The aggressor Sourav Ganguly was, he declared the innings setting a target of 384 runs and a 21-year-old off-spinner turned the game on its head by sending 6 batsmen back to the pavilion scripting an incredible win for India.
During his victory speech on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said BJP’s win in Uttar Pradesh will mark the beginning of new India as the youngsters have voted for development and not for promises. However, for Indian cricket fans, the beginning of new India happened in 2001 when two men decided not to break down under pressure, when they decided to not go down and when they showed an entire nation, all is not lost. It was on this day on 2001 when VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid restored the faith of millions of cricketing fans in India by adding 376 runs for the fifth wicket and helping India to win against Australia despite being asked to follow on.
All the keen followers of the game know what happened in those five historic days at the Eden Gardens. Batting first, the visiting Australian side had put up a massive total of 445 runs on the board and in reply, the Indian team was bowled out for a paltry total of 171 runs. The hosts were asked to follow-on and were heading towards a humiliating loss but stepped up VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) who guided India to a secure total of 657 runs for a loss of 7 wickets. The aggressor Sourav Ganguly was, he declared the innings setting a target of 384 runs and a 21-year-old off-spinner turned the game on its head by sending 6 batsmen back to the pavilion scripting an incredible win for India. He is now known as Harbhajan ‘Turbonator’ Singh.
Watch the highlights of the 2001 Kolkata Test between India and Australia:
However, what a lot of people don’t know is that the celebrations of this victory went way beyond the cricketing field. It was one of the most important moments for Indian cricket. Before this series, India had a dark phase in its cricketing history as one of its favourite child Mohammad Azharuddin along with Ajay Jadeja and others was caught in a match-fixing scandal and was banned. This left the trust of fans, shattered and the new captain, Sourav Ganguly faced a huge task of restoring it.
To support him, BCCI decided to bring in India’s first foreign coach in John Wright who introduced a completely new system to the players. Another major problem was India had lost their most experienced bowler Anil Kumble to an injury right before the series. The selectors were forced to blood in a young Harbhajan Singh on Sourav Ganguly’s demand even after the off-spinner was suspended for indiscipline in the past.
Watch the epic partnership between Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman:
Moreover, Australia was running a riot at that time having won 15 consecutive Tests. After facing humiliation in the first Test that India lost by 10 wickets, most men had lost hope from their side. By the third day of the second Test, even the most optimistic fans had given up on the Indian team. But, two men and one partnership were all it took to bring back everything. India won the Kolkata Test by 171 runs and followed it with another thrilling 2-wicket victory at Chennai to clinch the series 2-1.
Indian cricket wasn’t same anymore. This team knew that now they can win from any situation, a confidence that has been visible in all the Indian sides since then, most notably in Virat Kohli’s men. In that match, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman batted one entire day without losing any wicket. It is a great achievement on any pitch against any bowling attack. That day, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman marked the beginning of ‘new India’.