India's much-venerated Test team is no stranger to adversity. But the point of distinction between the country's present Test outfit and those that have preceded it, is that its modern avatar is a far more resilient side that can pivot the fate of a match and in so doing, achieve the near-impossible.
Indeed, when the chips are down, this XI displays much dedication and determination to turn a game around in their favour, whether a second innings target is required and the batsmen need to step up to the plate, or if the team is wickets away from claiming an encounter and the bowlers need to pull out something extraordinary.
On three separate occasions this year, and at three different milieus, Team India have staved off defeat showing true grit and thus remaining unbeaten in a Test series throughout 2010. It's time to relive those glorious moments in tribute to the fact that India has learnt how to bounce back.
Rewind to Feb 2010. India was hosting the South Africans to a much anticipated two-match Test series. Considering India had scaled the charts to the No. 1 ranked position in the previous year, they might have been a tad complacent going into this encounter. The tourists put up a huge first inning total of 558/6 declared, thanks largely to Hashim Amla who made 253 and Jacques Kallis adding 173. In reply, India was bowled out for a meagre 233 with Virender Sehwag (109), and S Badrinath (56), the only batsmen to put up some resistance as Proteas' ace pacer Dale Steyn ripped through the line-up with 7/51. India had to follow-on and managed only 319 in the second innings and though Sachin Tendulkar struck a century, India was crushed by an innings and 6 runs.
South Africa had clearly wrested the momentum away from India and went into the second Test as favourites to win the series. But that's when India effected a dramatic turn-around.
They bowled out the Proteas for 296 in the first innings with Zaheer taking 4 scalps for 90, before the Indian batsmen embarked on a run-fest, reaching 643 declared with Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dhoni all making centuries. The tourists began confidently towards making up the deficit of 337. They lasted out to nearly the end of the fifth day with Morne Morkel and Hashim Amla putting some stiff resistance for the 10th wicket. But with under 6 overs left before the close of play, Harbhajan Singh spun his magic and got Morkel trapped plumb in front for 12. Thus, India had drawn the series against heavy odds and retained their No. 1 ranking.
Moving foward to the three-match Test series in Sri Lanka, India were staright away on the back foot. They were whipped in the first encounter when Sri Lanka made 520/8 declared and India followed-on after a poor first innings of 276 to add 338, before Sri Lanka raced to the required 96 for victory without losing any wickets. India regained some batting form in the second test replying to Sri Lanka's first innings total of 642/4 declared with even more mammoth 707. But there wasn't enough time top force a result and the match was drawn shortly after the hosts took the lead.
But the third Test was a rip-rollicking, lip-smacking affair. Sri Lanka posted a total of 425 while India eked out the slimmest of leads by replying with 436. Then the hosts made 267 in their second innings, setting India a target of 258. India was in trouble at 4/62 in the chase, when Laxman and Tendulkar struck up a defiant partnership, taking their side to 171 before Tendulkar exited. But Laxman wouldn't back down, and chalked up a century with able support from Suresh Raina. India thus romped home by 5 wickets in a close encounter and squared the series that initially seemed to be leaning the Lankans' way.
But India's most sensational victory came in October against the visiting Australians. Though the tourists' side had fallen in stature, they were still a formidable unit. In the first of the two-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Australia piled on 428 all out in their first innings with India managing to reply with 405. But then India's attack effected a strong riposte, bowling out the Australians for a meagre 192, with Zaheer and Ishant taking three wickets a piece and Harbhajan and Ojha sharing the other four.
However, Australia put on a startling fight when India came out to chase 216 for victory. The hosts slumped to 4/48 and then further to 8/124 when a brave Ishant Sharma and a resilient Laxman, (who was batting painful back spasms at the time) arrested the slide, putting on a record 81-run partnership for the 9th wicket. With Ishant out just 11 runs shy of victory, 11th man Pragyan Ojha, stepped up to the plate and together with Laxman, took India to a memorable win.
Thus India have shown that they are a dynamite side when the chips are down. In several similar occasions in the past they have caved in to the pressure of the situation and meekly surrendered. But now the prevalent motto is evidently "never say die", as India have even kept alive the ongoing series against South Africa with a scintillating win at Durban. India are proving that they have what it takes to cross the final frontier, as New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori termed India's tour of South Africa. So, what will be the next challenge?