The latest edition of the Border Gavaskar Trophy will kick start on February 9 in Nagpur. While Team India aim to retain the trophy after a historic win in Down Under, Australia will look to win their first Test series in India since 2004-05. Instituted in 1996 and named after legendary batters Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar, the Border Gavaskar Trophy has had its moments of glory, where history was rewritten, records were shattered, and careers were molded.
Impregnable Home Turf
The inaugural one-match series in 1996 began on a winning note for India, as they beat Australia on the back of Nayan Mongia‘s 152. This was also Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar‘s first match as Test captain.
The 1996 series also heralded the era of India’s domination against Australia at home. India have won 16 out of the 25 Tests at home since 1996, losing only 5 and drawing the rest.
For some perspective: In the previous 25 Test matches played at home, India won only five Tests.
Team India’s home dominance peaked during the 2012-13 series, when the MS Dhoni-led team whitewashed the visitors 4-0 for the first time. Team India’s domination comes out even stronger if one considers the period between 2005 and 2017, when they lost only one Test match – Pune, 2017.
The only time Team India failed to defend their home turf was in 2004, when they lost 2-1.
Australian batters have struggled on the turning tracks of India – from Ricky Ponting, who is the second-highest run scorer in the tournament, in the 2000s to David Warner in the present. The turning tracks did not help spin wizard Shane Warne either, who averaged 43 in India. The only exception is Nathan Lyon, who has scalped 34 wickets at a healthy average of 30.
Mixed Fortunes Down Under
While Team India have been dominant at home, they have had mixed fortunes Down Under. Between 1999-2000 (the first overseas Border Gavaskar Series) and 2014-15, India won just two Test matches – Adelaide, 2003 and Perth, 2008.
India also suffered two humiliating whitewashes in Australia – 1999-2000 and 2011-12. The latter series witnessed the decline of India’s batting ‘quartet’ – Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. Eventually, Dravid and Laxman never played an international game for India.
The 2014-15 series saw the emergence of Kohli as a captain-batter, but it is now remembered more for the unexpected Test retirement of Dhoni. India lost the series 2-0, both Kohli and Dhoni losing and drawing one Test each.
However, under Kohli, India scripted history in 2018-19 as they became the first Asian team to win a series in Australia. The heroes of this unprecedented feat were Cheteshwar Pujara – 521 runs – and Jasprit Bumrah – 21 wickets. However, Australia were without the services of their two biggest batters, Steve Smith and Warner.
Two years later, India made a dramatic comeback in the series after a humiliating defeat in the first Test at Adelaide. This Test gained infamy as Team India were bowled out for 36, their lowest ever team total. The next three Tests were nothing short of a fairy tale for India.
Despite missing the services of Kohli, battling searing pace bowling, and a growing injury list, India won the series 2-1. The architects of the series victory were Ajinkya Rahane (112 in Melbourne), Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin in the drawn Sydney Test, and Rishabh Pant in the historic Brisbane Test. In winning the Brisbane Test, India became the first team in 32 years to win at the ‘The Gabba’.
Career Turning Point For Legends
The Border Gavaskar Trophy has been a witness to individual brilliance on numerous occasions, which not only rescued the team from precarious situations but also resurrected failing careers.
Long before VVS Laxman became an “Australia-specialist”, scoring over 2,400 runs and hitting six out of his 17 centuries, he was struggling to keep his place in the playing XI. In the first four years of his career, he had scored 626 runs at a paltry average of 25. But things changed dramatically for him in the second innings of the third Test in 2000, when he hit a quickfire 167 off 198 balls. Unfortunately, India faced an innings defeat but Laxman had made his mark in international cricket.
Laxman’s elegant wrist play was once again at play in the 2001 Kolkata Test, when he teamed up with Rahul Dravid to rescue India while following-on. His 281 along with Dravid’s 180 helped India set a target of 384. Harbhajan Singh’s six-wicket haul then gave the finishing touches to a famous Indian victory.
Harbhajan Singh took 32 wickets in the 2001 series – the most by an Indian bowler in a three-match series. The series turned out to be a turning point for Singh, who went on to take over 400 wickets and became the mainstay of Indian bowling attack for a decade.
While Virat Kohli – he is considered the successor to Tendulkar’s legacy – had always been known as a great Test prospect, it wasn’t before the Australia tour of 2014-15 that he came into his own. Captaining two Tests in the absence of Dhoni, Kohli scored 692 runs in the four-Test series. His captaincy debut was a blockbuster – 115 and 141 – and set the stage for his successful reign as a captain.
Records Galore For India
With 3,262 runs at an average of 56.24, Tendulkar continues to be the top scorer in the series. No one among the current crop of players comes closer.
Among the current players, Pujara with 1,893 runs is close to crossing the 2,000-run mark in the 2023 series. He needs to play two more Tests to complete 100 Tests, only the 13th Indian player to achieve this feat.
Kohli has the opportunity to improve his numbers on home turf. In 11 Test innings in India, Kohli has scored just 330 runs at an average of 33.
With 111 wickets, Anil Kumble is the leading wicket taker in the tournament. His compatriot Ashwin is fourth on the list with 89 wickets. He needs one more wicket to complete 450 Test wickets and become the second-fastest to the milestone after Muttiah Muralitharan.
Ravindra Jadeja, who is looking to make a comeback after injury, is just eight short of completing 250 Test wickets. In doing so, he will also become the latest entrant into the ‘250 wickets and 2,500 runs’ club.
Rohit Sharma will be playing his first Border Gavaskar Trophy on home turf, nearly a decade after his debut. He has played seven Tests against Australia, scoring just 408 runs at an average of 31.
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