January 2, 2008, Sydney, the sun was out at the beautiful Sydney Cricket Ground(SCG) as the Indian side, led by Anil Kumble took the field in a game which the cricketing world would remember forever. The aggressive Ricky Ponting led unit were up against the visitors who had succumbed to pressure earlier in the first match of the series.
Encounters between India and Australia were always heated with the constant chirping from behind the stumps. The Australian bowlers would steam in and the look on their faces would dictate the story, the slip cordon led by Ricky Ponting would continuously chirp as they attempted to get in the batsman’s head.
Sledging as they called it and mental disintegration as former Australian skipper Steve Waugh named it. Sledging was believed to be an art to get to the opposition, verbal exchanges between India and Australia was common during the phase.
The 2008 Sydney Test began as the Australian openers, Phil Jacques and Matthew Hayden took the field. Australia’s top and middle order was destroyed by RP Singh and Harbhajan Singh as they reduced Australia to 119 for 4. Andrew Symonds walked out, little did he know that the Test would revolve around him. Back in 2007, the Kangaroos had been in India for a one-day series, Symonds had to face racial abuse as he saw banners which called him a monkey.
On the day, Symonds had the responsibility to get Australia out of trouble. Amidst umpiring errors, Symonds went on to score 162* as the Kangaroos climbed up to 463.
The Indian batsmen were keen on putting up a fight against the Australian bowlers as Brett Lee opened the attack. A half-century from Rahul Dravid and a century from VVS Laxman helped India to reach a respectable total at the end of day 2.
The real controversy started when Harbhajan Singh walked out to bat on the third day of the Test. India’s skipper Anil Kumble had been dismissed and Harbhajan walked out at number 9 at the score of 345 for 7. On the other end, Sachin Tendulkar was batting in his 80s.
Harbhajan’s arrival to the crease brought a sense of urgency in Australia’s slip cordon as the chirping began. The Turbanator Harbhajan Singh complained about the sledging to Tendulkar who asked Bhajji to ignore the unruly comments made by the Australians. Tendulkar reached his hundred and Harbhajan crossed his half-century before he lost his control and abused the Aussies.
At the score of 451 for 7, Symonds’ career took a turn as Harbhajan Singh abused him. Symonds made claims that Harbhajan abused him racially by calling him a monkey. A controversy erupted as the off-spinner was banned for three tests, the Indian team threatened to pull out of the remaining tour as the cricketing world got involved in the incident.
Apart from this, the umpiring howlers brought shame to the world of cricket. Both captains, Ricky Ponting, and Anil Kumble said that the game wasn’t played in the right spirit. The Indian team appealed against the umpires as Tendulkar and Harbhajan alongside team manager Chetan Chauhan attended the case hearing for what came to be known as The Monkey gate Scandal.
“To make a comeback, you must have had a setback”
The Sydney Test and Harbhajan Singh’s verdict was team India’s biggest setback, a setback that inspired them to end Australia’s 16-match winning streak. They rested their inner demons as they took the field in Perth a dozen day after the controversy.
The Indians were playing without off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. The glare in Kumble’s eyes at the toss displayed India’s determination on the day. The side led by Kumble posted 330 in the first innings courtesy Dravid’s 93 and Tendulkar’s 71. The Aussies were dismissed for a score of 212 as RP Singh picked up four wickets. In the second innings, the Indian side was in deep trouble as they were reduced to 125 for 5 but a resilient effort from VVS Laxman saw India reach a humungous total.
Amidst all the controversy, Anil Kumble’s team was making statements on the field. They played silently as the conquered the frontier at Perth.
Australia had to chase a massive total of 413 to win the game and seal the series. Irfan Pathan had the red cherry in hand up front, Pathan dismissed both the Australian openers as they were pushed on the backfoot at the beginning of the innings. Australia had their moments in the second innings but they could not establish a base as they were dismissed for 340. RP Singh cleaned up Australia’s Shaun Tait as the Indian players jumped with jubilation.
Kumble’s men showed character, a character that is required to succeed on big stages. Instead of words, India responded on the field as they left a mark at Perth, forever.