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27 December 2020 | 9 min read

Howzat! These Classic Matches Of The Indian Team Deserve A Rewatch

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It’s been a harsh few months for the fans of the ‘Gentlemen’s Game’. The IPL was supposed to take over the month of April – but everything including cricket has come to a standstill.

The lockdown hit hard across all categories of life, including cricket. To add to the pain, even the fate of the most awaited cricket movie ’83 has faced a postponement due to the pandemic that broke out. So, we thought, what if we could all look back into some of the best performances of the classic team India and find ways to stay connected and positive as fans of the fantastic game.

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1. Introducing ‘The Wall’, Calcutta (2001)

The Wall Calcutta - Live More Zone

Australia, led by their captain and veteran all-rounder, Steve Waugh built an empire for the cricketing giants, back in the early 2000s. When they came to play India in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy of 2001, they were the No. 1 team in the world, having won 15 tests in a row. In the very first test match in the series, the Aussies trashed the Indian bowlers and forced the entire Indian team to set a 2nd innings target of mere 47 runs. When the Aussies won the cricket match with ten wickets in hand, many cricketing pundits in India thought that it would be another whitewash series in favour of the team from down under.

The 2nd test in Kolkata didn’t start the best way possible for the Indians, as the Aussies scored 445 runs in the first innings, overshadowing Harbhajan Singh’s exceptional hat-trick performance, that pronounced him as the first Indian bowler to do so in international tests. India wrapped up within 171 runs, and they were forced to go for a follow-on inning. The innings didn’t start well, as India were 115 for three wickets loss. A comfortable 48 runs knock by the local hero Saurav Ganguly showed some hope in the comeback, as VVS supported him on the other side. When Dada was out, the hopes looked like crashing yet again. That’s when a steady Rahul Dravid commanded the spot along with VVS, as the pair knocked individual scores of 180 and 281 {best personal score by an Indian in test yet} to make India reach a gigantic score of 657/7. India handed the Aussies a chase of 384 runs, a target they could not achieve. India took the 2nd test home, and that sparked them to win the next one, as, for a rare time, the invincible Aussies got beaten in a Test series.

2. The Local boys light up M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore (1999)

The Local Boys - Live More Zone

Back in 1996, Australia was on a redemption tour, after they lost a well-fought World Cup Finals to an underdog, Sri Lanka. On the other side, South Africa completely revived its dismayed World Cup squad and envigored the youthful lineup with the likes of Nicky Boje and Lance Klusener. India was still figuring out its right permutations with the likes of Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly being finally introduced to the starting squad. The captaincy in the dressing room also changed personnel, as a 23-year-old Sachin Tendulkar was given the nod to lead, ahead of the veteran Mohd. Azharuddin. The three met in that year’s Titan Cup.

The cricket match started on an excellent note for India; as the man who stole the show from the Indians, Mark Waugh was sent to the pavilion by Venkatesh Prasad for four runs. Michael Slater, the other big hitter, was also sent back by Prasad shortly, making the Aussies tremble at 23 for 2. A clinical knock of 105 runs off 144 balls from Mark Taylor, the Australian captain, made the Aussies reach a reasonable score of 215/7. Everyone knew that the Australian bowling lineup could wrap up the Indian innings under 215.

And so, when they went out bowling, they struck almost every over, as the Indian score looked somewhat 164 for 8 when their Mr Dependable, Sachin Tendulkar, got out for 88 runs. With 50 more runs to chase and just two wickets left in hand, it took the local boys, who were otherwise known for their heroic bowling efforts, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble to showcase a miracle. In front of their fans and family, the duo played an insane knock-in tight overs to make India overcome the scintillating Aussie death trap. The images of Kumble’s mother and grandmother cheering in the stands is still an iconic image to this date.

