India have been on a Test tour of Australia 11 times and their record is miserable to say the least. In 44 Test matches, India have been victorious on only 5 occasions while they have lost 28 matches and 11 have been drawn.
When one talks about the biggest rivalry in cricket, there is little doubt that fans would look beyond The Ashes. England and Australia are the pioneers of the sport and their rivalry in Test cricket has over the years assumed the numero uno status. The other rivalry which is as intense and bitter, if not more, is between the Asian neighbours India and Pakistan. But volatile political climate has ensured there has been little or no bilateral cricket between the two nations of late.
The vacuum created by the absence of Indo-Pak cricket was filled by another rivalry towards the beginning of the new millennium as India and Australia locked horns in fierce battles both on the pitch and off it and soon the clash became one of cricket’s marquee contests. As skipper Virat Kohli and his men get ready to launch a fresh campaign down under, it is time to look at the history of Test cricket between the two countries in Australia. India have been on a Test tour to Australia 11 times and their record is miserable to say the least. In 44 Test matches, India have been victorious on only 5 occasions while they have lost 28 matches and 11 have been drawn.
In the first of a three-part series, we take a look at the tours between 1947-48 to 1977-78.
1933-34: Australia beat India 4-0 – Of India’s first cricket tour as an independent nation, Bradman’s brilliance and 8-ball overs.
India played their maiden Test and first three series against colonial masters England, but the team’s maiden cricket tour as an independent nation was across the Indian ocean to Australia, just three months after breaking the shackles of colonialism. Taking on a Don Bradman-led side was not going to be easy and the Indians, led by Lala Amarnath, got a taste of the same in the first match itself.
Bradman’s strokeful 185 took the Aussies to 382 in the first innings at the Gabba in Brisbane. The Indian batsmen were brutally exposed against the bounce and pace of the Australian pitches as they folded for 58 and 98 to hand the hosts victory by an innings and 226 runs, which remains Australia’s biggest Test win over India till date. Ernie Toshack picked up 11 wickets with his left-arm medium pace.
The Indians responded better in the second Test at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground. Dattu Phadkar’s fighting 51 lower down the order helped the tourists chalk up 188 in the first innings. Phadkar returned to pick 3 wickets while Vijay Hazare was the unlikely bowling hero with 4 wickets including the prized scalp of Bradman, as Australia were bowled out for 107. India were on the ropes themselves at 61/7 when rain interrupted play and the match ended in a draw.
Normal service resumed as Australia dominated the third Test at Melbourne. Bradman scored centuries (132 and 127*) in both the innings while Ian Johnson picked up 8 wickets to guide the hosts to a 233-run win. For India, Vinoo Mankad shone with a century (116) in the first innings but a second innings collapse put paid to any chances of a fighting chase.
Sid Barnes (112), Bradman (201) and Lindsay Hassett (198) made the Indian bowling bleed in the fourth Test at the Adelaide Oval as the Aussies notched up a mammoth 674 in the first innings. Vijay Hazare (116) and Dattu Phadkar (123) fought hard and took the tourists to 381, but couldn’t save the follow on. A seven-wicket haul for paceman Ray Lindwall ensured India were bowled out for 277, with Hazare scoring a masterpiece 145 in the second essay. All in vain though as the tourists lost by an innings and 16 runs and surrendered the series.
There was more misery in store in the final Test as the teams returned to Melbourne. India lost by an innings and 177 runs as Australia declared on 575/8 with Neil Harvey slamming 153 even as Bradman signed off with another half-century. Vinoo Mankad’s 111 powered India to 331 in the first innings but a 67 all out in the second innings meant India were left to lick their wounds again.
An interesting aspect of the series was that all the overs consisted of 8 balls, as was the norm in Australia. This was something new for the Indians, who were used to the 6-balls-an-over format.
1967-68: Australia beat India 4-0 – Well oiled Aussie unit blank Pataudi’s India
India’s next tour to Australia came two decades later. The team had taken significant strides but were still seen as international lightweights and that was evident in their performance again. The opening Test at Adelaide saw most of the Aussie top order contribute, but Abid Ali’s 6-wicket burst meant the hosts folded for 335. Farokh Engineer (89), Rusi Surti (70) and stand-in-captain Chandu Borde (69) made notable contributions to take India to 307. With a slender lead in hand, captain Bob Simpson (103) led from the front along with middle order batsman Bob Cowper (108) as the Aussies set India a tough target of 398 runs to win the match. The middle order fought hard but David Renneberg’s 5-wicket haul gave Australia a 146-run win.
India’s captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi returned for the second Test at Melbourne and his 75 was the only bright spot in India’s first essay as they folded for 173. Graham McKenzie picked up 7 wickets to dismantle the tourists.Openers Simpson (109), Bill Lawry (100) and Ian Chappell (151) got stuck into the Indian bowling and powered Australia to 529. Ajit Wadekar (99) and Pataudi (85) showed teeth and fight but couldn’t save the team from defeat by an innings and 4 runs.
