15th March 2001, 2.10 pm. Australia go into tea 161/3 needing another 223 runs in the final session to conquer the Final Frontier. 32 long years they have waited for this. Matthew Hayden, in terrific form, and the iciest man of all time, Tugga, are at the crease. Ponting & Gilchrist are yet to come. 223 runs in a session is beyond most teams but this Aussie side weren't your average great team. This Juggernaut had won 16 tests in a row and had crushed India inside 3 days in Wankhede. They do not know when they have lost. In fact, Adam Gilchrist had played 15 tests since his debut and won the lot! In just his second test he guided Australia to victory from 126/5 chasing 369 against a bowling lineup that read: Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq & Azhar Mahmood. 

The Indian bowling lineup read: Zaheer Khan, a veteran of two tests, Venkatesh Prasad, who last played in the 2000 Sydney test, Harbhajan Singh, having not played for nearly 2 years with a suspect bowling action, and Venkatapathy Raju. Surely scoring 223 at 7.5-8 runs per over would be a piece of cake? Wrong! Bhajji and Tendulkar scythed through the Aussie batting as they slumped from 166/3 to 174/8 in the space of 31 balls. Gillespie, Kasprowicz & McGrath resisted, especially the latter pair. Bhajji struggled to get leg before decisions from umpire Peter Willey's end, who played in the last test a team won after having followed on, and Dada cleverly switched him to umpire Bansal's end. Pigeon padded a turning delivery and Bansal had no hesitation in lifting that dreaded finger. India erupted in joy as Australia's winning streak ended. 7 days later, Bhajji himself scored the winning runs as India turned the series around in barely believable fashion.

An undermanned bowling side had upended the potentially greatest side of all time, albeit at home. This should have been a massive boost to a team with already a fabulous batting lineup and a young pack of fast bowlers, Bhajji and Jumbo. Unfortunately, the team couldn't build on after such a shot in the arm. India drew a series to an average Zimbabwe team away, were crushed by Sri Lanka either side of an impressive victory by 10 wickets and an innings. Lost to South Africa away and the most ignominious defeat of them all: the 1-2 defeat against a very very ordinary West Indies side. An easily winnable series where India surrendered meekly. 

India went to England after the West Indies. India dominated the Natwest tri-series but suffered from the yips in the final. India had lost 9 multi-team tournament finals in a row and at 146/5, still a massive 179 runs away from the target, were looking good to make it 10 in a row. In stepped 20 somethings, Yuvi & Kaif adding 121 runs in just 18.4 overs and saw India home. An incredible fightback by the youngsters. This amazing win, however, had no effect when real red ball cricket began and India were crushed by 170 runs at the home of cricket. The only positive being Ajit Agarkar's 100 at Lord's. 

Ganguly won the toss at Trent Bridge and decided to bat. An uncharacteristically patient 100 by Viru was supported only Ganguly and some wild swinging by Bhajji propped up India's total to a decent 357. Rains over the 1st two days meant that only 91 overs were bowled in 6 sessions. England powered by Michael Vaughan's smooth 197 ended day 3 just 16 runs short with 5 wickets in hand. India's inability to remove the tail was displayed at its finest on day 4 as Alec Stewart, Craig White & Matthew Hoggard made merry. England were bowled out for 617 at the stroke of tea, a gigantic 260 runs ahead. India had to bat out 4 sessions to avoid a 3rd straight defeat.

True to form, India quickly lost both openers with just 11 runs on the board inside 2 overs. England with 5 bowlers were now über-favourites to win. India's future that looked so bright on that sunny afternoon at Chepauk just a year ago, looked bleaker than abhimanyu's future when he was surrounded by the kauravas inside the cakravyuha. In walked Tendulkar to join Dravid. Dravid dropped anchor and Sachin, uncharacteristically, fought fire with fire. His first scoring stroke was a 4 and he brought up his 50 off just 45 balls, hitting Hoggard for 3 4s in an over twice. India were 99/2 when play ended on day 4.

Tendulkar continued in the same vein and the pair added 75 runs in just 18 overs before he fell to the part-time off-spin of Vaughan. The captain joined his deputy and they made steady progress batting together for nearly 3 hours. They wiped out England's lead and Dravid fell minutes before tea. He had completed a well made 115 in 338 minutes. India were 49 ahead. Ganguly continued to stay vigil before his stay was ended by Harmison, cruelly 1 short of a superb century. Parthiv Patel joined the Lord's centurion Agarkar. India's lead was 118 when Ganguly fell with around 90 minutes of play left. Wrap up the tail and England would still have a good chance of pulling off a miracle. The 17 year old wicketkeeper from Karnavati had other ideas. His 84 minute vigil saw India save the test in which they were -249/2 at one point of time. 

So what was special about a drawn test? Why do you call it a "tipping point"? It was the first time that the big 3 of Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly had come good together in an away test. India drew strength from this moral victory to crush England in Headingley by an innings with the Big 3 coming good once again, this time all of them getting to 3 figures. Dravid's 100 had come in exceptionally difficult conditions. It was just India's third victory away from the subcontinent in 16 years, the previous victory in England having also come in Headingley back in 1986. Coincidence or not, India went through her most successful period since the early 70s in the following two years.

There was a slight misstep in New Zealand where India lost the test series 0-2 & ODI series 2-5 under extremely swinging conditions. Even then India had a couple of solid moments, bowling out the Kiwis for 94 after being bowled out for 99. In late 2002, India won our first ICC trophy since the 1983 World Cup when we shared the Champions Trophy with hosts Sri Lanka. The semifinal was an incredible get of jail by the spinners. Those magnificent chokers Sathafrika failed to chase 68 off 70 balls with nine wickets in hand. Yuvi's incredible catch of Rhodes beginning the collapse. This was followed by reaching the final of the World Cup after 20 years. 

In real cricket, India were even better. India became the 1st team in 9 years to take the lead against Australia in Australia. It was our first win in Australia after Kapil's one-legged heroics at the G nearly 23 years earlier. If not for Parthiv Patel's butterfingers, India could have become the first team to defeat Australia in Australia since 1993. India followed that by winning our first ever test and our only series win in Pakistan with two eviscerating innings victories sandwiching a defeat. The great cycle which began with a tough draw in Nottingham ended in Nagpur as Australia finally conquered their Final Frontier in October 2004. Who knows how that series would have gone had it not rained on the final day of the Chennai test?

I truly believe the tough as nails draw at Trent Bridge, helped no doubt by bad weather, helped India take a giant step towards becoming a serious contender away from home. The Big 3 got the ball rolling with 3 fabulous innings in their inimitable styles. Sixteen years later, Virat Kohli's embark upon their journey to consolidate their position at the top of the ICC test rankings. India are on a 1-7 streak in England. Jimmy Anderson ended up making Kohli's his b*tch back in 2014 but the Indian captain is a fast learner and his ambitions know no bounds. He knows Indian cricket is on the cusp of greatness. The Big 3, which later on became the Fab 5 (Viru & VVS making the quintet), got the ball rolling in Trent Bridge, will the Ol' Blighty prove to be lucky for a second time?


  1. Thanks for a great article. May be you should also right about transition from Ganguly to Dhoni. Also your take on who contributed more to Indian Cricket as captain Ganguly or Dhoni


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