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Lakshmipathy Balaji was probably more famous than Imran Khan, recalls Ashish Nehra 

Lakshmipathy Balaji had a great tour of Pakistan in 2003-04
Lakshmipathy Balaji had a great tour of Pakistan in 2003-04
EXPERT COLUMNIST

Former India pacer, Ashish Nehra recently recalled a time when Lakshmipathy Balaji was more famous than Pakistan's Imran Khan.

Nehra claimed that when India toured Pakistan for a bilateral series back in 2003-04 under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, one of the most popular cricketers was the former pacer, Lakshmipathy Balaji.

The two sides faced off in a five-match ODI series and a Test series comprising of three matches. The right-arm pacer was particularly impressive in the Test matches, finishing with a total of 12 wickets from just three matches.

Speaking on the Star Sports' Cricket Connected show, Nehra claimed that the Chennai-born pacer was one of the highlights during the tour.

"In the dressing room, Irfan can give you more stories, the only thing I remember is Laxmipathy Balaji on that particular tour. Maybe that time he was more popular than Imran Khan,” Nehra said.

Not only did Lakshmpathy Balaji shine with the ball, he also played a couple of useful knocks with the bat on that tour, including a knock of 21* with three fours and a six in the third ODI.

Lakshmipathy Balaji celebrates a wicket
Lakshmipathy Balaji celebrates a wicket

However, his best moment came in the final Test of the three-match Test series, when his 7-wicket match haul helped India register an innings and 131-run win to seal a series win.

India began the Test series with an innings and 52-run win before Pakistan levelled the series with a 9-wicket win in the second Test.

In the third Test, India captain Ganguly won the toss and opted to field, and his move worked wonders as Pakistan were bundled out for just 224, with Lakshmipathy Balaji registering figures of 4/63.

A monumental 270 from Rahul Dravid helped India to 600 before Balaji returned to pick 3/108 and played an instrumental role in restricting Pakistan to just 245 in their second innings.

Nehra further added that despite there being some notable moments such as knocks from Virender Sehwag, Dravid and a couple of spells from Pathan, Balaji stood out for him.

“Those six weeks he was hitting sixes left right and centre there was no doubt about it. Virender Sehwag triple hundred, Rahul Dravid double hundred, Irfan Pathan performance, all that is there but to me off the field, Pakistan, the nation as a whole and Laximathy Balaji in the dressing room,” Nehra added.
Edited by Prasen Moudgal
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