Cricket

‘India vs Australia on par with the Ashes’: Jason Gillespie

Jason Gillespie   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Conversations about the India-Australia rivalry in cricket don’t end without a recollection of Australia’s tour of 2001, in particular about that Test at Eden Gardens. Even a casual fan knows its place in the sport’s pantheon — after all, it captured the zeitgeist of Indian cricket.

A 26-year-old Jason Gillespie was a part of that historic moment. Almost two decades later, Gillespie reminisces that game with awe. It is, however, not his favourite India-Australia memory. Understandable, as his side lost the Test and the series. But three years later, when they toured India again, the Aussies found redemption. They managed to win a Test series in India for the first time in over 30 years. Gillespie was the leading wicket-taker for Australia.

“We tried so hard to win Test matches in India for so long. And so to win the 2004 series, after losing in 2001 is probably the favourite for me,” he says from Adelaide, a few days ahead of the India’s tour of Australia, starting with an ODI in Sydney.

These hard-won battles on the field are not the only reason he cherishes India. Nowhere else, he says, has he witnessed the adulation he did here. “Everywhere we went, there was a small crowd just following us around, just, you know, watching us eat and do our shopping, and whatnot. That was just a bit unusual for us. Nothing like that ever happened to me.”

Gillespie also recalls his visit to the Taj Mahal. “The 1996 World Cup was my first visit to India. We had a team photo taken in front of the Taj Mahal. As a child, I have seen the Taj on TV. But to actually stand there in front of it was incredibly special.”

Unintentionally cutting short his happy reminiscence, the conversation steers towards bowling to Sachin Tendulkar in the 2004 Sydney Test. The batting maestro made 241 in the first innings, besting all the Australian bowlers. Gillespie had bowled the most that innings (45 overs).

“Not much fun,” he replies with a straight face. A second later, his smile returns. “He was an incredible player, wasn’t he? I remember that innings so well. We tried everything but just couldn’t get the little master out.”

A great rivalry

The tables have turned in the India-Australia rivalry in Test compared to 2004. The Australian teams of Gillespie’s times were often the favourites. Ever since his retirement, however, India has had more series wins, including the first on Australian soil last year. “In terms of the quality of cricket, India vs Australia is definitely on par with The Ashes,” he says.

Ever since the pandemic, matches have been played inside bio-bubbles without spectators. But Cricket Australia, the country’s cricket board, announced restricted entry for fans for the Test matches. Australia, like India, has a passionate following for cricket. Games involving India especially have large turnouts at venues. Gillespie is looking forward to the return of the crowds. “It was unusual to watch the IPL being played without the crowd. Even if it’s going to be just 50% of the stadium being filled due to the restrictions, it will be exciting to watch cricket played in front of the people.”

Watch the first ODI of India tour of Australia Live from November 27, 8 am onwards on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Six channels

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 1:36:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/india-vs-australia-on-par-with-the-ashes-jason-gillespie/article33177791.ece

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