Sourav Ganguly's tenure as Indian captain saw his team break several barriers. The team recorded its first victory, after a long period of time, in various countries. The most sensational of these triumphs was the win at Adelaide in December 2003.
Most Indian fans who were following the Indian team at that time would remember the great double hundred scored by Rahul Dravid and the tremendous partnership he had with VVS Laxman – almost an encore of their epic stand at Eden Gardens against Australia.
But there was another star performer from that match, who played a key role in India's win, whose name doesn't get featured as prominently. It was Ajit Agarkar, the veteran seamer who served India for several years. But Adelaide 2003 was his finest hour. On his birthday, let's recall his great effort.
Australia had batted first and had piled up a score of 556 in the first innings, thanks to a great double hundred by their captain Ricky Ponting. India, in reply, were tottering at 85/4 when Dravid and Laxman got together to create a fabulous 303-run partnership that revived India. Eventually, the visitors finished with 523 all out, 33 runs short of India's score.
Now, remember, Australia were at the peak of their domination of world cricket then. Losing at home was hardly considered a possibility at that time. This is when Ajit Agarkar stepped up to the mark. On this tour of Australia, he got the ball to swing back into Justin Langer and caused a lot of trouble to the great Aussie opener.
By dismissing him for just 10 in the second innings, Agarkar started the home team's downfall. Then, he picked up the big wicket of Ricky Ponting. The double centurion from the first innings went back to the pavilion for a duck.
After these two blows, other Indian bowlers stepped up to the mark. Matthew Hayden was out to Ashish Nehra. A partnership blossomed between Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh. Both batsmen were out to, guess who, Sachin Tendulkar, thanks to great catches from Rahul Dravid.
Australia were now in trouble at 112/5. But this was the mighty Australian team that didn't know how to lose. Plus, they had the legendary Adam Gilchrist and the efficient Simon Katich left to do battle. Andy Bichel at no. 8 had also proven his batting credentials in the World Cup earlier that year while Jason Gillespie was known for his stickability.
This is when Agarkar ran through the lower order of Australia in a devastating spell. He got the key wicket of Katich and then the last three. In six overs, three bowled by Agarkar, the right-arm seamer picked up four wickets. Australia were bowled out for 196, setting India a target of 230 – which India chased down to win by four wickets.
When a champion side like Australia is playing, even the lower order could mount a serious resistance. By removing the lower order in quick time, Agarkar ensured his team would record their first victory in Australia after a gap of around 20 years.