15 March 2001: There have been memorable moments in Indian history, and one of these happened on 15 March 2001 when a cricket match altered the culture of the country’s national sport. The game was between Australia and India, and it inspired the Indian cricket squad to a level of winning zeal that had never been seen before.
The stigma of match-fixing and invincible Australia
Indian cricket was still coping with the fallout from the match-fixing scandal at the time of the game, and the players were shrouded in suspicion. The squad had Sourav Ganguly as captain, but recent series had not gone well for them.
On the other side, Australia’s cricket team was coming as an invincible team. They had won all 15 of their last Test matches. Legendary athletes like Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, and Jason Gillespie, who had won the 1999 Cricket World Cup, were in the Aussie side. Australia had easily won the first Test, and they were in a great position to repeat a series victory by winning the second Test in Calcutta. In a startling turn of events, India rallied to win the game.
Follow on: Opportunity in adversity
The host Indian side was in a spot of bother, and the confident Aussies imposed a follow-on. The Indian openers couldn’t save the team’s grace in the second innings either, and it was left to India’s most dependable players to see the match through. What unfolded after that went down in the history books as one of the greatest fightbacks by any side. In fact, with stories like this, India has time and again shown that it behaves like an injured lion when its back is to the wall, and it hits back harder than the rival side can even comprehend or plan for.
Gritty partnership between VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid helped India not just to surpass the trail but also opened victory gates for the side. They were the unsung heroes of India’s second innings, in which they scored a mammoth total of 657 after being compelled to follow on. Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar, who had been struggling with form, then took over in Australia’s innings, with Harbhajan taking seven wickets and Sachin getting three vital wickets with his ‘googly’. Australia were all out for 212, and India won the contest.
The trajectory of Indian cricket was altered by this win. The squad started to appreciate winning after realizing that not even the world champions were unbeatable. Strong teams were assembled by Sourav Ganguly, and Indian cricket still honors their contributions today. The contest marked the start of a new era in Indian cricket, not just a game.