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Sydney Test 2008: The Drama Revisited and the Lessons Learnt

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It has been exactly 4 years since India played Australia in perhaps the most controversial test match of the last decade at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a test match which has had a huge bearing on the fortunes of these two high profile cricket sides since. That match, despite producing some enthralling cricket between possibly two of the best sides in world cricket at the time was overshadowed by claims of racism, misconduct, bad umpiring and gamesmanship that probably crossed the line.

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After being pummelled in the first test at the MCG, the tourists led by Anil Kumble took to the field in the second test match to put up an improved performance, and they did by giving the then world champions a run for their money. After conceding 463 runs to the Australians after being asked to bowl first, India's two best batsmen against Australia, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman came to the party, making superlative hundreds under pressure and putting India in a strong position having taken a healthy first innings lead. The Australians then came out firing in the second innings and set India an improbable 333 for victory. With a little over 2 sessions left and the match heading for a tame draw, an extra-ordinary set of events led to a baffling collapse from the much famed Indian batting unit that buckled under the immense pressure put by the Aussies and conceded the match with just a few overs left.

Despite the nail biting finish, the game itself was put in tremendous disrepute due to the infamous racism cloud involving Austalia’s Andrew Symonds and India’s Harbhajan Singh in the heat of the battle in the first innings. The two players had to pay a heavy price for their antics. The poor standard of umpiring during the course of the test especially by the ageing Steve Bucknor did not help calm down tempers between the two sides and affected India’s otherwise bright chances to the win the match, rather badly.

Now, exactly four years later, plenty has changed. Steve Bucknor has not umpired in international cricket since. The culprits Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds have been out of the reckoning from the national set ups for different reasons and the two teams have had contrasting fortunes. The Indian team who were later lead by MS Dhoni following Kumble’s retirement have reached the top of the pile in both formats of the game, by becoming the best test team in 2010 and winning the 50-over World Cup in 2011 at home.

The Australians on the other hand have undergone a massive transition with a huge chunk of their golden generation of players having retired and the team has felt their absence rather badly after being on the losing side on many occasions since.

In the years in between, the launch of the high profile Indian Premier League has helped bridge many a cultural divide, with amazingly Harbhajan and Symonds currently employed by the same franchise, the Mumbai Indians. Such a situation may have been unfathomable four years ago.

There are some things though that haven't changed at all. The Aussies still know just one way to play their cricket - hard, and India once again find themselves heading to the Sydney Cricket Ground 1-0 down in the series. The Indians though will be desperate to ensure that history does not repeat itself, in more ways than one.

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