Australia vs India: A stronger Test rivalry than the Ashes down under in recent times?


Australia and India are two gigantic cricketing nations stacked with 31 ICC trophies between them – competitive heavyweights in both the men and women’s game, financial powerhouses with high-quality cricket systems and world-class players.

The India-Australia rivalry isn’t something that is a made-up in recent times. It is a battle that’s been going on since 1947-48 when India first toured Australia in the summer of 1947 under the leadership of the late Lala Amarnath against a dominant Aussie side with Sir Donald Bradman in charge. Even though that series was won by Australia 4-0 it marked the start of a new cricketing battle away from the Ashes.

After almost 50 Test matches between both these sides from 1947 to 1996, the Test series was renamed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to acknowledge the record-breaking achievements of cricket legends Sunil Gavaskar and former Australia captain Allan Border.

The Indian Cricket Team celebrate winning the Border-Gavaskar trophy in 2019, Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Since then the rivalry has grown immensely, turning players into superstars and heroes – the gripping matches won Australia at an away level creating a new challenge for our batsman and bowlers in the subcontinent. Indian wins on Aussie soil show the level of resilience and grit, while the viewership numbers have increased with every passing summer and matchup.

On the other hand, the Ashes rivalry needs no introduction. Every Australian dream is to see that urn in a glass cabinet down under, whether earned at home or in England. The Brits are looking to turn the tables, based on recent times and a string of loses.

The statement mentioned above about England’s slump in Ashes form and this narrative about a moral victory shows where the Ashes are at the moment. Are the ashes overhyped when played in Australia? With no real competition – except the matches at Sydney where the rain saves the poms!! Isn’t the Border-Gavaskar trophy more entertaining and important with both sides competitive regardless of the pitch?

Let’s dive into these questions and see where the two biggest Test series stand in recent times. I refer to the series and matches played between 2013-14 to 2023 – marking a decade of Ashes and the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

Ashes 2013-14 to 2021

In 2013, cricket fans were treated to not one, but two Ashes series. The first one saw England hosting Australia in the summer of 2013, but it was the second series that stole the show. The Aussies hosted England in the winter of 2013-14, and boy was it a spectacle. The reason why the latter series takes the cake is all thanks to the ripping form of Mitchell Johnson.

He was so devastating that he reminded fans of the legendary Jeff Thomson. With 37 wickets in 10 innings, Johnson broke the bats and hearts of English staples players like Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann, and many more. It was pure dominance from the Aussie side and a complete disaster for England. As a neutral fan, you would have expected a fight from the opposition, but it was not to be.

Fast forward to the Ashes series of 2017-18 and 2021-22, and it appeared England couldn’t take a hint. They faced another humiliating defeat, and it was almost as if they hadn’t bothered to learn from their past mistakes. The Aussies were on top once again, and England seemed to be helpless. It was purely the lack of quality and motivation from England that made the Ashes in Australia boring spectacle. The viewership says the same thing.

What we can conclude about Ashes in recent times is that the English-based series have been way more exciting and memorable due to the tenure of the Tests. Any match that extends to a fourth or fifth day shows a contest and a level of grit not seen in a three-day fizzle out.

Border-Gavaskar Trophy: 2014-15 to 2020-21

India’s performances in Australia have always been successful. Be it white ball ODI tours or T20I – but for such a large cricketing nation of 1.1 billion people the big question looms on India’s Test record in Australia. India have been touring Australia since 1947 and effectively hammered except few rare series like the 1981, 2003-04 and 2007-08.

In the mid-2000s the batting of Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, and VVS Laxman made sure that India always competed in Australia – although to succeed you need to take 20 wickets. What does India do to rectify it and make sure they win a Test series in Australia? They invest in fast bowling through the MRF pace foundation which boasts Glenn McGrath as its director. As a result, India goes on and wins the next two from three Australian series during 2014-2020.

Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath of Australia celebrate with the Border Gavaskar Trophy after winning the series 2 – 1 in 2004, Mumbai, India. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

In 2014 India was going through this transition period of new Test players who were good at home but were not tested overseas. The 2014 series marked Virat Kohli’s Test captaincy appointment. From the four Test matches he captained two. The first Test was in Adelaide where India nearly chased down a mammoth total of 364 in a 2nd innings that threatened a new age of Indian attack and intent. That mindset brought a change to Indian cricket which was well received. Though India did lose the series 2-0, it was clear wins were coming.

In 2018-19 they won their first Test series in Australia under Kohli. We can go on and say how it was a relatively easier series for India with Smith and Warner not being there, yet, India won deservingly through a striking pace attack of Shami, Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. Australia’s ego was rattled. The reason why the 2018-19 series feels a lot more special than the 2020-21 for Indians is because they found a blueprint on how to win in Australia.

Another summer went by in 2019 and Australia returned with a classic ferocity. They belted Pakistan and New Zealand under Tim Paine, who said he was looking forward to a mouth-watering contest against India the following year. Covid wiped out an otherwise promising 2020-21 summer. Kohli played just the first Test, but the hype around the series was something never seen in an Ashes promo.

The buildup was massive, due to India’s recent maiden series victory in Australia and the return of once exiled Smith and Warner. The 36 all-out happens at the Adelaide Oval – surely India can’t come back and pose a threat to the series? India won the Boxing Day Test with no captain Kohli. They drew the Sydney Test match and then polished a famous Gabba win. All this with their main players out shows you why the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar series will be remembered for a long time and why the 2018-19 series wasn’t a fluke win.

This series caused mayhem in Australian cricket and for the first time in decades Australian fans found a real opponent who challenged on home soil. They respected Indian players like never before. Rishabh Pant, Pujara, Bumrah, and Ashwin. These players created an aura that made them respected and that is why the 2024-25 series is of such interest. No matches were one-sided in 2020-21 and viewership was at an all-time high.

The Ashes down under hasn’t been that exciting with the results being so one-sided. It is simply the historic rivalry that drives a continued interest. This summer, India vs Australia is expected to be a blockbuster series with high anticipation levels. Who doesn’t want to see Smith vs Kohli, Gill vs Labushagne, Starc vs Bumrah, Cummins vs Shami, Lyon vs Siraj and Rohit vs Khawaja. Strap yourselves in!

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