This time it will be a new test ground in Perth where India and Australia will appear for their second face off during the 2018-19 test series. But the WACA or the Western Australia Cricket Association ground in Perth will forever remain as one of the most celebrated test grounds in Australia.
It was considered to be a fast bowler’s paradise since its inception to Test Cricket in the 70’s from early 2000. A steep bounce and lively pace in the pitch would provide all sorts of assistance to the fast bowlers and over the years many great fast bowlers had some memorable performance in this ground. The most popular of them was Dennis Lillee, Western Australia’s most favorite son. Obviously, for the sub-continental teams it was always a big challenge to face the Aussies and hence their result is dismal in this ground. Out of the total 11 test matches involving India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, 10 of them resulted in wins for Australia, 5 of them by an innings and some more with a ridiculous margin of 491 runs, 300 runs, and 286 runs. The solitary win for the sub-continental teams came in 2008 when an inspired Indian team beat the Aussies post the ‘Monkeygate’ fiasco (more on it later).
Tendulkar Is Here – 1992
But first, let’s talk about India’s 2nd test in Perth, played in February 1992 as the 5th test of India’s very long tour down under. Coming to Perth, Indians were already 3-0 down with a solitary draw in Sydney, thanks to Ravi Shashtri’s double hundred. The Indian squad for the test series was a curious mix of some old warhorses like Dilip Vengsarkar, Kriss Srikkanth and Kapil Dev led by Mohammad Azharuddin. On the other hand, the team also had some promising youngsters like Sanjay Manjarekar, who had already made his name based on his century in Bridgetown and double century in Lahore, two young quicks in Javagal Srinath and Subroto Banerjee and the young prodigy Sachin Tendulkar.
Also Read: Indian Test Moments @ Adelaide Oval
Tendulkar, still a couple of months short of his 19th birthday, had already toured Pakistan, New Zealand, and England with team India and his match-saving median test hundred in Old Trafford, Manchester had already made cricket lovers all over the world to take note of this young talent. But in the Australia tour, he prominently announced himself and convinced everyone about his greatness and upcoming stellar career. In a broken team, impacted by the losses he kept performing consistently better than all his seniors. His hundred in Sydney was also a special knock which was overshadowed by Shashtri’s double century but in Perth, it was all about him.
Australia played with 4 fast bowlers, Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Mike Whitney, and young Paul Reiffel. Batting first Australia scored 346, thanks to a century from David Boon. 9 out of 10 wickets were divided between, Kapil, Srinath, and Prabhakar.
Coming to Bat, India was in trouble from the beginning and kept losing wickets in regular interval. Tendulkar came to bat at 69 for 2 with both the openers back in the hut. He tried to stitch partnership with Manjarekar, Vengsarkar, and Azhar, none of them could bat long enough to provide support to the youngster who was playing in a different zone. Brilliant cut and pulls were executed to the barrage of short balls from Australians. And anything up was dealt with masterful drives and flicks. It was a mesmerizing innings which impressed all. Tendulkar did not get any support before the number 10 batsman Kiran More arrived. India’s little gritty wicket-keeper played out of his skin and formed a partnership of 81 runs with Tendulkar, during which Sachin reached his third test hundred in his 16th test. His 114 was a batting masterclass and you can understand his dominance by the fact that during his stay, rest of the batsmen added just 57 runs, exactly half of what he scored.
India conceded a lead of 74 runs in the first innings and chasing 442 in the fourth innings they were blown away by Whitney, who finished with 7 wickets for 27 runs to give Australia a 300 run win. But this was one of those test matches where more than the result that one innings was highlighted and considered as an obvious indicator of what cricket world would witness in the next 20 years.
A Memorable Comeback & Win
History suggests that India Australia hardly had a peaceful test series and ever since Sourav Ganguly made Steve Waugh wait during toss at Eden in 2001, controversies became a regular part. During Sydney 2008, it reached a new feat. It all began with some questionable umpiring decisions.
On the 5th day of the match, Australia scored 333 runs and declared innings just before the lunch which meant India had only two sessions to chase that massive target. For India, the key was to keep batting and survive. But India lost 3 quick wickets including Laxman and Tendulkar with just 54 on the board, although one of those was on a No-ball. Dravid and Ganguly batted together for more than 15 overs and added 61 runs. Then Dravid was given out caught-behind in the bowling of Symonds when his bat was nowhere close to the ball. Few overs later it was Ganguly’s turn. He was given out caught in the slip but the catch by Michael Clarke was not at all conclusive. But instead of checking with the third umpire, Mark Benson checked with Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain and gave out. India collapsed at the last moment and got all out with just 9 minutes of play remaining. Later in the post-match press session a visibly upset Indian captain Anil Kumble asked a question on Australian team’s integrity. In fact, BCCI made an official complaint about incompetent umpiring.
During the same match, Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds went into racism controversy. During a heated argument, he allegedly called Andrew Symonds, the only colored cricketer of Australian cricket team, ‘Monkey’.The entire scenario was so bad that it threatened to affect the relations between the two countries.
This Sydney test description was much needed to understand the whole situation; to understand what men in blue went through before the Perth test in 2008. Amidst all these Indians wanted to prove their metal with an inspired performance. Rahul Dravid (93) and Sachin Tendulkar (71) helped India to reach 330. RP Singh took 4 wickets in the first innings and secure a 118 lead for India. India was struggling when VVS Laxman again raised to the occasion against Australia, kept his calm to score 79 and with support from MS Dhoni and RP Singh put a final target of 413. Indian bowling side showed their skills and troubled the Aussie army with whatever they had in stock. Irfan Pathan picked up the openers in Australia’s both innings. He troubled all the opponent batsmen to finish the match with 5 wicket haul. Ishant Sharma’s spell kept troubling Ponting that he would probably never forget. Australia kept trying to defend but in the end, India won the match by 72 runs. This was a much-needed victory for the Indian team. They needed a boost after those couple of troubled weeks. This was even the first win for any sub-continental team at Perth and a memorable comeback for India in the series.