 3. The Master Blaster’s Big 25th Birthday, Sharjah, 1998

Sharjah - Live More Zone

Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne had an intense competitive spirit that made almost every India-Australia clash look marvellous. Not only were the two extremely close to the Cricketing god, Don Bradman, but they were also rivals on the Wisden Cricketer of the Year charts.

The Coca Cola Cup 1998 had the name of Sachin Tendulkar written all over it. While Australia walked their way to the Finals, India and New Zealand were still under scrutiny in this tri-nation series, as run rate became the only way to separate them. Sachin Tendulkar played an iconic knock just days before his birthday, as he made sure India reaches the Finals, with a win and that too within a screaming run rate, ensuring the Finals berth. The Finals was played rightfully on the Master Blaster’s birthday, and it seemed like Australia carved a piece of the party for themselves when they posed a target of 273 for the Indians.

When Sachin and Ganguly came to bat, Sachin almost knocked Ganguly off with a straight drive bent away from the bowler. The duo lasted shortly as Ganguly parted with India 39 for 1. A solid partnership with Nayan Mongia and then with Mohammad Azharuddin made sure that India was on the right track. Sachin’s confidence was oozing on that day, as you can see him dance down the wicket and hit Warne for boundaries all over the field. In his prime, Tendulkar never paid attention to what the field setting was because he had a flair for punching it over. And this finals match was the perfect example of how godsent the Master Blaster was.

4. The Prince of Calcutta on a roll, Toronto, 1997

Saurav Gangully -Live More Zone

Everyone knows Saurav Ganguly, aka Dada, aka the Prince of Calcutta, as an aggressive left-handed batsman. He liked to punch every shot into oblivion if the ball was pitched carelessly on his off-side. But Ganguly was much more than just being the God of Offside. He laid down the blueprint for a very successful Indian team that will win a T20 World Cup and an ODI World Cup in the years to come. Ganguly was also an unpredictable bowling force if the team needed his service.

In the ‘Friendship Cup’, hosted by Canada, India played Pakistan in 5 ODIs, on a neutral land. India played against Pakistan frequently in the past, and this was the perfect stage for both the countries to have the bragging rights till the next time they meet. In a best of 5 series, India made a clean series win and then handed Pakistan their first win, in a result-don’t-matter 5th match. The one guy who was on a roll during the whole time was Saurav Ganguly. In most of the games, it was his bat that did the talking, but the series in Toronto also showed the world the partnership breaking bowler he was. It was the third ODI and India needed a win to take a double lead, but fell entirely under the standard when the whole batting order collapsed at 182.

Ganguly himself got out at two runs, and it felt like his good spree was over. He had other plans that night, though. He never let any batsman settle at the crease, as he ripped the entire middle to bottom order of the Pakistani batting lineup with a bowling haul of 5 for 16. When you rewatch the match, you’ll realise, there was no flaw in his bowling form that night.

5. Hrishikesh Kanitkar anyone? Dhaka, 1998

Anil Kumble - Live More Zone

If you watched India play cricket in the 90s, I bet your will power was higher than the non-fans and heart immune to all kinds of ups and downs. One of these moments was in the Independence Cup of 1998. India breezed to the Finals of the tri-nation tournament played between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but were 1-1 in a Finals series versus their arch-rivals Pakistan. A magnificent inning by Sachin Tendulkar in the first final was shut down by Saeed Anwar’s clinical batting in the second final. As the two countries headed towards the last and deciding final, it seemed like anyone could emerge as the hero of the day.

When India won the toss in Dhaka, a lot of supporters wanted them to bat first, because of insufficient light. But Azhar had other plans, and the plans seemed to be foiled by the Pakistani top order, with Saeed Anwar playing another biggie in front of the world, 140 runs off 134 balls. India lacked depth in bowling, and the Pakistanis set up a target of 315 for India. The world record for the highest chase win back then was 312, and it seemed that India might not get there at all. On the contrary, the match started great for India, with Saurav Ganguly playing a crucial knock of 124, as Robin Singh’s departure only meant that India needed just 66 runs with eight wickets in hand from 10 overs. And then came the true 90s India, the shambolic middle order that collapsed faster than a pack of cards. With just one over to go, India was scraping for air at 306 for 7.

