The man with the supple wrists, VVS Laxman, in his prime, was a sight that one could never get bored of. Those wristy on-drives and the elegant cover drives from his willow were pleasing to the eyes and once he got going, Laxman could pile on the runs to drain the opposition out. Though he had a wobbly start to his international career, Laxman turned things around after his epic 281 against Australia in early 2001 and went on to become one of India’s most esteemed batsmen in the Test format.
Born on November 1, 1974, at Hyderabad, VVS Laxman amassed 8,781 runs in Test cricket with 17 centuries. He was a true giant of Indian cricket and shall always be revered with awe because of the magnificence he brought to the art of batting. Today, Laxman celebrates his 43rd birthday. On this special day, let us look back at the elegant batsman’s most unforgettable knocks.
281 vs Australia at Kolkata, 2001 (Test):
This was the innings of a lifetime, an innings that changed the face of Indian cricket; all 281 degrees of it. After being 1-0 down in the Test series against Steve Waugh’s champion Australian side at home in early 2001, Team India were struggling to survive in the second Test of the series at Kolkata as well. Forced to follow-on in their second innings, India were looking down the barrel and looked set to lose the match and the series as they were still 274 runs behind Australia. But then, Laxman, promoted to the No. 3 spot, played an innings epic proportions that changed the match in sensational fashion. Oozing confidence and smacking the ball elegantly, Laxman, along with Rahul Dravid (180), began slowly taking the game away from Australia.
He cut, he drove, he flicked and he pulled with absolute panache and punctured the Australian bowling attack completely; much to the delight of the Eden Gardens crowd. Laxman forged a mammoth 376-run partnership with Dravid and fell on a masterly 281 off 452 balls – then the highest individual Test score by an Indian – laced with 44 delightful boundaries. This epic effort helped India post 657-7 decl., and ultimately win the match by 171 runs. The knock was later voted as the winner in the Greatest Indian Test Innings survey conducted by Wisden Asia Cricket magazine. It was a sparkling, series-turning and once-in-a-lifetime performance and a watershed moment in the batsman’s career.
148 vs Australia, Adelaide 2003 (Test):
Laxman displayed his love for the Australian attack once again here as he scripted another marvelous hundred; this time on Australian soil. In the second Test of the series against Australia at Adelaide on India’s tour of the country in 2003-04, Australia had posted a massive 556 runs on the board after batting first. The Indian reply began on a shaky note and they were struggling at 85-4 at one point. However, Rahul Dravid (233) along with Laxman, began the rebuilding phase for India. The two scripted a magnificent 303-run partnership in which Laxman played some truly handsome and elegant strokes. The ball came on to the bat at a good height and using his supple wrists, Laxman carved the ball to all parts of the Adelaide Oval. It was a spectacular show of some truly glittering strokeplay.
Laxman fell on a coruscating 148 off 282 balls with 18 fours. Thanks to Laxman and Dravid’s spectacular efforts, India posted 523 on the board and then went on to beat Australia by 4 wickets – the first time they had beaten Australia in 22 years.
96 v South Africa at Durban, 2010 (Test):
South Africa wasn’t a happy hunting place for Laxman. But on India’s tour to South Africa in 2010-11, Laxman made amends by played a memorable match-winning knock in the second Test. On a difficult Durban surface, Laxman scored his best knock against South Africa which resulted in a famous Indian win. India had scored 215 in the first innings of the second Test of the series and then scuttled out the home team for just 131 to take an 84-run lead. The pitch was difficult to bat on and it was crucial for India to score big in the second innings to have a chance of victory. The visitors were reeling at 56-4 at one stage, but Laxman hung in there and shared vital partnerships with the tail to score a splendid 96. On a difficult surface where the fast bowlers got plenty of help, Laxman displayed his great range of shots and helped India take a 302-run lead which ultimately resulted in an emphatic 87-run victory for India.
73* v Australia at Mohali, 2010 (Test):
The year 2010 was extremely good for VVS Laxman and many of his memorable Test knocks came in that season. At the fag-end of his career, this innings emphasised just how pivotal a man Laxman was to the Indian Test team. Yet again the opposition was Australia and yet again India was almost out of the game when Laxman came to their rescue. Chasing 216 to win the 1st Test of the series at Mohali, India were in complete doldrums at 124-8. All the other recognized batsmen had perished and only Laxman remained. Playing astutely, Laxman stitched together a vital 81-run partnership with Ishant Sharma (31) and, towards the end stages, formed a nail-biting 11-tun stand with Pragyan Ojha to take India to a memorable victory. The knock had the trademark elegant cover-drives and on-drives of Laxman and he struck eight sparkling boundaries in this special effort.
He was aggressive and took the attack to the opposition from the word go to ensure that the opposition never got them bogged down. Laxman remained unbeaten on 73 off 79 balls and, by his own admission, it will remain one of his most special Test knocks ever.
107 v Pakistan at Lahore, 2004 (ODI):
While Laxman didn’t have a particularly bright ODI career, this was one of those moments where he did shine brilliantly in the format. In the fifth and deciding ODI against Pakistan on India’s momentous tour of the country in 2004, India batted first and it was VVS Laxman who led their charge with a glorious knock. The wicket at the Gaddafi Stadium was true and Laxman used the bounce on the pitch to good effect by maneuvering the ball deftly to all sides of the park. He ladled the ball gracefully for some gorgeous boundaries and brought up his sixth ODI hundred in style. Laxman perished on a brilliant 107 off 104 balls with 11 delightful hits to the fence. It would turn out to be the last ODI hundred of Laxman’s career and one that helped India achieve a famous series-clinching win against their arch-rivals.