Sporting Classics have found its true discourse in the lexicon of Indian and Australian cricket when both sides put together few of the most iconic sporting moments over the years. It has etched onto the minds of cricket fans as pure spectacle. As both the teams walk out to the Sydney Cricket Ground to resume their rivalry today, it’s prudent to go back and revel in the magic of the past. Because why not?
The Master’s Picasso art going in vain
As a child, very few things enamored me as cricket did and Sachin Tendulkar’s larger-than-life persona added to the allure. In Hyderabad, there was no lack of oomph when Master Blaster played one of the most defining ODI innings of his career, making a mockery of Australia’s 351-run target, which was powered by Shaun Marsh’s first ODI ton. Tendulkar’s 175 was the art of a genius that night, with India looking at a historic win from a close quarter.
Yet disaster struck at the most inopportune of time. With 18 needed from 18 balls, Clint McKay put an end to the marvel before a couple of run-outs ended the run-chase in a very dramatic manner. What was actually one of the greatest innings in run-chase turned to be the feeder of all hate as Tendulkar became the fallen hero. Australia’s celebration told a story.
A Desert Storm and a Sachin fire and brimstone
Batting in Sharjah might have become a subject of a joke lately, with the IPL showing the bowlers as a mere object throwing another object to some godly batters. Yet, in Sharjah 1998, Australian cricketers and those watching it on TV and the venue could barely believe the majestic masterpiece a 25-year-old was creating.
India might have failed to close that encounter but the way the Mumbaikar took on Shane Warne, Damien Flemming, and Michael Kasprowicz left everyone spell-bound. Later Sachin recounted in an interview that he wanted to beat Australia twice – once on the field, once more on their head – and he truly did just that. A loss by 26 runs couldn’t stop Sachin Tendulkar from becoming the defining figure of the post-liberalization India that believed in his own ability.
After the shambolic exit from the World Cup that ended in a bizarre fashion in Kolkata, Indian cricket needed its own eureka moment in 1996. It arrived in Mohali six months after the World Cup when Mohammad Azharuddin (94), Sachin Tendulkar (62) and Rahul Dravid (56) helped India to 289/6. Things could’ve been hunky-dory for Australia and the line-up they had at their disposal but everyday is not Sunday.
Robin Singh created pressure up top before Mark Taylor and Michael Slater got to the business effortlessly. As Javagal Srinath dismissed Taylor, a ray of hope beckoned before the Indian bowlers restricted the Aussie tail for 30 runs, landing the hosts an improbable victory in the last over.
Virat-Dhawan carnage to guide India home
The kind of devastating impact Kohli had on the Aussies in the Jaipur ODI of the 2013 series between two countries, it is easy to forget the magic of Nagpur that had its own sweet aura. With the crowd setting the right buzz ahead of the game, Australia would’ve been quietened in a normal day but not with Shane Watson and George Bailey in full flow. After a 168-run opening stand, the visitors pushed their way to 350/6, giving India a humongous one to chase down.
But it was also the day Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan were in full mood. After Rohit Sharma guided the side to 178/1, with his 79-run inning, Kohli joined Dhawan to make merry. The Indian vice-captain’s 61-ball knock was far away from his conventional percentage cricket in a run-chase as India cantered to a six-wicket victory.
Rohit Sharma’s whirlwind double
Rohit Sharma, on the October afternoon in 2013, set up a template for the next seven years in which he would go on to average more than 50 in ODIs every single year. It seemed very obvious and distinct to the naked eye. But Australia had known none of it when the Mumbaikar started slow before launching himself to a bigger pedestal where everything seemed truly mundane. Rohit not only attacked his way to a double century, becoming only the second player to do so, but he also did so in an effortless fashion and blew Australia’s confidence to smithereens. Not many in the past, India had dominated the Aussies as they did in 2013. And Rohit was a central figure to that very change.