on 273 for three with Bradman smashing an unbeaten 160. Rain hit Brisbane on the second day and Bradman declared when Australia scored an additional 36 runs without losing a wicket.

The Indians got caught on a typical Brisbane 'sticky dog' wicket to be bowled out for 58 and 98 after following on. Game over. After a draw in Sydney, Australia won the next three. In 1967-68, MAK Pataudi's leg injury forced him to miss the opener at Adelaide, where Chandu Borde led India, and Australia ended the day with 311 for six. The hosts lost their next four wickets for only 24 runs. An encouraging 307 all out-reply notwithstanding, the Indian bowlers allowed Australia to cream them in the second innings in which Bob Simpson and Bob Cowper carved hundreds. Chasing 398 for victory, India succumbed to 251. Australia won the next three Tests. A thriller in the 1977-78 opening Test at Brisbane had critics recalling the exciting Tied Test of 1960-61, featuring the Australians and West Indians. India ended up losing by 16 runs.

One can imagine how gutted skipper Bishan Singh Bedi must have felt while walking off the ground, having battled on for nearly an hour for his unbeaten 26. After a loss in Perth, there was an India revival and both teams went into the final Test at Adelaide with the scoreline reading 2-2, but India lost by 47 runs. The loss in the opening Test of the 1980-81 series did not lead to a series defeat as Sunil Gavaskar's India claimed victory in the final game at Melbourne. All Tests were drawn in 1985-86. The series-opener in 1991-92 was woeful for India, who were reduced to 83 for six just after lunch on Day One of the Gabba. Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar's batting efforts helped India reach 239, but Mohammed Azharuddin's team fared worse in the second innings when they were bowled out for 156. Australia won by 10 wickets and Allan Border walked away with the series honours. How many times have we seen the advantage of a good start evaporating through an opposition revival. Adelaide 1999 provided one such example.

Greg Blewett, Michael Slater, Justin Langer and Mark Waugh — all departed before the first luncheon interval of the Test series. And just as Greig was talking about India's "atrocious" record away from home, Mark Waugh edged Prasad's leg cutter to current chief selector MSK Prasad behind the stumps. Then, Steve Waugh did what he did best in a crisis and along with Ricky Ponting, helped Australia revive with a 239-run stand for the fifth wicket. Shane Warne added to India's misery by belting 86 off 100 balls and Australia amassed 441. If 285 first innings runs was a weak reply, the 110 all out in the second innings was a disaster and Australia headed to the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne armed with a 285-run win in Adelaide. The series ended in a 3-0 whitewash.

Brisbane 2003-04 broke Australia's winning sequence at the Sunshine State against India, who were able to draw the game in which Sourav Ganguly scored his most famous hundred against Australia. Matthew Hayden and Phil Jacques put on a century partnership during the first session of the opening Test in the 2007-08 series to set the tone for Australian dominance at Melbourne, where only three of the Indian top seven got starts in the first innings. India couldn't reach the 200-run mark in both innings and Australia's habit of calling the shots right at the start of the series, came to the fore again. A thrilling, controversial loss followed at Sydney and a glorious comeback was made at Perth by Anil Kumble's Indians. But even a memorable final Test at Adelaide couldn't prevent the Border-Gavaskar Trophy staying with the host nation. Next series-opener in 2011-12, same result. This time, the series ended in a whitewash, the first at the hands of Australia since 1999-2000.

India deserved to win the opening Test of the 2014-15 series because of Virat Kohli's aggressive captaincy and sublime batting in both innings. But it was not to be and like it happened on previous tours, India's fortunes started and ended in defeat. Seven (including Kohli) from that Adelaide 2014 playing XI are part of the current team and will recall the pain and anguish of missing out on glory. They also realise how important it is to draw first blood — especially in Australia. First Test defeats in South Africa, England have stained India's overseas record sheet this year. I don't see them being third time unlucky.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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