Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar end Australia’s intimidation in Adelaide 2003

Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, and Ajit Agarkar all played a stellar part in India’s epic win against Australia in the 2003 Adelaide Test as a 22-year jinx was broken.

Rahul Dravid's 233, combined with VVS Laxman's 148 and Ajit Agarkar's 6/41 gave India a memorable win against Australia in Adelaide. (Image credit: Twitter)
By Siddharth vishwanathan | Dec 14, 2021 | 5 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Australia was the dominant side in world cricket in the period of the mid-90s till the first decade of the 21st century. At home, they were supreme. Away, they registered victories on a regular basis. The one country that stood in their path of domination was India. In 2001, Australia had won 16 consecutive Tests and was on the cusp of a win in Kolkata. India was following on and was in serious trouble. But, in what would go down as one of the most memorable fightbacks in world cricket, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman stitched a 376-run stand and turned the match around. India ended the streak and went on to win the series 2-1.

Two years later, India arrived in Australia desperate to end a decades-long jinx. For Rahul Dravid himself, it was a story of redemption. India had not won a Test in Australia since 1981. During their last tour in 1999/2000, India was whitewashed 3-0 with Dravid managing an average of just 15. But, what transpired in Adelaide was a repeat of Kolkata 2001 with one notable addition. In place of Harbhajan Singh, there would be Ajit Agarkar, another individual who wanted the nightmare against Australia to end. Agarkar had endured seven consecutive ducks against Australia and it was a big blot on his career. The common factor was VVS Laxman, who had always hurt Australia in a spectacular way. The trio would go on and give India one of their most memorable wins in Australia.

India stare down the barrel after Ricky Ponting onslaught

India had Australia on the ropes in Brisbane thanks to Sourav Ganguly’s century. Zaheer Khan took a five-wicket haul but rain rescued Australia as the match ended in a draw. Heading into Adelaide, Australia held the initiative with Ricky Ponting blasting a magnificent double century. Australia raked up 400 runs in one day as India was simply overwhelmed. On day 2, Anil Kumble took five wickets and Ponting ended up with 242 as Australia was bowled out for 556.

India was in deep trouble at 85/4 but in stepped Rahul Dravid and Laxman. The duo started to build a partnership. Laxman was in fine form and that helped Dravid gain some confidence. Jason Gillespie was bowling tight lines and troubling both the players. But, Australia was handicapped by the absence of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, who were both out injured. With Stuart MacGill also struggling and with Andy Bichel and Brad Williams safely being negotiated, India had tremendous belief.

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Rahul Dravid went past fifty but it was Laxman who was nearing his century. On days 3 and 4, it was the Dravid and Laxman show. Dravid neared his century with a couple of fours off Andy Bichel. Then came the moment. Gillespie bowled a short ball at the stumps. Dravid went for the hook shot and top-edged it to fine leg. However, he had hit it with enough power to get it over the ropes for a six.

Dravid finally breaks the Australian nightmare

Dravid had notched up his century in a way that would have made Virender Sehwag proud. The relief spoke of Dravid’s desire to do well in Australia. It was his 16th century but first in Australia. At that time, getting a century Down Under was considered the yardstick for greatness. Laxman also notched up his century as Australia was under the pump.

For the second time in two years, both Laxman and Rahul Dravid notched up a triple century partnership in Test cricket. Laxman neared a 150 but he soon fell to Bichel for 148. Australia had broken a 303-run partnership but Dravid was still going strong. He decided to convert his first hundred in Australia to a massive one. On the first ball of day 4, Dravid notched up his double century with a cut four off MacGill.

Dravid shared partnerships with the tail as India went past 500. The current India cricket team head coach fell for 233 as he top-edged a short ball from Gillespie. India trailed by just 33 runs and momentum was with them.

Australia struggle against Ajit Agarkar

With their tail up, it was time for the bowlers to step up. Ajit Agarkar answered the call and he was in top form. He dismissed Justin Langer cheaply. However, the massive moment was when Agarkar dismissed Ricky Ponting for 0. Dravid, who had played a massive hand with the bat, then contributed in the field. He took two important catches off Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh, with Sachin Tendulkar taking two wickets. Kumble dismissed Adam Gilchrist and Agarkar polished the tail off in a stunning display of reverse swing.

Agarkar finished with 6/41 and it would be his only five-wicket haul in Tests. Australia was bundled out for 196, giving India a target of 230. On day 5, with the pitch deteriorating, Virender Sehwag gave India a blazing start. But, India was in trouble when they lost quick wickets. Dravid held firm and negotiated the uneven bounce well. Laxman once again struck a quick 30 as India neared a win.

Fittingly, it was Dravid who gave India history. He cut a wide delivery from MacGill to the deep cover fence for a boundary. India had sealed a four-wicket win and they had won on Australian soil after 22 years. India had finally broken the jinx in grand style.

Heartbreak for India but glory in coming decade

The win in Adelaide meant that India had finally ended the aura of intimidation of the Australians. Although they lost the next Test in Melbourne, India came close to winning the Sydney Test. But, Australia held firm and the series was drawn 1-1. Dravid scored 619 runs at an average of 123. The win in Adelaide resulted in India winning Tests more frequently in Australia.

In 2007/08, a series that was filled with acrimony over atrocious umpiring and allegations of racism in Sydney, India won a Test in Perth. However, in 2011/12 and 2014/15, India was hammered 0-4 and 0-2. In 2014, they came close to winning the Adelaide Test on the back of Virat Kohli’s twin tons but they collapsed.

All that changed in 2018 and 2020. India became the first Asian nation to win a Test series in Australia on two separate occasions. India won the Adelaide and Melbourne Tests in 2018 after losing in Perth. In 2020, they were bowled out for 36 in Adelaide but they registered a spectacular comeback in Melbourne. In Sydney, they held on for a heroic draw. With injuries mounting, India was forced to field their ‘B’ team in Brisbane.

India did the unthinkable as they breached the Gabba fortress to win by three wickets. They had once again won the series 2-1. It is fair to say that the basis for India’s domination in Australia was laid on December 2003 in Adelaide.

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