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A tribute to a Laxman-special: India win a thriller at Mohali

Posted By Suneer Chowdhary On Oct 5 2010 @ 4:34 pm In Cricket | No Comments

India should have probably never won the first Test match against Australia at Mohali, but the greatness of VVS Laxman can hardly be underestimated. Especially when the opposition is Australia. Laxman hit a most valuable half century to guide his side to a 1-0 lead over the Aussies [1] at Mohali.

Words can only do so much justice to what VVS Laxman did today. Countless attempts can be made to describe the knock but the entities like the non-striker, the commentators at the ground or even the fans at the stadium would probably speak of the pictures speaking louder than words. And in this instance, much louder.

As a business management student, I had often heard of the 80-20 rule; in case of Laxman, his innings could be apportioned into two such halves. For 80% of his knock, he was like a sage who only batted for penance and batted really long. Nothing could faze him, nobody could move him and almost conversely to Humpty Dumpty, none of the King’s horses and Ponting’s men could dislodge him.

Then came the next 20% of his innings. This was the portion of the innings where Pragyan Ojha endeavoured to remain at the crease. And to get out. He sent the palpitations of even the sage into overdrive and by the time it was over, Laxman was counting his remaining hair. And the nails under his gloves. So were we.

However, amidst all of this, one will have to use the oft-repeated words to describe the innings that he played today. One that saw him see Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh give their wickets away like the mere mortals they were, one that saw the fans see him take many of those deliveries from outside the off-stump and deposit between the deep square-leg and deep mid-wicket, one that had him play his second successive match-winning knock in as many games. It was a half-century that could act as a brand ambassador for this format of the game. Especially after the battering it has taken in recent times from awful tracks, silly off-springs by the name of T20 cricket and feeble bowling (again, brought about the first two factors)

Let’s face it, the Australian bowling was not at its best. Mitchell Johnson has shown glimpses of good form over the years but his alter-ego has reared his ugly head every now and again. Ben Hilfenhaus has often swung the ball but with the old ball, things have not always been right for him while Doug Bollinger was injured for most part of the first and the second session of the day. Lesser said the better about ‘spinner’ Nathan Hauritz.

And yet, it was the fact that it was Australia and not Bangladesh that the Indians were playing against and chasing a more-than-moderate target on a wearing pitch that makes the knock special. So does the fact that Laxman was batting with spasms in the back, with a runner to add to the confusion and had had to endure being indirectly responsible for the run-out of his captain, Dhoni. None of it ever fazed the man. Nothing did. Nada. At least till his fellow Hyderabadi number eleven came to the crease.

What I wonder, though, is the fact whether his innings would have got as much air-time in the media and amongst the experts had India lost the game, say, by three runs because of the ineptitude of Ojha. And if the answer to this question is no, then one would have to give a huge amount of credit to Ishant Sharma for being able to get India in that situation.

One must remember that Ishant had had a ragged Test match. The 15 no-balls that he bowled in the game is feat that can probably be paralleled only if Henry Olonga makes his comeback to Test match cricket or if Ranadeb Bose decided to commit cricketing suicide. Then there was that knee injury which had pushed him out reckoning for the second Test match. The pressure was squarely on him and one has to doff one’s hat to him for showing the mettle.

Thankfully for the Indians, they will go into the second Test match without the pressure that is usually associated with losing the first one – something that they have been notoriously well versed with this year.

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[1] 1-0 lead over the Aussies: http://live.cricketdiaries.com/cricket/751/australia-vs-india-chandigarh-01-oct-2010/Scorecard.html

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