Australia’s 2001 series in India was very significant for Indian cricket for many reasons.
India were comprehensively beaten in the first Test match in Mumbai by 10 wickets. And Steve Waugh and his all-conquering team were on a roll after having won 15 Test matches. It was Steve Waugh’s final frontier after having beaten every other team around the world.
Australia batted first and scored 445 in the first innings despite Harbhajan Singh’s hat trick. India were rocked by Glen McGrath and were bowled out for just 171 in the first innings. Steve Waugh asked India to bat again as Australia had a massive lead of 274 runs. He would have thought his bowlers would easily roll over the Indian batting lineup. However, one player named VVS Laxman had a very different idea.
Laxman who had scored 59 in the first innings was sent at number three by India's captain Saurav Ganguly and that turned out to be a master stroke. Laxman carried his good form and along with Rahul Dravid put on 376 runs. They batted the entire fourth day and Australian bowlers had no idea how to get them out.
Laxman went on to score 281, which was then the highest score by an Indian player, and set Australia a target of 384 in two sessions. A draw looked ominous when Australia reached 161 for 3 at tea on the last day but Australia could not survive the last session and lost their last seven wickets for just 51 runs handing India a win by 171 runs. India squared the series 1-1 and later won the decider to clinch the series 2-1.
This innings of 281 by Laxman was so special that it changed the mindset of Indian cricketers completely and India started winning Test matches abroad as they got a self-belief and confidence that they could bounce back from any situation.
That series also announced the arrival of Saurav Ganguly as a fierce captain who would look in the eye of the opposition. It also saw Harbhajan Singh’s 33 wickets haul which is still a record in a 3 match series. It broke Australia’s 15 matches winning streak. All this happened because of one special innings of 281 which the Aussies called a very very special innings by a Very Very Special Laxman.
This innings was played 20 years ago but it is still fresh in the minds of not only Indians but all cricket lovers around the world.