New Delhi: When Australia visited India in early 2001 at the back of 15 consecutive Test wins (a world record), Steve Waugh's gladiators were the men to beat in the international arena. But they still had a few ghosts from past to bury as the Aussies were aiming to win their first ever series here for over 30 years.
Fittingly then, Waugh had termed it the 'Final Frontier', before his team could be compared with Sir Donald Bradman's Invincibles of 1948. And they started the tour in flamboyant fashion wrapping up the first Test in Mumbai within three days and went on to humiliate the hosts by forcing them to follow on in one of cricket's grandest venues, The Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
I was still in school then and remember carrying a pocket transistor (no, the mobile phone rage had still not caught on and there were no chances of getting an update from the TV in the staff room) on a day when I had an important exam to appear for. Unfortunately the transistor was impounded and I had to wait for an update until I could get back home. But the wait was worth it as the entire world witnessed something 'Very Vey Special' that day.
Two men (VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid) held their nerves for an entire day and started a rearguard that not only helped their team come out of the woods but also rewrite history.
And as Sourav Ganguly's men reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from the Aussies by winning both the Kolkata and Chennai Tests, a new era in the rivalry between the two nations commenced.
The bugle had been blown and since then the two teams have produced many classics on Indian soil and Down Under. Many greats from both sides have made their exits from the international scene, tempers have fluctuated and attacks have grown personal over the years. No doubt the 'monkey-gate' and all other things that transpired during the Sydney Test do not portray a pretty picture, but who cares if you get mouth-watering action at the end of the day and great endorsement for a format which many deem obsolete in our days of slam bang cricket.
With their last visit ending in a disappointing 2-0 loss, Ricky Ponting has made it clear that he wants his team to make amends this time because the tables have well and truly turned. Ever since the inception of the ICC Test rankings, this is the first time that Australia face an Indian side sitting atop the Test perch.
This series and the Ashes at home is in many ways baptism by fire for the 'Punter' and he knows that pretty well. Michael Clarke has been breathing under his neck for long but Ponting wants one last laugh. "I'd like to get the team back to number one again and this will be hopefully just one of those steps along the way", he said before setting sail for the sub-continent.
But will M S Dhoni and his boys oblige, nay…..The often politically correct Indian skipper may have attracted the ire of some die hards by saying that the top spot does not belong to any team permanently in Sri Lanka but he knows very well what it means to an entire generation of Indian cricketers and fans alike.
So the recent series throws up great prospects for both sides and as a cricket fan one would wonder just why can't these two teams play a full-fledged (five match) series. But that is for the ICC to decide and we can just hope that these two juggernauts can once again be amazing advertisers of the spirit of the game and help turn the eyeballs away from the murky happenings of the recent past.