With the series on the line, Pataudi’s men were out to try their best and they turned the Brisbane Test into a thriller of a contest. Doug Walters’ 93 was the cornerstone of the hosts’ first innings as they notched up an impressive 379. India stuttered in their response but Surti (52), Jaisimha (74) and Pataudi (74) fought fire with fire to limit Australia’s lead to 100 runs. Bill Lawry, who captained in place of Simpson, scored a fluent 45 at the top and was supported ably by Simpson’s replacement Ian Redpath, wo scored a studied 79. Erapalli Prasanna’s off spin yielded 6 wickets but not before the hosts had set India a target of 395 runs. Not many expected India to show fight but the consistent Surti (64) and Pataudi (48) raised hopes of a grand chase. Jaisimha showcased his calibre again with a classy century (101) and he was well supported on the final day by Chandu Borde (63). But as it happens in big chases, wickets fell in a heap and India eventually lost the match by 39 runs to surrender the series.
The Aussies won the final Test at Sydney by 144 runs to blank the Indians. Doug Walters’ first innings 94 and Bob Cowper’s second innings 165 were the highlights of a match where the hosts were always in control.
1977-78: Australia beat India 3-2 – Simpson comes out of retirement to save Aussies the blushes in Packer-hit series
India visited Australia for their third tour just months after Australian cricket was paralysed by TV mogul Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket (WSC), a parallel league which saw several top international cricketers join the ranks in lure of more money. With no top players available, former captain Bob Simpson was recalled almost a decade after his retirement to lead a side which could well be called Australia’s third XI.
The lack of quality was visible in the very first innings of the first Test at Brisbane as Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi picked up 6 wickets with his left arm spin to bowl the hosts out for 166. India’s frail batting failed to fire again as they were bowled out for 153. 41-year old Simpson’s mastery of spin came through in the second innings as his 89 led Australia to a fighting total of 327 and India were set a target of 341 runs to win the match.
Gavaskar responded in style as he scored a patient 113 at the top of the order but wickets kept tumbling around him. Wicket-keeper batsman Syed Kirmani fought hard down the order but his 55 went in vain as the Aussies edged the tourists by 16 runs.
The second Test at Perth saw India pile up 402 in the first innings. Opener Chetan Chauhan (88) and Mohinder Amarnath (90) led the way at the top of the order for the Indians. Simpson was Australia’s saviour again as he stamped his class on the series with a knock of 176 on WACA pitch which was the fastest in the world then. Australia ended with 394 to hand India lead of 8 runs. Gavaskar (127) and Amarnath (100) tons meant India declared their second innings for 330 to set Australia a target of 339 runs. Bedi, who had picked up 5 wickets in the first innings was India’s go to bowler again as he made important breakthroughs at the top of the order. But a 139-run third wicket stand between Tony Mann (105) and Peter Toohey (83) brought the Aussies back in the match. When Simpson was run out for 39 it seemed like India will snatch victory but the lower order fought hard and Australia eventually won the match by 2 wickets.
India made a grand comeback in the series by winning the third Test in Melbourne by 222 runs, which was their first on Australian soil. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar picked up 12 wickets in the match to lead India to glory. With the bat, it was Gavaskar’s second innings 118 which stood out for the tourists.
The momentum was carried to Sydney where the Aussies were bowled out for 131 in the first innings with Chandrasekhar (4/30) and Bedi (3/49) weaving a magic spin web around the hosts. The stylish Gundappa Viswanath top scored with 79 as India declared their first innings for a commanding 396/8. Prasanna’s 4-wicket haul sunk the Aussies, who were bowled out for 263 as India won by an innings and 2 runs to tie the series at 2-2 ahead of the final Test.
India’s great comeback meant the decider at Adelaide assumed great significance and the hosts were ready to fight back. Graham Yallop (121) and Simpson again (100) strutted their stuff as the hosts posted 505 despite another 5-wicket haul by Chandrasekhar. India’s batsmen failed to fire this time as only Viswanath (89) was among the runs and the tourists conceded a big lead. Simpson didn’t enforce the follow on and instead decided to bat the Indians out of the match. Another half-century came out of the Australian captain’s willow as the hosts set India an improbable 493 to win the series. As had been the case through the series, the Indians were ready for a fight and they dug as deep as they could. Amarnath (86), Viswanath (73), Vengsarkar (78) and Kirmani (51) made handsome contributions as the fight was taken into the last session, only for the tourists to be bowled out for 445. Fittingly, Bob Simpson picked up the last wicket to fall to bring an end to a fantastic series. India were gutted as they had lost a great chance of winning their maiden Test series down under.