Virat Kohli didn't intend to but he ended up stoking a controversy after the Test series against Bangladesh when he said that India started 'standing up for themselves' from the time of Sourav Ganguly's captaincy. The somewhat indignant response from Sunil Gavaskar set off a debate over whether Kohli was disrespectful or ignorant of the success of Indian teams in earlier decades.
If one goes by the facts, Kohli was wrong and Gavaskar right in asserting that Indian teams in the 1970s and 1980s did win matches abroad. Yes, those victories weren't that common but then, the teams that India had to play in those days were also much stronger than those of the present day.
So, let us look back at some of the greatest Test victories for India in the 70s and 80s. Not only did India win these matches, they stood up for themselves as much as today's teams do.
Against West Indies (Port of Spain, 1971)
This Test at Port of Spain was the second in a 5-match series. This was also the debut match of the same man whose comments sparked off the controversy – Sunil Gavaskar. He scored half-centuries in both innings to play a key role in his team's win.
India were able to restrict West Indies to just 214 in the first innings and then, led by a hundred from Dilip Sardesai, responded with 352. Then, a five-for from Venkataraghavan led to the hosts being bowled out for 261, giving India a target of 124, which they duly chased down. This win set up the 1-0 series victory for India. The next time an Indian side won a Test series in West Indies was in 2006, under Rahul Dravid.
Against England (The Oval, 1971)
The victory at The Oval also led to a 1-0 series win for India. The hero this time was the legendary leg-spinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar. Rains had turned the pitch in this match into a sticky bog when England's second innings came around, perfect for Chandrasekhar.
India had actually conceded a 71-run lead in the first innings. But then, the great leg-break bowler ran through the English batting line-up with figures of 6/38 to bowl the host team out for 101. The 173-run target was chased down by India for the loss of six wickets to clinch both the match and the series.
Against West Indies (Port of Spain, 1976)
For all those who think that 'fighting spirit' is something India has gained only since Sourav Ganguly's time, this match should act as an eye-opener. In this game, India was given a target of 403 runs to chase in the fourth innings for a victory. They did so for the loss of just four wickets – two of them lost by way of run-out.
Both Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Vishwanath got hundreds while Mohinder Amarnath contributed with 85 in the chase. At the time, this was a record for the highest successful chase in Test cricket. It stood till 2003 when West Indies chased down 418 against Australia at Adelaide.
Against Australia (Melbourne, 1981)
One of the worst ideas that float around in India is that this country's cricket teams lacked toughness, or that they were 'good losers'. For all those who harbour this view, we have two words – Kapil Dev. Nobody in Indian cricket history has possessed fire in the belly as the World Cup-winning Indian captain.
This trait was most visible in the 1981 Test at MCG between India and Australia. India could only give Australia a target of 143 to win in the final innings of the Test. Most teams would have lost the game from such a position. But not the Gavaskar-led side. Thanks to figures of 5/28 from Kapil Dev, India bowled out Australia for just 83 to level the series.
Against England (Leeds, 1986)
India didn't just beat England in this match, they thumped them. This was a 3-match series which India won comfortably 2-0. Their next Test series victory in England came in 2007 under Rahul Dravid. Since then, India's series results in England have been 0-4, 1-3, 1-4. So much for Indian teams of current generation being tougher.
This match was relatively low-scoring. The standout performance came from Dileep Vengasarkar who scored a great hundred in the second innings. The 408-run target for England was too big and they folded up for just 128 as India won by 279 runs. Roger Binny's five-for in the first innings and Maninder Singh's four-for in the second were also key contributions.