Australia’s pitches are the most competitive in the world. Brisbane’s Gabba offers pace, swing and bounce while Adelaide is a flat deck which crumbles to give spinners assistance. The WACA wicket in Perth was the fastest and bounciest in the world while Melbourne was a competitive wicket which gave seam bowlers plenty of assistance. Sydney is the only venue in Australia where a team can play two spinners.
With such vast diversity of pitches, it is no wonder that both visiting team bowlers have enjoyed a fair amount of success Down Under. India’s bowlers have provided plenty of memorable instances in Australia. Some efforts have resulted in memorable wins while other spells have helped the players immensely in their career. Here is the list of top spells by Indian bowlers in Tests against Australia
1) Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, 6/52 and 6/52, Melbourne 1977
Before this match, India had lost 10 consecutive Tests Down Under in two subsequent tours of 1947/48 and 1967/68. However, Melbourne saw India winning a Test in Australia for the first time and legspinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar was the reason. India reached 256 thanks to Mohinder Amarnath (72) and Gundappa Viswanath (59). Australia, in turn, were bowled out for 213 with Chandra taking 6/52. India stretched the lead to 386 with Sunil Gavaskar scoring 118. On a deteriorating wicket, Chandrasekhar once again took 6/52 to give India a 222-run win. His haul of 12/104 remains the best haul by an Indian in Australia.
2) Kapil Dev, 5/28, Melbourne 1981
Kapil Dev produced one of the bravest performances by a bowler to provide India a remarkable win. On a tough MCG wicket, Gundappa Viswanathan’s 114 was the stand-out in their total of 237. Australia were boosted by Allan Border and his 124 gave Australia a 182-run lead. India put up a better show in the second innings with Gasvaskar (70) and Chetan Chauhan (85) helping India to 324. Chasing 143 on a difficult deck, India were hampered by a groin injury to Kapil. However, the Indian pacer braved the injury and bowled 16.4 overs to wreck Australia. His haul of 5/28 bowled Australia out for 83 to give India a sensational win.
3) Ajit Agarkar 6/41, Adelaide 2003
Kapil Dev’s exploits in Melbourne would prove to be the last time India registered a win in Australia. However, 22 years later, Ajit Agarkar broke the jinx in style with a bowling performance for the ages. Australia reached 556 all out thanks to a magnificent 242 by Ricky Ponting. Rahul Dravid (233) and VVS Laxman (148) helped India to 523. On the fourth day, Agarkar weaved his magic, getting Justin Langer (10) and importantly, Ponting for 0. India found momentum and the right-arm pacer came back in his second spell to blow the Australian tail away, finishing with 6/41, his first five-wicket haul. India won by the match by four wickets thanks to Dravid’s 72* and the jinx was broken in style.
4) Anil Kumble, 8/141 and 4/138, Sydney 2004
After breaking a 22-year hoodoo, India were now aiming for the unthinkable, a series win Down Under. In the final Test in Sydney, Anil Kumble almost single-handedly got India close to history. Sachin Tendulkar’s (241) and Laxman (178) helped India to 705/7 declared, their highest total in Australia. Kumble toiled for 46.3 overs and never allowed Australia to get away. His accuracy and pressure resulted in a haul of 8/141 as India took a 231-run lead. Boosted by Dravid (91*) and Tendulkar (60*), India set Australia a target of 443 runs. Kumble once again led the bowling attack and got the key wicket of Steve Waugh (80), who was playing in his last Test. However, Australia held on and the series was drawn 1-1. The legspinner’s efforts were sensational and it gave India a rare moment of joy in Australia.
5) Ishant Sharma 2/34 and 1/63, Perth 2008
The 2008 series was marred by the Monkeygate incident in the Sydney Test which saw Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds caught in a racial storm. Australia were leading 2-0 and heading into Perth, India were fired up. Dravid (93) and Tendulkar (71) helped India to 330. In response, Australia were bowled out for 212 with RP Singh taking 4/68 and with Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan and Anil Kumble taking two wickets apiece. India set Australia a target of 413 and in the second innings, a spell from Ishant propelled him into the limelight. After bowling seven consecutive overs, Ishant looked tired but on Virender Sehwag’s insistence, Anil Kumble asked, “Ek aur over karega (Will you bowl one more over)?” Ishant replied, “Haan, karunga (Yeah, I will)”. On the next ball, he got Ponting out again and India went on to win the match by 72 runs. Ishant’s spell to Ponting was a memorable occasion for all fans present at the WACA.
India’s magnificent tour of 2003/04 was set up on the first day of the Brisbane Test, with Zaheer Khan showing his class with a haul of 5/75. In 2012, India were hammered 4-0 but Umesh Yadav had a mighty impressive tour. His haul of 5/93 was the only bright spot for the Indian bowling. However, the first five-wicket haul for an Indian bowler in Australia was by Syed Abid Ali in 1967 when he picked up 6/55 in Adelaide. His haul was not enough to help India as they lost by 146 runs, but it gave India a footprint Down Under.