File photo of Virat Kohli. Photograph:( Reuters )
Let's hope that by the time series is over in next three-month, Indian fans will have some moments to rejoice and some fond memories to cherish for years to come.
Virat and his boys have arrived in England for a mega three-month tour, wherein five Test matches, three T-20s and three ODIs are scheduled.
It is certainly going to be the mother of all tours after all, it is not very often that a five-Test match series takes place. Moreover, both India and England are playing reasonably good Cricket at this point in time, so expect a livewire contest in days to come.
This is the special occasion for a Test cricket frenzy like me. Over the past, so many decades, Test series in the nation where the game of Cricket was originated have been really special and many fond memories are linked (albeit not all of them are pleasant).
As Kohli and boys start their crusade in 2018, time is ripe to go back and recall those special memories.
While growing up, we had heard heroic of the squad led by Ajit Wadekar in 1971. In 1971, first time, India won a Test a series in England. It was a golden moment for Indian Cricket. The inspiring leadership of Ajit Wadekar, the famous spin quadlet and then young and mercurial Sunil Gavaskar laid the foundation of a great Test side in 1971.
We had also learnt about the massive double century by Sunil Gavaskar at The Oval in 1979, the innings which had almost pulled a very improbable victory for India.
But I didn’t witness those moments from the seventies. It was in 1986 when we got our first real reason to smile when India decimated England by 2-0. For the record, till date, it has been the most comprehensive Test series of India outside sub-continent. In 1983-84, West Indies defeated India in India by 3-0. In 1984-85, even a relatively weak England side defeated India in India by 2-1.
That does not complete the humiliation in 1985 India lost a Test series to even a novice team like Sri Lanka.
Thus 1986 England tour was a defining moment. India won first two Test matches at Lords and Headingly with ease. Dilip Vengsarkar was in the form of his life as he scored centuries in both Test matches. He became the first overseas player to score three Test hundreds (just for the record, like of Tendulkar and Ponting could never score a century a Lords). If you want to realize the importance of India’s victory in 1986 then please consider this fact that it took India 16 year after 1986 to again win a Test outside the sub-continent.
In 1990, Azhar won the toss at the Lords and put England in. Graham Gooch pulverized Indians with a massive triple century. I still remember that how Kiran More dropped a simple catch behind the stumps when Gooch was on 36. The drop cost India another 297 runs as Gooch slammed 333. India lost the Test and series. Azhar might have been horrendous as captain but he was blazing with the bat. He scored two swashbuckling centuries in the three-Test series. In fact, in one of his innings, he scored 100 runs in a single session.
But the highlights of the series (or I can say take away for Indian fans) was four sixes on consecutive deliveries by Kapil at Lords to save follow-on for his side and then the fighting century by 17 years old Sachin Tendulkar (first of his total 100 international centuries) in the last Test to save the follow-on.
India lost three Test series in 1996 in England, by a margin of 1-0 but series is always remembered for the debut of two of the all-time greatest Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Both made their debut in same Test and Sourav scored two centuries in his first two Test matches.
16 years later, finally India again won a Test in England in 2002. It was a rejuvenated Indian side under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly. The series is remembered for the outstanding batting form of Rahul Dravid. I particularly remember the Leeds Test. Ganguly and Tendulkar scored 250 runs in just 60 overs to put India in command. It was fearless and clean hitting by both of them.
It was Zaheer Khan, who was the man for India in 2007 series. His spritted bowling spells at Nottingham won Test and series. I remember the how the infamous jelly bean incident provoked Zaheer. While batting, Zaheer had an altercation with English players as Zaheer claimed the fielders were throwing jelly beans on the pitch. Khan was livid and felt humiliated. When England came to bat, Zaheer came up with one of his best bowling performances ever and decimated England.
During 2011 tour, India lost the series 4-0, the humiliation still pains. The series made one thing clear unequivocally that best of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman was behind them and India needed fresh blood in the middle order.
In 2014, India lost the series 3-1, despite drawing the first blood at Lords in the second Test. The only highlight for the side was that how Ishant rattled England’s batting lineup with rising deliveries at Lords and won the match for his side. Another highlight was the rare failure of Virat Kohli throughout the series.
India in England is always fascinating to watch. The current side under Virat is formidable. Let's hope that by the time series is over in next three-month, Indian fans will have some moments to rejoice and some fond memories to cherish for years to come, the way I am recalling the old Indian tours to England.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)