The 2001 Test match between India and Australia at the Eden Gardens went on to become one that defined the careers of all those involved in it, especially those on the Indian side.
Almost two decades later, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble got together on Star Sports during Tea in India’s first-ever day-night Test that is underway at the Eden Gardens. Harbhajan, who became the first Indian ever to take a hat-trick in Test cricket in that match, admitted that he would have probably never played the game had Kumble been available.
Steve Waugh’s seemingly unbeatable Australian side arrived on Indian shores in February 2001 in a bid to conquer what he had called the “Final Frontier” for the team.
“I got hammered in the first innings. The biggest celebration from my hat-trick came from (Rahul) Dravid and S Ramesh. That hug and embrace, I can’t forget,” he said.
Despite the hat-trick, the notion that India don’t stand a chance against Australia after the latter’s 10-wicket win in the first Test remained when the hosts were all out for a paltry 171 in reply to the visitors’ 445.
Waugh enforced the follow-on and India were 232/4 but after that came Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman’s 376-run stand that completely turned the tide in India’s favour.
Tendulkar said that then Indian coach John Wright and Ganguly decided in 10 minutes when India were following on that Laxman will bat at three and Dravid will be at six.
“He was in good rhythm. Nobody moved in the dressing room when those two batted. Drinks, ice packs were all being prepared for them. It was a magical partnership and suddenly there was this hope that we could win if Bhajji and Zak (Zaheer Khan) bowl well,” said Tendulkar.
Laxman scored 281 off 452 balls while Dravid made 180 off 353 and India eventually declared on 657/7.
Harbhajan went on to follow up his seven-wicket haul in the first innings with six wickets in the second as India dismissed Australia for 212, thus winning the match by 171 runs. It provided enough impetus for the final match of the series which they won by two wickets and thus took the series 2-1.