India-Australia: The mother of all battles

Updated: 04 October 2008 18:05 IST

It's billed as the mother of all cricket battles, greater than the Ashes for many Australians and bigger than any Pakistan rivalry in the eyes of many Indi

India-Australia: The mother of all battles

Hyderabad:

It's billed as the mother of all cricket battles, greater than the Ashes for many Australians and bigger than any Pakistan rivalry in the eyes of many Indians.

The four-Test series between India and world champions Australia for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy starting in Bangalore on October 9 has caught the imagination of the cricket world like never before.

Batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar justifies the media hype before the series as an indication of how important matches against Australia have become for the cricket-mad public in both countries.

"We have played some of our best cricket against Australia," says Tendulkar, who is just 77 runs away from surpassing Brian Lara as Test cricket's leading scorer.

"It is because of the competitive nature of cricket that an India-Australia series is bigger than the one against Pakistan."

The series prize, named after two distinguished former captains and batting greats, Allan Border of Australia and Sunil Gavaskar of India, has provided fascinating cricket since its inception in 1996.

Of the 22 Tests played for the Trophy, Australia have won 10 and India eight, with four draws. The last 15 Tests have seen Australia hold a narrow 6-5 advantage.

The upcoming contests follow an ill-tempered, but enthralling, four-match series in Australia earlier this year that the hosts won 2-1 amid deteriorating relations between the two sides.

Anil Kumble's Indians, already seething at umpiring errors in the acrimonious second Test in Sydney, almost abandoned the tour when all-rounder Andrew Symonds levelled racial abuse charges against spinner Harbhajan Singh.

When officials brokered a compromise, the Indians hit back with a brilliant win in the next Test in Perth, often regarded as a no-hope venue for touring teams due to its fast wicket.

India are the only team to win a Test match on Australian soil since January 2003, and they have done it twice following the Adelaide win by Sourav Ganguly's men in 2004.

Australia regarded India as the final frontier after Mark Taylor's tourists lost 1-0 here in 1996 and 2-1 in 1998 and Steve Waugh's team went down 2-1 in a thrilling series in 2001.

All seemed lost for India when Waugh's men wrapped up the first Test in Mumbai in three days and made the hosts follow on 274 runs behind in the second match in Kolkata's Eden Gardens.

India, however, conjured a remarkable fightback on the back of Venkatsai Laxman's extraordinary 281 to win the Kolkata Test by 171 runs and then clinced the series with a two-wicket humdinger in Chennai.

Australia finally conquered the Indian frontier under Adam Gilchrist in 2004 as injured captain Ricky Ponting watched from the sidelines, but not before the Indians took the final Test in Mumbai on a treacherous wicket.

"Given India and Australia are the powerbrokers of contemporary cricket it is appropriate they provide the game's most competitive and compelling Test match cricket," veteran Australian journalist Mike Coward said.

"The rivalry between these two superpowers now generates an intensity and excitement once reserved for Ashes and Indo-Pakistan matches."

Australia, who played just one Test series in India between 1980 and 1995 -- in 1986 which featured only the second tied Test in history in Madras (Chennai) -- now can't wait to get to India.

The upcoming series will be their fifth on Indian soil in the last 12 years.



Topics : Cricket Sreesanth
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