India made its Test debut in 1932 and it took them almost twenty years to register their first Test victory (against England in Chennai in 1952). The country then made slow and steady progress over the next couple of decades. A watershed moment in Indian cricket came in 1971 with series wins in West Indies and England under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar. This was also the period which saw the great Sunil Gavaskar and the famed spin quartet conquer the cricketing world.
And with the 1983 World Cup victory, Kapil Dev and his men changed the landscape of cricket forever in the nation. The focus shifted to One-Day Internationals (ODI) and along with economic liberalization in the 1990s, the Indian fans pinned their hopes on the attacking batting of a certain Sachin Tendulkar. He delivered in style and scripted some famous victories.
Then, the new millennium saw the burden of expectations on Sachin’s shoulders relax a bit. No longer were people switching off their television sets post his dismissal. The performance of the team also improved in leaps and bounds. Until 1999, with 61 wins from 330 Tests, India had a win percentage of. Compare that with the the 46% (96 wins from 210 Tests) victories India have achieved over the last two decades and one comprehends the upward trajectory the Indian team has been on in recent years.
On that note, let’s take a look at some of the iconic moments of this era across formats i.e. the last twenty years (from Jan 01, 2000 to Dec 31, 2019). Note that these events are listed in a chronological order of their occurrence. Fasten your seat-belts for a wonderful journey down memory lane.
#1. India vs Australia Test Match, Kolkata Test victory, 2001
Just utter the words, Kolkata 2001 to any Indian cricket fan and you would get a smile in return. In 1535 Tests played till then, this was only the third occasion that a team following-on had won. Almost 20 years have passed, and more than 800 Tests have been played since then, Sourav Ganguly’s Team India still remains just the third team to achieve this feat.
From a pure probability standpoint, chances of such an event happening is 0.13. (3 out of 2387 Tests). Expect this number to go further down as more Tests are played. So, when at the end of Day Three, captain Ganguly’s mother-in-law told him that India would win the match, he was in his rights to get furious at that thought.
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To go back on that evening in Kolkata, Indians were 254 for 4, following-on after being bowled out for 171 in the first innings in response to Australia’s 445. Even that seemed a recovery after they had lost the third and important wicket of Sachin with the score at 115.
In this grim scenario, most of India had forgotten that off-spinner Harbhajan Singh had become the first Indian to take a hat-trick on Day One of the Test. But VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, ensured that not only this hat-trick but the entire match would never be forgotten. They batted the whole of Day four and scored 335 runs. Laxman was finally dismissed for 281 (the then highest score by an Indian) and Dravid for 180 on Day Five.
If one had thought that the drama was over, then Harbhajan (who took 13 wickets in the match) along with Sachin had us on the edge of our seats with their last act. The two took nine wickets between them as the Australians were bowled out for 212 giving an unimaginable 171 runs victory to the Indians.
#2. India vs England, Natwest Trophy final win, 2002
There are some images that stay with you forever and the one of Sourav Ganguly twirling his shirt on the Lord’s balcony is one such iconic visual that has found its way into the annals of Indian cricket . Imagine taking off your shirt and dancing at a place as sacrosanct as Lord’s where the members are in blazers, neckties and hats. But then this was Ganguly, one who has always defied the norms. To put things into perspective, he was just giving it back to Andrew Flintoff who had done a similar thing after a English series victory in Wankhede, Mumbai.
Coming back to the match, this was the final of the Natwest Trophy also involving Sri Lanka. England had won the toss and batting first scored 325 for 5 in the 50 overs. Skipper Nasser Hussain (115) and Marcus Trescothick (109) had laid the foundations of this mammoth total, with Flintoff (40 off 32 balls) providing the finishing touch.
This was an uphill task. Mind you, back then, a 300+ score would guarantee a victory on most days. When India began their reply, a century opening partnership between Ganguly and Virender Sehwag seemed to have legitimately threatened the Englishmen. However, when Sachin got out for 14 as the fifth wicket fell with the score at 146, all seemed lost.
