Fourth-innings thrillers, VVS, and more: vintage moments of India’s tours of Australia

From 1947-48 till 2018, India managed to win only five Tests in Australia, in 44 attempts, with no series wins. Over the course of two subsequent tours, India raised that figure to nine wins. India made history in 2018-19 with its first ever series win in Australia and in the next tour in 2020-21, they defied several odds to win 2-1. India’s visits to Australia have produced some gripping contests in the past. We look back at those victories and several near-misses.

In 1947-48, the new, 'independent' India faced the Australians, led by the legendary Don Bradman, for the first time. The Indians lost the series 4-0, but the tour was the making of arguably India's first world-class allrounder, Vinoo Mankad. Mankad scored two centuries and took 12 wickets. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES
India's next tour came 20 years later. After losing the first two Tests, India gave the Australians a scare in the third in Brisbane. Stylish Hyderabad batsman ML Jaisimha had only just landed in Australia as an emergency replacement for leg-spinner BS Chandrasekhar due to injury. Jaisimha hit the ground running straightaway with a rearguard 74.
The Australians hadn't seen the last of him. Set a target of 395, Jaisimha went for it, scoring 101 and adding over a hundred runs with Chandu Borde. A valiant India fell short by 39 runs. It was the first of many such thrillers.
In 1977-78,  India took an unrecognisable Australian side, with all the stars sans Jeff Thomson signing for Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Bob Simpson was pulled out of retirement in a desperate measure to lead the Australians.
Yet, the five-Test series went Australia’s way 3-2, the hallmark of the series being thrilling, high-scoring fourth innings chases. After losing two close contests, India fought back in the third Test at Melbourne, also India’s first ever win in Australia. Chandrasekhar was the hero with 6 for 52.
India drew level at Sydney and at Adelaide (a six-day game), India nearly scaled 493, only to fall short by 47 runs. It was a decade in which India scripted series wins in the West Indies and England but this Australian tour was one that only just got away. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES
In 1980-81, the Packer stars had since returned. The third and deciding Test at the MCG first witnessed a walkout by a fuming Sunil Gavaskar after a dodgy lbw verdict against Dennis Lillee. However, the Indians were beaming in the end as Kapil Dev took 5 for 28 to bowl Australia out for 83 chasing 143. The series was drawn 1-1. Photo: AP
In 1985-86, India took another weakened Australian side going through a transitional phase. All three Tests were drawn. There were solid performances by Kris Srikkanth, Sunil Gavaskar and Shivlal Yadav. Although the weather and the umpiring played their part, India could have closed out a game or two had they batted a bit more positively.
The 1991-92 tour was a long and exhausting one for the Indians. India lost 4-0 with a draw at Sydney. The biggest positive was Sachin Tendulkar who scored two centuries, including one at Perth, then one of the fastest pitches in the world. With his career winding down, Kapil passed 400 Test wickets.
There was room for another thriller though. At Adelaide, Mohammad Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhakar gave Australia a fright in their chase of 372, but the hosts sneaked home by 38 runs.
In the contrast to the 1980s, India failed to win a single game in two tours of Australia in the 1990s. In 1999-2000, India were vanquished 3-0. From the ruins emerged VVS Laxman, who won the respect of the Australian public with 167 at Sydney. It wasn’t the last the Australians had seen of him though. Photo: Reuters
Did we mention VVS before? Meet Rahul Dravid too. Nearly three years after their iconic jailbreak at Eden Gardens, the duo were back at it, this time at the Adelaide Oval in 2003-04. Dravid (233) and Laxman (148) added 303 in a high-scoring game, setting up a famous win to give India a never-before series lead in Australia. Australia pulled back in the next Test and for the third time, an Australia-India Test series ended without an outright winner.   Photo: V.V. Krishnan
In 2007-08, the Monkeygate controversy in Sydney nearly pulled the plug on the tour after just two Tests. Following urgent mediation, the show went on.
At Perth, after being 0-2 down, India fought back to win by 72 runs. It was a collective bowling effort, with the standout being a brilliant over by young Ishant Sharma who worked out the Australian captain Ricky Ponting. The series went Australia’s way 2-1.
Photo: Getty Images
In 2018-19, Australia were without two key batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner who were serving bans. This was considered to be India’s best chance to break their Australia jinx, with a strong bowling attack against an unsteady Australian batting line-up.
After winning a close game in Adelaide, India lost at Perth, fought back at Melbourne and drew the final Test in Sydney to take the series 2-1.
The star was Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 521 runs with three centuries.
Photo: Mark Kolbe
In 2020-21, India played a day-night Test in Australia for the first time. India were rolled over for their lowest Test score of 36 in the pink ball Test at Adelaide.
With Virat Kohli flying home on paternity leave, Ajinkya Rahane took over the captaincy and presided over one of the greatest comebacks by a team in Test cricket history. Injuries kept hitting India through the tour but India found ways to bounce back, winning in Melbourne, holding onto a tense draw at Sydney and winning in Brisbane with barely few overs left.
Australia this time were at full strength, but that was not enough to save the series, let alone win.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris