March 11,2001,Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2nd Test,India vs Australia at Eden Gardens,Kolkata. The same stadium where India lost to its arch-rival Pakistan in 1996 world-cup semifinal,where the crowd rose to its anger,where Indian players were accused of fixing the match,where some players were banned for life and from where rose one man,Sourav Chandidas Ganguly,known as ‘Dada’. India had lost the previous test match and Australia was 1-0 leading in the series with a 16-match winning streak,a world record.
There was a crowd-packed stadium,huge intensity,Sourav Ganguly leading a bunch of youngsters and Steve Waugh leading ‘the invincibles’. Australia won the toss,and just like any other team would,chose batting.Australia cruising,set for a big total at 214-2.But a young feisty sardar ran through the Australian middle order with seven wickets in the innings. The tailenders showed some fightback,but courtesy , Harbhajan Singh,a teenager from Jalandhar,Australia were restricted to 445. The total was nevertheless,on the higher side.India in the second innings were off to a poor start. Dada and VVS Laxman showed some fight,but what India managed was a poor total -177 and the follow-on was enforced. It was quite likely that India will lose the match,only one team has managed to win the test match after getting a follow-on.
Indian opening pair showed some spirit in the second innings with a half century stand.And O Boy! VVS Laxman was out there at number 3. India was 115-3 with Sachin Tendulkar,their legend,in the pavillion.Ganguly and Laxman showed some fightback,but that wasn’t enough. It was the masterclass of Rahul ‘Wall’ Dravid(180) and the wristy Very Very Special Laxman(281), a triple century stand,that saw India through. Australia needed 350+ runs in 75 overs.Win was definitely out of question and the match seemed to end in a draw. But the Sardar from Jalandhar and Master Blaster ensured that seven Australian wickets fall in the last session,with India winning the match. The crowd erupted with joy,the Australians could not believe what happened. It was indeed a historic test match,a legendary win,a win that gave India the confidence to rise to the numero uno position in test rankings 8 years later.
About 11 years later today,many of those who played the Eden test are no more in the circuit. Rahul Dravid,VVS Laxman,Sourav Ganguly have all retired from the cricket. Harbhajan Singh,out of favor and Sachin,Zaheer playing in the team only beacause no one can kick them out. India has lost the Kolkata test against the team they thought couldn’t play spinners,against the team they thought would crumble on turning pitches,against the team they suffered whitewash an year ago. England rightly silenced the bragging and stubbornness of Indian team. The team needs an overhaul,new faces,probably a newer captain too. It is difficult to beat India in ODI cricket still,we are the world champions and rightly so. The 8-0 overseas ‘awful’ record would have shown the door to any cricket captain but M.S.Dhoni,the blue-eyed boy of Indian cricket. Zaheer,Sachin are the shadows of their past,middle-order in shambles,bowling in despair,fielding has never been great.
If this is the transition period as they say,rather excuse,the team should at least show some spirit. Australia has never been the same as they were since the greats retired. Same has happened with India,but even in the presence of the ‘greats’, India lost badly in Australia and England. Since January,M.S.Dhoni and co has only given excuses,nothing else,they need to admit they are going the wrong way and then only can the Indian team bounce back.
The historic era,has sadly ended with this match in Eden Gardens.India has fallen where they rose. The past has been buried under the same Eden pitch,all that remain now are memories,memories of the glorious days when India played some incredible test matches. The memories of Headingley,Adelaide,Durban,Perth,Napier,Jamaica,Multan,Kolkata,Chennai and Mohali. All these grounds had witnessed few of the most epic test matches India played over the last decade. The religion of 1 billion people in this part of the world is in danger,the Gods have fallen,they have no where to go,no place they can conquer,no place they can live peacefully. The Indian cricket has reached its lowest ebb. Sadly and unfortunately,the era has ended with the match. It all began with Kolkata 2001 and it has ended at Kolkata 2012. Surely,for the religious people here,it is end of the world but 12 days in advance.