India vs Australia at Chepauk: Memories never fade

The two sides will meet at the same venue in a One-Day International after nearly 30 years.

Australia skipper Steve Smith arrived in Chennai with his bunch of players from Bangladesh on Saturday night. The side is without its coach Darren Lehmann, who left for home from Bangladesh to concentrate on the Ashes. Assistant coach David Saker will guide the team in his absence on a tour that includes five ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals.   -  PTI

Two runs needed off two balls. Iceman Steve Waugh runs in, last man Maninder Singh takes strike, the air is suffused with tension.

The delivery is released, Maninder takes a swipe, turns back to see his stumps in a mess. The Aussies converge in a heap. It is a famous victory.

The margin is not more than the breadth of a hair — one run. But it is a huge shot in the arm for Australia. The year was 1987, and the event, the Reliance ODI World Cup.

Indeed, some memories never fade.

That game, in several senses, was a historic occasion. It was the first ever ODI in Chennai, then Madras. Interestingly, it was also the last time India and Australia faced off in an ODI at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.

Now, they will meet nearly 30 years later in an ODI at Chepauk on September 17. It has been a long time.

Steve Smith might be aware too of Chennai’s significance in Australia’s transformation from doldrums to an all-conquering force.

It was here that Allan Border and his men were involved in the rousing tied Test of 1986. And it was here a year later that the Aussies kick-started a World Cup campaign that would eventually end in a glorious evening of trophy triumph at the Eden Gardens.

Australia under Border was rebuilding then and India was the side’s land of destiny – it was here that the under-fire Aussies managed to turn things around.

The Aussies, now rebuilding under Smith, are no longer a feared adversary as they were under Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting.

But the side is a still a worthy opponent — let’s not forget that the Australia is the reigning ODI World Cup champion.

Former India captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth said, “The Australians don’t give up till the last ball is bowled. It was this quality that enabled them defeat us here in 1987.”

Indeed, India, chasing 271, stumbled from 207 for two to finish at the wrong end of the humdinger. Srikkanth blazed away for a aggressive 70, and then, the new-look comeback man Navjot Singh Sindhu blasted a 73 with five huge sixes.

“We were coasting, needed to play only normal cricket to win, but ended up losing. Credit to the Aussies for hanging in there,” said Srikkanth. The hostile Craig McDermott fired out four batsmen and then Steve Waugh ‘lived’ at the ‘death’.

That was a long time ago but Australia continues to have that in-the-trenches resolve. And Chennai should bring the side some good memories. As he walks into the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Smith will not be short of inspiration.