India has won a lot of crucial games against Pakistan, especially the Aamir Sohail-Prasad beef Semi-Finals in 1996, but this was the most special one yet. Kanitkar, son of a decent ex-cricket stepped on the crease with no clutch reputation. Srinath was batting in the crucial over, as he tried to rocket two back to back deliveries from Saqlain for sixes. One dropped short for a quick two and the other was almost caught by three Pakistani fielders running towards it. India and Srinath were scraping for every run until Kanitkar came to bat with two balls to go. He hit the first one through his mid-on and scored a four, making India turn around a lost battle into a heroic world-record-setting comeback.

6. Anil Kumble’s ten-wicket haul, 1999

Flintoff -Live More Zone

In 1999, India was coming off a lousy bowling spell, both on their home soil as well as overseas tournaments, as younger bowlers were given a chance to set the narrative right for the future of Indian bowling. It was also the year when the ICC World Cup would be held in England. There was a lot of pressure on the BCCI selectors to find at least a silver lining, if not an instant remedy for the same. Enter Anil Kumble, and he would be off-spin compatriot, Harbhajan Singh.

India was hosting Pakistan in 2 test series in 1999, and the Men in Green already looked dangerous as they took away the Chennai test from the Indians. On February 4th, 1999, the series resumed at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, as India tried to mend their ways and get even in the test series that was widely advertised as the biggest cricketing event until the World Cup. Thanks to a sublime knock from the old horse Mohd. Azharuddin, India gained an advantage over Pakistan going into the second innings. Sadagoppan Ramesh nullified Saqlain’s exquisite bowling performance in the second innings with 96 runs, as India gave Pakistan a 389 runs chase.

With 2.5 more days to go, it seemed like India could have pushed for a slightly larger margin for the men in the form to chase. The opening duo of Anwar and Afridi played magnificently, as they marched close to a hundred runs before the first break was called. Immediately after the break, India found the wind; or rather Anil Kumble found the switch. Wickets went down in a hurry, as no batsmen could predict the bounce or spin of Kumble. Pakistan lost all ten wickets under 106 runs, they all fell victim to one Anil Kumble. India neutralised the series, and Kumble walked away as the only other cricketer, other than Jim Laker, to have a 10-wicket haul in a cricket game.

7. Flintoff, this is for you! England, 2002

Dhaka -Live More Zone

The NatWest Series was a pivotal time for the Indian cricket team. Instead of being the pushovers that the 90s often associated the Indian team with, the post-2000’s team was full of fire; all credits to the leadership capabilities of Saurav Ganguly and an extremely youthful squad led by the likes of Yuvraj, Kaif, Nehra and Harbhajan. When Andrew Flintoff and the English team won their overseas tournament in India, he put on quite a show as he raced from one edge of the Wankhede Stadium to another, bare-chested and spinning his jersey. None but Ganguly took notice of the act and thought that it would be replied befittingly, at the mecca of cricket, Lords Cricket Stadium.

India fought hard enough to meet England and Flintoff in the Finals of NatWest Series. But things didn’t go the way the Indian team would’ve liked as Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain scored two important centuries to set a target of 326 for the Indian team. What happened from there on is a page in the history books of competitive cricket. Nobody thought that India could chase a score of 326 especially when India lost its 5th wicket, the great Sachin Tendulkar, at the team total of 146. It was Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh who put on a miraculous partnership of 119 important runs, that also included steering up the run rate so that it becomes less troublesome to chase the total in the dying overs. Kaif played till the end and ensured that Ganguly got his revenge back and had the whole Lords stadium stunned to his version of the Flintoff jersey celebration.

All the opinions expressed in the article belong to author. Images used are representational in nature.

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