Over the course of a truly grim past year around the world, it's been fairly difficult to identify anything remotely positive about the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in a purely sporting sense, there is the narrowest of silver linings in the adjusted scheduling of the Test series between Australia and India that has left Sydney as the third leg and not the fourth.
Michael Clarke kisses his helmet after bringing up his triple century in 2012.Credit:Steve Christo
That first week of January at the SCG, before the new Bradman, Noble and Messenger stands were even built, will forever be remembered as the signature outing with the bat for Michael Clarke, who posted a magnificent unbeaten 329. The footnote was an early sight of a young upstart by the name of Virat Kohli, who scored 44 and 75 but made more of a mark in the field, where he flicked his middle finger at the crowd and earned himself a fine from the match referee.
Clarke's Australia recorded a resounding innings victory, the third of that kind against India in the 12 Tests between the nations at the SCG.
Despite the ground's reputation as a spinners' wicket, India have only won once at the venue and that was in 1978 when, in the midst of the World Series Cricket era, Australia were missing many of their household names and were captained by a 41-year-old Bob Simpson.
Sachin Tendulkar scored three hundreds in Tests at the SCG including a double in 2004.Credit:Getty Images
That is not to say India have not performed well in Sydney over the years. They could and probably should have triumphed at the SCG on several occasions. In 1986, when Sunil Gavaskar's 172 led them to 4-600 and Australia were forced to follow on, Allan Border's men hung on by four wickets on the last day.
In 2004, Sydney specialists Sachin Tendulkar made 241 not out and VVS Laxman 178 as India compiled a whopping 7-705, only for Australia to cling on for a draw again, with Steve Waugh this time helping save the match and the series on the last afternoon.
Kohli's side was also in a strong position at the SCG two years ago when Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant made tons and Australia were bowled out for less than half their total, but India were foiled by rain.
They had the upper hand, too, in 1992 in what was ultimately a draw, and had their chances in the "Monkeygate" Test of 2008 eventually won in dramatic and controversial circumstances by Australia.
Australian batsmen Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden keep an eye on Anil Kumble, who was nearly unstoppable in 2014.Credit:Brendan Esposito
India's affection for the ground, though, appears to be built more on a legacy of famous individual performances over the years: from Ravi Shastri's 206 in Shane Warne's Test debut in 1992, to Tendulkar and Laxman's three centuries apiece, Anil Kumble's dozen wickets in 2004 and Kohli's own SCG hundred in 2015.
However, with more than half of the Australian team calling Sydney home, it is also a special location for the hosts, not least David Warner, who has four Test centuries to his name here.
"We've got a great record here and for a lot of our guys it's their home ground, so they certainly love playing here, they love being at home and they enjoy the conditions," Australia captain Tim Paine said on the eve of the third Test.
"All of our bowlers are New South Welshmen, so they know the wicket very well, they exploit the conditions very well and they bowl really well as a group here. So we expect that won't change, and the same with our batting. Our two best batsmen, this is their home ground, this is where they do their best. They're excited and can't wait to get out there."
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