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A case for V V S Laxman
June 28, 2005
In the near future, an international selection panel headed by Sunil Gavaskar will select the ICC World XI team to take on Australia in the ICC Super Cricket Series in October this year.
India's V V S Laxman has made it into the initial Test squad. Here I present a case for Laxman to be included in the playing XI. The right-hander is perhaps the one batsman in the world who has the wood on the Australians.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting recently said, "Laxman is the one Indian batsman who has hurt Australia the most."
If we look at the last three Test series played between India and Australia, we can see a definite pattern of high correlation between Laxman's success and India's success.
Starting with the 2001 series in India, Laxman failed in Mumbai and India lost the Test. He succeeded in playing one of the greatest Test innings in the second Test at Kolkata and India triumphed against all odds. He again played an important knock of 60-plus when India were chasing 142 for victory in Chennai. Anyone who follows cricket knows how hard it is to score runs in the fourth innings on a wearing wicket.
Following his success in India, Laxman went to Australia with the Indian team in 2003-04. Unlike the previous series, Laxman mainly played a very important supporting role in three of the four Test matches. India drew two of them and won the third. He failed in Melbourne and India lost the Test.
In the first Test at Brisbane, Laxman stemmed the rot with Sourav Ganguly scoring an important 75 after India lost three quick wickets. The Test ended in a draw. In the second at Adelaide, it was Laxman who played second fiddle to Dravid as India chased Australia's huge first innings score. In the second innings, Laxman joined a tired Rahul Dravid and made sure the result was a formality by the time he got out.
As a tired but determined Dravid was holding on to one end, Laxman hit a few boundaries that put the result beyond any doubt. Laxman failed to Stuart McGill in both the innings of the Melbourne Test and India ended on the losing side.
In the last Test at Sydney, it was Laxman who took the attack to Australia and with Sachin Tendulkar ensured that only one side could win the Test from that stage.
Laxman was there with a good performance in most of the innings. While Ganguly won the plaudits in Brisbane, Dravid at Adelaide and Tendulkar in Sydney, the one common thread on which all those three innings were built was the support they got from Laxman at the other end.
In the return series last year, Laxman failed in Bangalore and Nagpur and India lost those Tests. The Chennai Test got washed out and Laxman top-scored in India's narrow win at Mumbai. It is strange and eerie that the fortunes of India against Australia depended so much on Laxman over the past three series.
There is no other batsman in the world, Brian Lara and Tendulkar included, who has had such a tremendous impact either by his success or failure against the Australians. In fact, Laxman is the main reason why the Australians no longer ask teams to follow on.
Ian Botham's 1981 innings of 145 not out became part of cricketing folklore because it turned the series on its head and gave England the impetus to fight back. Without taking anything away from that innings, one must concede that Laxman's 281 was made against a more accomplished Australian team.
Steve Waugh's Australians were looking for their 17th straight Test win and were brimming with confidence having dismissed the Indian team easily in the first innings and were just looking to finish what was considered a routine job.
I would first write down Laxman's name when it comes to playing a Test against Australia in Sydney. Laxman's own performance in Sydney should in itself guarantee a place for him in the team.