One remembers watching this at my house and at this juncture, the elders in my house had moved on to another room. For, they didn’t want to see India lose. I was still praying for an Indian victory and two young guns – Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh didn’t disappoint me. They put together a 121 runs partnership before Yuvraj was dismissed for 69.
The target was still 59 runs away and England sniffed a chance to comeback. However, Kaif along with Harbhajan Singh ensured that it was going to be an Indian summer at Lord’s.
India won the game by two wickets with just three balls remaining. By this time out entire family was in the living room watching the heroics and when the winning run were hit, the party had begun at our home (as it had across the nation).
#3. Test Series win in Pakistan, 2004
India vs Pakistan. For most players from the two neighboring countries, it doesn’t get bigger than this. This time, India were touring Pakistan for a Test series after a gap of 14 years and had never won a Test there earlier. History was to be re-written.
In the first Test, at Multan, Virender Sehwag became the first Indian to score a triple century. He was assisted by Sachin Tendulkar, who remained unbeaten on 194 (a declaration which led to a lot of controversy). Responding to India’s total of 675 for 5, Pakistan were dismissed for 407. Following-on, the home team was bundled out for 216 as Anil Kumble took six wickets. This was India’s first Test win on Pakistani soil.
The Inzamam-ul-Haq led Pakistan came back strongly in the second Test at Multan to defeat India by 9 wickets. With the series tied at 1-1, fans from both sides were eager to see their team cross the finishing line in the third Test at Rawalapindi.
India won the toss and elected to field and had Pakistan in dire straits at 137 for 8. A 70 run ninth wicket partnership between Mohammad Sami and Fazl-e-Akbar was the saving grace for the home team as they were eventually bowled out for 224. Despite losing the triple-centurion Sehwag off the first ball, India made a strong reply. Riding on Rahul Dravid’s 270, India scored 600 runs. He got good support from Parthiv Patel, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, all of whom scored half-centuries.
With 376 runs behind, Pakistan were always on the back-foot in their second innings. Wickets fell at regular intervals and the innings never really took-off. The home team were finally bowled out for 245, giving the Indians a victory by an innings and 131 runs. Laxmipathy Balaji was the star bowler of the Indian side and took 7 wickets in the match. Kumble too chipped in with four wickets in the second innings.
This victory meant that for the first time in history, India had won a Test series in their eternal rival and neighbour's den.
#4. World T20 champions, 2007
When the schedule of the inaugural World T20 was announced, most of the senior players in the Indian set-up decided to give it a miss. Thus, a young squad led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni went to this African safari. Like in the 1983 World Cup, the Indians were underdogs in the 2007 T20 World Cup.
After a first-round exist in the recently concluded 50 overs World Cup in the Caribbean Islands, the popularity of cricket in the nation had hit rock-bottom. Without the weight of expectation, the young boys enjoyed themselves in the middle.
India’s campaign began with an abandoned match against Scotland. The next match was against arch-rivals Pakistan and it had to be decided in the bowl-out after a tie at the end of 40 overs. India ended up winning the bowl-out.
In the Super 8s, India lost their opening match against New Zealand by ten runs. The next match was against England and Yuvraj Singh emerged as the hero hitting six sixes in an over. India won this match by 18 runs. With a victory over South Africa, India advanced to the semi-finals where they met a strong Australian outfit.
Yuvraj takes England to the cleaners with six sixes in an over:
Yuvraj continued his good form and scored 70 off 30 to take India to 188 in the allotted 20 overs. The Indian bowlers kept chipping away at the wickets to take India to a 15-run victory and to the finals.
Having defeated the Kiwis in the semi-finals, Pakistan had also advanced to the finals. Thus, a blockbuster final awaited cricket fans. And the two teams didn’t disappoint them. India were able to manage only 157 runs in their quota of 20 overs, which wasn’t a big total by T20 standards. Gautam Gambhir was the top scorer with 75. The Pakistanis lost Mohammad Hafiz in the very first over of the innings. However, Imran Nazir took control of the situation and scored a quickfire 33 off 14. But, post his wicket, no partnerships were allowed to flourish. At 104 for 7, it looked to be the end as far as Pakistan were concerned. But skipper Misbah-ul-Haq wasn’t ready to give up just yet. With support from the tail, he took his side to just 13 runs away from the World Cup when the last over began.
