Golden debuts in 1996 gave India teeth to fight overseas

July 18th, 2011 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar London, July 18 (IANS) India lost the 1996 series in England 0-1, but the golden debuts of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid at Lord’s, which eagerly awaits the 100th Test match between the two countries, changed the way world looked at Indian cricket in the years to come.

For Ganguly the series was a sort of comeback, having been dumped after a lone ODI appearance in Brisbane in 1992, while for Dravid it was his first taste of international cricket.

Ganguly went on to score a century - 166 - on debut in the second Test while Dravid fell five short of a debut century. Had Dravid scored a century it would have been the first instance of two debutants from a same team scoring centuries. A year later Pakistan’s Azhar Mahmood and Ali Naqvi achieved the feat against South Africa in Rawalpindi.

Ganguly and Dravid carried on in the same tone in the third Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, which like the previous one was drawn. Ganguly scored another century (136) and along with Sachin Tendulkar (177) took India to a massive first innings total of 521. Dravid also scored a fine 84. Gangly went on to lift the Man of the Match award.

Ganguly impressed with his off-side strokes, dissecting the field with the finesse of a experienced pro. A young Dravid later called the stylish left hander “next to god on the off side.”

Another debutant, pacer Venkatesh Prasad took six wickets in the first Test and ended with an impressive series haul of 15 wickets. Prasad went on to become an important part of Indian attack in the following years.

The Indian team, led by Mohammad Azharuddin, suffered a eight-wicket defeat in the first Test at Edgbaston in Brimingham. The batting collapsed against England’s pace attack and Tendulkar’s fighting 122 in the second innings was the only highlight of the match.

Before moving to Lord’s for the second Test, India played a three-day practice game against Derbyshire, which the visitors lost by a massive 10 wickets. But Ganguly scored a gutsy 64 that gave him a lot of confidence.

Recalling the practice match, Ganguly said: “The ball was swinging and the weather was chilly. I decided to hang on. I told myself that since I have played county cricket, I can score runs. The innings gave me immense confidence and made me believe that I belong to that place.”

Injuries to Sanjay Manjerekar and Sunil Joshi opened the room for two debutants at Lord’s and rest is history.

“We were staying in a hotel just opposite Lord’s. We walked down to the ground and Azhar told me that I was in. It was a great moment in my life. We made a poor start and I walked in at No.3. (Alan) Mullally and (Dominic) Cork were bowling brilliantly and it took some time for me to settle down,” said Ganguly.

The former Indian captain says it was a great 94-run partnership with Dravid.

“We both were young trying to cement our place in the team and we backed each other. When I was in 90s I could see that Rahul wanted me to score a century more than I did. It was unfortunate that he could not get his century.”

Ganguly said it was his bowling that gave him the confidence to bat well at Lord’s.

“I was bowling well. In the first innings I picked up two wickets and my first Test victim was Nasser Hussain, for whom it was his comeback series. Nasser took me lightly and ended up playing a loose shot to Vikram Rathore. The two wickets gave me immense confidence,” said Ganguly.

Both Ganguly and Dravid led India’s fight-back in the series that has typified India’s cricket in the following years. In the subsequent tours to England, they also left their impressions as captains. While Ganguly led India to a historic win in the Natwest Trophy in 2002, chasing a 300 plus run target in the final against Lord’s, Dravid captained India to a 1-0 Test series win in 2007.

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