The India-Australia Test rivalry, more famously known as the Border-Gavaskar trophy is one of the most prestigious and anticipated series in the history of the sport. Apart from the heroics with the bat and ball, achievements, records and great matches played between the two countries, there has been plenty of drama on and off the field in the form of sledging, controversial decisions, bad umpiring calls etc. The ongoing tour has not been spared either. After India’s win in the Boxing Day Test, it seems it is almost a deliberate ploy by the Australians to stoke issues and ignites passions in order to gain the psychological advantage and mentally disintegrate India. There has been plenty of noise made about India breaching the bio-secure bubble and about their refusal to undergo a strict quarantine in Brisbane.
Let us go back in memory lane and re-visit some of the infamous standoffs between the two cricketing nations.
1. 1981 - Gavaskar Walks Out Off the Field in Melbourne
India were 0-1 down in the three-match series and MCG was hosting the final Test. The Indian captain, Sunil Gavaskar was wrongly adjudged leg before wicket off the bowling of Dennis Lillee in the second innings. The Australian fielders started mouthing a few words. This triggered Gavaskar and he staged a walkout also imploring his opening partner, Chetan Chauhan to join him back to the dressing room. The match was almost forfeited but the intervention of India’s tour manager cooled down tempers. The Test resumed and India went on to register a famous win by 59 runs and drew the series.
2. 1999 - Tendulkar Adjudged LBW to McGrath
Controversial umpire, Darrell Hair gave the great Sachin Tendulkar leg before wicket off the bowling of Glenn McGrath in the series opener in Adelaide in 1999 when the batsman ducked to a bouncer which did not rise much and struck him on his shoulder. It led to a furore in both India and Australia, amongst the cricketing pundits, boards, media and cricket and LBW changed forever!
3. 2008 - MonkeyGate
This was perhaps the most talked-about and ill controversy in the cricketing history between the two teams. During the SCG Test between India and Australia in 2008, Andrew Symonds created a big stir when he accused Harbhajan Singh of racially abusing him and calling him a monkey. Tensions heated up between the two teams on and off the field. The two boards, other players, former players, media and even the governments got involved. Harbhajan was handed a three-Test ban but under pressure that the BCCI would boycott the remainder of the tour, the ban was ultimately overturned.
4. 2008 - Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson
The SCG Test of 2008 had no end to the drama and controversies surrounding it. Apart from the MonkeyGate scandal, umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson gave a number of horrendous decisions including incorrect calls for Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Andrew Symonds was given a number of reprieves. The Indian skipper, Anil Kumble expressed his unhappiness at the end of the match. Bucknor did not officiate in the remainder of the series.
5. 2008 - Watson-Gambhir Elbow Incident
2008 was the year of controversies between India and Australia. During the third Test in Delhi, Gautam Gambhir was found to elbow Shane Watson while running between the wickets. He was handed a one match ban and Watson fined 15% of his match fees. Gambhir recorded a double hundred in the match.
6. 2012 - Kohli Flipping off Sydney Crowd
While he still gets himself into the occasional skirmish, Virat Kohli has quite visibly simmered down from his early days in international cricket. There were several controversies involving Kohli when he first started out and in an interview with Wisden Cricket Monthly, Kohli has spoken about out one incident that he would rather forget from 2012, when he was caught on camera showing the middle finger to fans.
“The one thing I remember most is when I’d had enough of the Australian crowd at Sydney [in 2012] and I just decided to flick a [middle] finger at them,” he recalled “‘I’m so cool’. The match referee [Ranjan Madugalle] called me to his room the next day and I’m like, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘What happened at the boundary yesterday?’ I said, ‘Nothing, it was a bit of banter’. Then he threw the newspaper in front of me and there was this big image of me flicking on the front page and I said, ‘I’m so sorry, please don’t ban me!’ I got away with that one. He was a nice guy, he understood I was young and these things happen.
“I really laugh at a lot of the things I did when I was younger but I’m proud that I did not change my ways because I was always going to be who I am and not change for the world or for anyone else. I was pretty happy with who I was.”
7. 2014 - Kohli-Johnson Clash
The tension between Virat Kohli and the Australian team came to a boil in the MCG Test in 2014 when the Indian batsman was struck by a Mitchell Johnson throw as he tapped the delivery back in the direction of the bowler. It led to heated arguments and exchange of words between the two players. Kohli scored a fine 169 in the first innings but was dismissed b Johnson.
8. 2017 - Smith-Kohli and the DRG-Gate
There was tension between the two great batsmen - Steven Smith and Virat Kohli after the Australian was apparently looking up to the dressing room after being adjudged leg before wicket in the chase in the second innings of the second Test in Bengaluru in 2017. Smith was denied a referral by umpire Nigel Llong. Indian skipper, Kohli, visibly upset at Smith for apparently resorting to ‘cheating’ had a few words to say to the batsman and the umpire as Smith walked off the field. Australia, chasing 188 were routed for 112 and India levelled the four-match series at 1-1.
9. 2020-21 - Bio Secure Breach and Brisbane Quarantine
The ongoing Indian tour Down Under has seen a fair share of controversies. Five Indian players were accused of breaking the bio-secure bubble when they were spotted eating in a Melbourne restaurant. Later the five players - Rohit Sharma, Prithi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini and Rishabh Pant were cleared to play the third Test in Sydney.
There has been plenty of criticism of the Indian players and team by current and former Australian players over the unwillingness of the Indian board to make their players go through a hard quarantine before playing the final Test in Brisbane. Nathan Lyon, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Wade have all attacked the Indian team for the hesitation to play at The Gabba after going through a stringent quarantine.