With the last Pakistani pair in the middle, India had to pick up one wicket or defend 13 runs. Despite the fact that experienced bowler Harbhajan had an over left, Dhoni decided to give the ball to medium pacer Joginder Sharma. He began with a wide and when the second ball was hit for a six, Indian fans had every right to question Dhoni’s decision. But the next ball changed everything, including probably T20 cricket as well.
Misbah went for a scoop shot over short fine-leg but was able to only give an easy catch to Sreesanth. India had won by five runs.
In the post-match presentation, Dhoni said, “It’s one of the things I will treasure for the rest of my life. I’d like to congratulate the boys and thank them for the response they have given me. No-one expected us to win and the way we played today deserved a big celebration”
T20 format had arrived with the best possible launch-pad.
#5. Commonwealth Bank Series triumph, 2007-08
This was a tri-series involving hosts Australia, India and Sri Lanka. In the league stages, the home team had emerged as the strongest with five wins from eight matches.
India defeated the Australians once and the Sri Lankans twice to advance to the best of three finals with the hosts. In the first final at Sydney, Indian bowlers were able to restrict the Aussies to 239. Praveen Kumar (2 for 49) and Harbhajan Singh (2 for 38) had been the pick of the bowlers. India’s response began well with a 50-run opening partnership between Robin Uthapa and Sachin Tendulkar before the former was dismissed for 17. When Yuvraj Singh got out the score was 87 for 3 and the home team seemed to have the upper hand.
But the Mumbai boys Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma were not ready to give up just yet. They put together a partnership of 123 runs and pulled India out of trouble. Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 117 while Sharma scored 66 as India won the match by six wickets.
In the second final at Brisbane, India batted first and scored 258 thanks largely to Sachin’s 91. When Australia came out to bat, they were put in trouble with the fall of early wickets. At 32 for 3, the Indians were truly on the top but Matthew Hayden, along with Andrew Symonds staged a recovery with an 89-run partnership. Unfortunately for the Aussies, both fell in quick succession and at 123 for 5, Indians could sense the title.
But the strong Aussies had few more weapons up their sleeves. Mike Hussey and James Hope were involved in a fightback which threatened to take the game away from the Indians. However, after Hussey’s (44) wicket at 199, the visitors took control of the procedings. Ricky Ponting’s men were bowled out for 249 giving a ten-run victory to the Indians.
And with that the Commonwealth Bank series as well. Kumar was the pick of the Indian bowlers with figures of 4 for 46 and was adjudged as the Man of the Match. This was India’s first One-Day Series victory down-under since the World Series win in 1985. Dhoni had in fact gone on record to say that this victory was even greater than the World T20 victory.
#6. 50-over World Cup victory, 2011
The World Cup was returning to the Indian sub-continent after a gap of 15 years and expectations from the Indian fans were high. This was also going to be Sachin Tendulkar’s last World Cup and nobody wanted him to retire without a World Cup trophy in his cabinet.
India began their campaign well with just one loss (against South Africa) in the group stages. In the quarterfinals, they were up against a formidable Australian side. After choosing to bat first, the Aussies made 260, courtesy a century by skipper Ricky Ponting. But the Indians were up to the task and half-centuries by Tendulkar (53), Gautam Gambhir (50) and Yuvraj Singh (unbeaten 57) propelled them to a five-wicket victory.
This set-up a mouth-watering semi-final clash between India and Pakistan. India batted first and Tendulkar with 85 (although he received several chances), steered the Indians to a total of 260. This was the same score that the Indians had chased in the quarterfinals, but probably the pressure of the match got the better of the Pakistanis.
They were bowled out for 231, thus giving the Indians a chance to become the first host country to win a World Cup. In the finals at Wankhede, Sri Lanka put a good total of 274 with an unbeaten century from veteran Mahela Jayawardene. This was a big total to chase in a World Cup final.
