The annual test match in the great Melbourne Cricket Ground or simply the ‘G’ starting the day after Christmas has got an iconic status in recent years. Playing and performing in front of an exciting crowd of around 90,000 on a Boxing Day test match can be a daunting task but also a rewarding challenge.
Indian test cricket has already some bittersweet memories in that ground. Virat & Co. will be surely charged up to make some more. memories and finish as the winning side. India won two test matches in Melbourne, once in 1977 and then in 1981. Whereas 1981 is the most memorable and most dramatic, we have some great memories of 2003-04 series as well.
1977: Magical Chandrasekhar & Classical Sunny
India had lost first two test matches of the series and as always the batting line up was struggling against pace bowling attack on Australian soil. After the early dismissals of two openers the middle order consisted of Amarnath, Vishwanath, Mankad, and Vengsarkar batted well to score 256 runs in the 1st innings. The challenge was to restrict Australia and get a considerable lead. Bhagwath Chandrasekhar took 6 wickets for just 52 runs to wrap Australia in just 213 runs.
India was ready to give a fight this time. Gavaskar came to bat with the urge to prove himself as he had scored a duck in the first innings. Then it was nothing short of a spectacular show. Gavaskar scored a brilliant century and with support from Mohinder Amarnath (72) and Gundappa Vishwanath (59) set a target of 386 for Australia in the fourth innings. The Australian team was sent back to the pavilion for just 164 runs handing India their first ever win in Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Sunil Gavaskar’s comeback innings and B. Chandrasekhar’s spell went into history and are applauded till date whenever we talk about Indian test moments in Australia.
Also Read: Indian Moments and Memories @WACA, Perth
1981: Controversy & Victory
Captained by Greg Chappell, Australia was a relatively young team with few stalwarts like Denis Lillee, Rodney Marsh and Greg himself. Indians were a more settled side Captained by Sunil Gavaskar with players like Gundappa Viswanath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev and Dilip Doshi in their ranks.
Despite the young team, Australia had won the first test in Sydney by an innings and the second test in Adelaide had ended in a draw. It all came down to the 3rd test in Melbourne for India to try one last time to level the series.
On a grassy track, Chappell won the toss and put India to bat. It was a good toss to win as Lillee and Pasco got enough help from the pitch and got India all out for 237 before the end of the day. Only Viswanath could give a fight and score a brilliant 114 to give some respectability to India’s total. The next highest score was Kirmani’s 25. Australia scored 400 plus, thanks to a century from Allan Border and important contributions from Chappell and Walters. The lead was 182 runs for the Aussies.
Indians had a great start in the second innings and Gavaskar added 165 runs with his opening partner Chetan Chauhan when the controversy struck. Gavaskar was given out LBW against the bowling of Lillee by umpire Rex Whitehead. Gavaskar was sure that he hit the ball and was so furious that in protest he took Chauhan along with him off the field and it looked like he was going to concede the innings. But thanks to Indian team manager, Wing Commander SK Durrani’s intervention the match was continued. Among all this India could not capitalize on their good start and got all out for 324 giving a target of 143 to chase for Australians to win the series 2-0. The bigger headache for India was that the premier pace Bowler Kapil Dev was nursing a thigh strain and could not take the field. Also, Doshi was injured but he continued and along with Karsan Ghavri, gave India a great start on 4th day evening when Australia ended the day at 24 for the loss of 3 wickets including Chappell. Next day Kapil showed his mental strength and came to bowl after taking painkillers and injection. Even in that state Kapil produced some awesome spells and almost single-handedly finished the Australian batting line up with an amazing figure of 5 for 28. Australia could score only 83 and gave Indians one of their most memorable victories overseas.
2003-04: Sehwag’s 195
Another memorable test match in Melbourne was the Boxing Day test during India’s tour in 2003-04 series. Indian team were already leading the series 1-0, thanks to their great win in Adelaide. They won the toss in MCG and Captain Sourav Ganguly decided to bat. It was a great crowd on the Boxing Day and they were thoroughly entertained by a great knock by Virender Sehwag. Along with a patient Akash Chopra, Sehwag added 141 runs in the first wicket out of which Chopra scored 48. It was a wonderful batting exhibition from Sehwag who hit all around the ground and was scoring at a Strike rate around 80. After Chopra’s dismissal, Sehwag and Rahul Dravid added 137 runs and India looked in a strong position. However Australian captain Steve Waugh, playing his last series, got the wicket of Dravid and in the very next over Brett Lee got Tendulkar in the first ball. Sehwag continued to play in his normal flow but Indians got a serious blow when batting at 195, Sehwag tried to play Katich out of the park to reach his double hundred and got caught by Nathan Bracken. India lost their last 7 wickets for just 55 runs and after that great start only could score 366. Australia replied with a massive 558 which included a century from Matthew Hayden and a Double century from Ricky Ponting. It was Ponting’s second double century of the series after Adelaide and this time Australians were determined to not let it go in vain.
In the second innings, India could only score 286, with notable contributions from Dravid and Tendulkar. Sehwag scored just 11 after his first innings heroics. All the Australian bowlers were on target and Brad Williams finished with 4 wickets. With a target of 95 to chase Australia reach the target by losing just one wicket and fittingly both Hayden and Ponting were on the crease while the winning runs were scored. Although it was a losing cause, Sehwag’s Day-one 195 is considered to be one of the greatest knocks by Indians in Australian soil.