I have been to Mumbai’s Wankhede and Brabourne stadiums quite a few times. One of my most memorable and ecstatic memories inside a cricket stadium came 15 years ago in the fourth test match between India and Australia played from November 3 to 5. The eventful match completes 15 years today.
Going into the test India had already lost the series by 2-0. But that didn’t deter fans like me to attend the match. With the line-up of players in both teams, who would want to miss out, especially if tickets are available easily?
A major reason for the crowd to turn up for this match despite India losing the series was Sachin Tendulkar. It was his first match of the series since he couldn’t play the first three matches due to an injury.
The match started on a horrendous note for India as they were bundled out for just 104. It could have been worse as they were 33 for 5 at one stage. In reply Australia scored 203. Considering the team they had, they could have taken a much bigger lead but Anil Kumble and Murli Karthik had other plans.
India’s performance was starting to look better in the second innings when they were 153 for 3. There was a renewed hope among us, the spectators. But after VVS Laxman fell for 69 [he loved batting against the Aussies], India could manage only 205 which meant that Australia needed a mere 107 runs to win the match.
There was a healthy rivalry going on with the Australian fans who were seated at the upper stand. We would dance or make gestures to them when India would do well and they would do the same to us when the Australians did. When India was also bowled out in the second innings cheaply, they made gestures to us indicating that they can’t hear our voices now. We had nothing to reply then.
Fans had accepted defeat, including me. I was somewhat pleased to see Tendulkar scoring 55 in the second innings. It was valuable innings considering how the pitch was behaving. I still remember his six over mid-wicket off the off-spinner Nathan Hauritz which hit the roof of the then Wankhede; a target not easy.
As soon as India were bowled out the second time, people started taking exit from the stadium slowly. I, however, had no such plans. I never leave the stadium before the match is completed. I hadn’t left the stadium even when Australia needed just about 10 runs with 10 wickets in hand in an earlier test match against India at the same venue in 2001.
I was hoping for India to pick up at least 5 wickets which would make the chase interesting. All this while, people around me started criticizing team India for their performance in the test, including me. But there was a pleasant surprise in store for us.
Zaheer Khan got Justin Langer out on just the second ball of the innings, much to our joy and amazement. We were pleased at getting at least something to cheer but we were soon silenced after Australia reached 24 for just 1.
The loud cheers were back when Aussies lost two wickets on the score of 24. They were soon 33 for 4 and 48 for 5 when the dangerous Matthew Hayden was bowled around his legs by Harbhajan Singh. Now, we started sensing victory out of nowhere.
Mind you, the pitch was playing like devil since the previous day. This enabled Michael Clarke to pick up 6 wickets for just 9 runs in the second innings the previous day! But on the last day, Karthik was having fun as he succeeded in dismissing biggies like Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn and Clarke.
The biggest moment of the match came when Adam Gilchrist was caught at deep mid-wicket by Tendulkar off Harbhajan’s bowling. I clearly remember how the entire team rushed to that part of the ground to celebrate. Such was the importance of that wicket.
Hauritz showed some fight but the Australians were bowled out eventually for 93 when Glenn McGrath was caught by Laxman off Harbhajan. The celebrations in the stands were crazy to say the least. Only those who have seen the Australian team of that era would understand what it meant to bowl them out for just 93, despite India already losing the series.
Not surprisingly, it was our turn to give it back to the Australian supporters [mind you, all in good humour] in the upper stands. And it was their turn to be stunned now.
The drama wasn’t over though. Following the match, Ponting asked the Indian captain Dravid if he would like to lodge a joint complaint with him about the nature of the pitch. The Australians were not happy to see a ‘sub-standard’ wicket at the Wankhede. Dravid, however, politely refused.
Another interesting bit about the match is related to umpire Aleem Dar. No this is not about any controversy regarding his decisions. As the match ended in just 3 days, Dar approached a local cricket club on the fifth day of the match and played for a team at the Police Gymkhana. He scored 70 odd runs with 7 sixes. Yes, he can also bat [I remember reading the news in Mid-Day along with his picture from the match but can’t find the article now].
It is not often that you see a Pakistani cricketer representing a club in Mumbai. This and various other happenings made this test match eventful. Such was the era when every big test match had its own story with lots of drama.
See the full scorecard of the match by clicking HERE
By: Keyur Seta