The home side lost Virender Sehwag in the very first over, but the crowd remained calmed as Sachin was still there at the crease. 37th ball of the innings changed this, with Tendulkar’s wicket the hopes of the entire nation looked to have gone for a toss. However, this wasn’t the team of the 1990s which relied just on Sachin. Gautam Gambhir (97) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (unbeaten 91), who had promoted himself ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh, were involved in the partnership of their life to take India closer to the title.
Dhoni finished the match with a six and India lifted the ODI World Cup after a gap 28 years. Tendulkar was carried around the shoulders of his teammates around the ground as the entire nation celebrated the victory.
Tendulkar, with 482 runs, was the second highest run-getter of the tournament (behind Tilakaratane Dilshan who scored 500), while Yuvraj Singh was adjudged as the Player of the Tournament for his all-round performance.
#7. ICC Champions Trophy win, 2013
By 2013, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had achieved everything that an international captain could dream off – World T20, 50-over World Cup, number one position in Test rankings. So, when the 2013 Champions Trophy began in England, he might have been tempted to add another ICC Trophy to his kitty.
Well, his tactics and his team ensured that by the end of the tournament, he would have another ICC Trophy under his belt. With wins over South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan, India remained unbeaten in the group stages. Shikhar Dhawan was in the form of his life with two centuries and a 48.
In a repeat of the 2011 World final, India was up against Sri Lanka. Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin, with three wickets each, put a brake on the Lankan batsmen as they were able to manage only 181 from the 50 overs. This target was achieved with ease with half-centuries from Dhawan (68) and Virat Kohli (unbeaten 58).
Thus, India advanced to the finals against hosts England. This match had to be truncated to 20 overs-a-side game. India batted first and scored only 129 with useful contributions from Kohli (43) and Ravindra Jadeja (unbeaten 33). England seemed to be on track when Eoin Morgan (33) and Ravi Bopara (30) were at the crease.
With six wickets in hand and 28 required off 18, Dhoni gave the ball to Ishant Sharma (again a move which many questioned). Morgan hit the second ball for a six and Ishant was under tremendous pressure. But with the third and fourth ball, he took the wickets of Morgan and Bopara. Jadeja bowled a fantastic next over which saw two English wickets fall.
In the last over, the Englishmen required 15, but Ashwin kept it to 10 and won the match for India. Jadeja won the golden ball for the bowler with the highest wickets and Dhawan won golden bat for the batsman with maximum runs.
The picture of the winning Indian team in white jackets is something that everyone recalls even today.
#8. Border-Gavaskar Trophy win, 2018-19
India’s first tour to Australia took place in 1947 and since then this was their 12th tour down under for a Test series. However, the Indians had never emerged victorious in any of them.
Although the home side were without their top two batsmen – Steve Smith and David Warner (both of whom had been banned due to ball tampering), the Indians knew that they couldn’t be taken lightly.
The visitors began on a high with a 31-run win in the first Test of the series at Adelaide. Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 123 and 71, was the star of the match. Jaspit Bumrah and Ravichandra Ashwin were the top performers with the ball with six wickets each.
The Australians came back strongly to win the second Test at Perth by 146 runs. Skipper Virat Kohli, who had scored a century in the first innings, failed in the second innings as the Indians were bowled out for 140.
In the third Test at Melbourne, Pujara scored his second century of the series as India declared at 443 for 7. Pace sensation Jasprit Bumrah then took over and, with figures of 6 for 33, bowled out the home side for 151. In search of quick runs, India declared their second innings at 106 for 8. This meant that the Aussies had to chase 399 in the fourth innings.
All the Indian bowlers chipped in with wickets at regular intervals as the Aussies were bundled out for 261. India was now going into the fourth Test with a lead of 2-1 and a realistic chance of winning the series.
Riding on centuries by Pujara (193) and Rishabh Pant (unbeaten 159), India scored 622 for 7 in the first innings at Sydney and a series win was within sight. The only question remaining was whether it would be a 2-1 or a 3-1 victory. Kuldeep Yadav’s five wickets meant that Australia had to follow-on after being bowled out for 300.
But rain-gods came to the rescue of the home side and the match ended in a draw. Nevertheless, Kohli’s team had achieved what no Indian team had ever done Down Under.