Memories of a Laxman masterpiece at Mohali

Memories of a Laxman masterpiece at Mohali

When VVS Laxman takes the mike in his hands at the commentators’ box on Thursday for the third Test between India and Australia begins, it’s unlikely that he wouldn’t be goaded into talking about one of his special knocks at this venue against the very same opponents.

The master of the second innings, Laxman scripted an unbeaten half-century (73) while battling physical pain and hopeless situation to power India to one of their famous wins in October 2010. Having guided India to a memorable five-wicket win against Sri Lanka in Colombo under similar circumstances just two months earlier with an undefeated 103, Laxman repeated the feat to reaffirm his credentials as one of India’s greatest match-winners.

The stylish right-hander always thrived in the face of adversity and when he walked in to bat against Australia, India were reeling at 76/5 chasing a tricky 216 on the final day. After a decent partnership (43), overnight batsman Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed. Soon the score became 126/8 as MS Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh departed in quick succession. It was a near impossible position to win from but Laxman always had other ideas.         
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Laxman told Deccan Herald as he recalled the momentous day. “If you remember, I had the stiff back in Sri Lanka when I scored that century.

Fortunately, for me there was a gap of about two months before the Australian series. I went to England for treatment and trained well at the National Cricket Academy. I was really feeling good. Even when I came to Mohali and trained, I felt perfectly well.

“It was while fielding that I got my back stiff again. I was unable to field for the rest of the innings. I didn’t feel like coming out to bat but did so only because Suresh Raina was close to his 100. He didn’t get his ton (he got out for 86) but I was the last man to be out. Our bowlers then had done well to give us a very small target and I was hoping I wouldn’t get to bat,” said Laxman reliving the pain he went through then.

“But as things transpired, we kept losing wickets and I was forced to bat. In fact the previous day, just to loosen up a bit, I hit the nets along with Sreesanth and other bowlers. My movements were restricted but I was timing the ball well. (Then coach) Gary (Kirsten) saw me bat and he wanted me to bat up the order, ahead of Dhoni who had already padded up.

“I went out to bat and Sachin and I were having a decent partnership when all of a sudden there was a collapse. Sachin got out and soon after Dhoni and Harbhajan departed. It was a difficult situation from there to win, so all I told Ishant (Sharma) was to ‘expect that we are going to lose the match and so try to delay the inevitable.’ With no wickets coming, the Aussies got frustrated and started bowling loose deliveries.”

Laxman and Ishant added 81 runs for the ninth wicket when the latter lost his wicket but Pragyan Ojha stayed firm to see India through. “It wasn’t until we were 20-25 runs away from the target that did I believe we could win the match. It was just a matter of two good balls and I was feeling only 25 per cent fit. As we neared the target, the crowd really got behind us. It was as though they knew something special was going to happen.

“After Ishant, Ojha showed great determination to hang in there. So tense was the situation that I even yelled at Ojha when he refused a single. Having come so close to the target, we didn’t want to lose the match and the emotions got the better of me for a moment. But when the moment came, it was unbelievable. It was doubly satisfying because, for the first time, I had achieved this with number 10 and 11 batsmen. As my team-mates hugged me, I just kept saying ‘what a great match!’”