Border-Gavaskar Trophy: Revisiting VVS Laxman's magnificent 281 at Eden Gardens
There are some moments which are fleetingly rare, where you are held captive and bewitched, as the special moment unfolds in front of your eyes. These are the moments that allow the creator of the ‘moment’ to enshrine his place in the hearts of sports lovers.
One such moment unfolded in the year 2001 from the bat of a very very special' cricketer at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata against the best team of his generation. VVS Laxman dazzled and sparkled his way to a magnificent 281 against Australia. This was an innings that changed the course of his career, and in a way, Indian cricket too.
The Australian team had arrived in India on the back of 15 straight victories before the series. They had pummeled every opponent that they came across, and only India were left to be conquered. Steve Waugh, the Australian Captain also added some spice to the series by calling India as 'The Final Frontier'.
In the first Test in Mumbai, the ruthless Australians steam rolled the Indians by 10 wickets to go 1-0 up in the series. If there were any hopes of an Indian comeback in the second Test, then they were doused as India were bundled out for 171 in their First Innings in reply to Australia’s mammoth total of 445. India were asked to follow on, and were staring at the possibility of a humiliating innings defeat on home soil.
But Laxman had other plans
Coming in to bat at number three after the fall of Sadagoppan Ramesh with the score reading 52/1, Laxman displayed his full repertoire of strokes, leaving the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath absolutely baffled.
In a knock comprising of 44 glorious hits to the fence, Laxman batted for almost 2 days and stitched a game changing partnership of 376 alongside Rahul Dravid (who scored a classic 180). It was such a wonderful knock that even the solidity of Dravid was overshadowed by the wizardry of Laxman.
What was wonderful to watch was the way Laxman dealt with the Aussie bowling. Glenn McGrath was cut and flicked to the boundary with finesse while Shane Warne was swept and driven with grace. By the time Laxman reached his 150, the always vocal Australians fell silent.
Warne even clapped for Laxman, when the master batsman reached his 150. The Aussies even made the likes of Ponting and Hayden roll their arm over in desperation, but to no avail. The Aussies tried throwing everything at their arsenal, but he was just unstoppable.
After one and half days of ethereal stroke play by Laxman and Dravid, not only had India avoided the follow on, but had also scored a mammoth 657/7, thereby setting Australia a colossal target of 384 to win.
And later, when Harbhajan Singh took the final wicket of McGrath, a sea of humanity at the Eden Gardens erupted in unbridled joy. India had recorded its most famous victory in Test Match cricket against the mighty Aussies on home soil.
What this knock did was, it gave India hope that they could finally look beyond only Tendulkar’s brilliance with the bat to win matches, and on a larger note, gave them the self belief that they can make a comeback from any situation.