Unbeknownst to his teammates or the press, Sourav Ganguly made a secret go to to Sydney within the lifeless of the Australian winter in July 2003, a good half-year earlier than the Indian workforce was to tour the nation in December. Acutely conscious that the four-match Test sequence in opposition to the best aspect of the period was going to pose the hardest problem to his management expertise, the India captain sought permission from his boss, BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, on the pretext that he wanted a week to tune up his batting beneath Greg Chappell’s tutelage.
“But I didn’t disclose my real intentions to him – that I would be doing an exhaustive recce of the grounds,” writes Ganguly in his memoir, ‘A Century Is Not Enough’. The batting classes have been shorter than the time spent standing in numerous components of the SCG discipline, visualising fielding positions and bowling combos for every of the Test venues with Chappell. “The series was beginning in Brisbane so I requested him to take me there for a day,” provides Ganguly. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen as the Gabba was covered with frost.”
The Gabba in Brisbane, the place previous Indian groups had misplaced every of the 4 Tests that they had featured in, three of these defeats handed out in sequence openers that finally led to sequence debacles. “What Australia very cleverly did over the years was to expose the visiting teams early on the tour to the most trying conditions. By the time the visitors got used to the conditions, the series was over,” Ganguly says in his guide.
It was this form of perception and exhaustive planning that Ganguly was keen to commit himself to so his aspect might compete in opposition to the perfect. But earlier than he might educate India learn how to win in Australia, he needed to learn the way to not lose, which had change into one thing of a behavior on these shores. The current file was dismal: India had misplaced every of the three Tests on their earlier tour in 1999 and the shedding streak stretched again to Adelaide in 1992, making it 5 Test losses on the bounce.
And Ganguly’s batting file in opposition to the Aussies wasn’t nice both, dwelling or away – a median of 29 in 17 earlier innings, with a prime rating of 66. Without a lot expectation from their captain, the workforce arrived in Brisbane in December. While Ganguly was decided to encourage a turnaround together with his captaincy, simply the best way he had in opposition to Steve Waugh’s males after they visited India in 2001, few in addition to him would have anticipated him to champion it with the bat. What he produced was an innings so lofty that it set the tone not only for that outstanding sequence, but additionally a precedent for future Indian captains on tour Down Under.
The first three days of the Brisbane Test have been closely hindered by rain, however not enough to cease Australia from scoring 323. Waugh would’ve nonetheless anticipated his bowling assault to snuff India out twice in two days, and Jason Gillespie was within the technique of doing simply that with the wickets of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in the identical over, for 1 and zero respectively.
This is when Ganguly walked out to bat, shortly after 61 for no loss grew to become 62 for 3 (Virender Sehwag, who had scored most of these runs too was dismissed), and all the things about this case was bleak – the climate, the green-top wicket, the scenario and, in Ganguly’s case, even the town. It was in Brisbane the place he made his worldwide debut in an ODI again in 1992, solely to be dropped after that solitary outing for the following 4 years – loads of time for a younger man to imagine in his bones that he won’t ever be picked once more.
“The Australians, as a part of their well-planned strategy, always targeted the rival captain,” writes Ganguly. “But I had made up my mind even before fastening the seat belts on the flight that I was going to attack before they realised what had hit them.”
Sure. In simply the third ball he confronted, Ganguly threw his fingers at a marginally extensive supply from Nathan Bracken and ran three runs – as many runs as his batting companion in Aakash Chopra had scored from his earlier 50 deliveries. He then studied Gillespie, who had his tail up, for 4 balls earlier than chopping him with sheer majesty previous the purpose boundary, India’s first in 66 balls.
His coronary heart would’ve thumped in opposition to his ribcage when yet one more minimize, this time without work Andy Bichel, flew in the direction of the third slip. But the ball merely squirted via Damien Martyn’s palms for 4 extra. Ganguly maybe then began believing that it was his day, and promptly pulled a brief ball from Bracken via midwicket and to the fence. No allergy in the direction of leg-side play at this time.
Gillespie had conceded simply six runs from his first 9 overs. But in every of his subsequent 4 overs, he was hammered previous the ropes by Ganguly. India went to lunch at 127/3, with the captain batting on a quickfire 37. Chopra departed instantly after resumption however Ganguly’s focus was undeterred. He instantly introduced up his fifty with a trademark cover-drive to the hoardings.
“The Australians were so used to killing opponents in the first Test of the series that they were a little taken aback by us counter-attacking,” he writes. “I could see that in their body language while I raced towards my first Test hundred on Australian soil.”
“Raced” nearly sums it up. With the ever-reliable VVS Laxman for firm, Ganguly bought into the seventies for the primary time in opposition to Australia by smacking Stuart McGill to the hoardings (“How good is that,” yelped Bill Lawry within the commentary field) and then introduced up his hundred earlier than tea with a stolen double. The second run ended close to the dressing room, with Ganguly punching the air in delight alongside the best way.
Five runs after going previous Australia’s first innings whole, he was out for 144. “We had the first innings lead and my hundred was proof to myself that my hard work had paid off. I knew we had to make a statement early on, or else it would have been a rapid slide downwards,” Ganguly notes within the guide.
The match led to a draw, however the man-of-the-match skipper immediately realised that the end result was price rather more: “Brisbane was a crucial Test to set the tempo for the rest of the series. It conveyed to Australia in no uncertain terms that we weren’t going to be pushovers.”
They weren’t. Ganguly’s aspect gained the following Test in Adelaide, India’s first win since 1981’s Melbourne Test, and the sequence finally led to a 1-1 tie at Sydney – once more, India’s greatest end in Australia since 1985. Waugh, who retired on the finish of the Sydney Test, later recognised the function that Brisbane performed in India’s resurgence.
In his autobiography, Out Of My Comfort Zone, Waugh wrote: “After Brisbane, we also had to recognise that this wasn’t the usual soft-underbelly Indian touring squad, but rather a hardened force forged by Sourav Ganguly, their feisty leader.”
There have been echoes of that feistiness in Anil Kumble’s management 4 years later, when his disgruntled aspect bounced again at Perth after being robbed of a win in Sydney. And there have been extra echoes in 2014, when Virat Kohli assumed the stewardship for the primary Test in Adelaide and struck twin centuries merely to show that this new India weren’t afraid to lose if it gave them even a small likelihood to win. Just 4 years later, that perspective – first instilled by Ganguly – would bear the best reward within the type of a first Test sequence win.