VVS Laxman is fondly remembered as the man who rose to challenges and delivered when the situation demanded it the most. In the hour of need, when India were staring defeat in the face, Laxman would rise and win games almost single-handedly.
The ever dependable batsman produced his best in times of crisis. Every time India’s batting line-up stuttered, all eyes would be on the tall, well-built Hyderabadi to avert defeat and lift his team to safety.
Here is a list of VVS Laxman’s greatest efforts when his team needed it most – and his top innings which will be remembered for a long time to come.
281 vs AUSTRALIA at KOLKATA, 2001
This was not only Laxman’s best, but also one of the greatest knocks in the chronicles of the game. This was the innings which made the world stand up and notice this immensely talented cricketer.
Australia enforced the follow-on after being 274 runs ahead of India, and then Aussie skipper Steve Waugh and his team expected to end the game in four days. But it wasn’t going to be so easy.
Laxman walked in at No.3 and produced his best performance ever at Eden Gardens. He smashed Shane Warne and the other Australian bowlers mercilessly all over the ground.
With Rahul Dravid as the second fiddle, the two stitched together a partnership of 376, taking India’s total past 600. On the final day, the hosts declared and bowled Australia out, winning by a margin of 171 runs.
148 vs AUSTRALIA at ADELAIDE, 2003
Having put up 556 on the board after winning the toss and opting to bat first, the hosts seemed to have had the upper hand in the game. When India were reduced to a mere 85/4, it looked like the match was already out of India’s hands.
Dravid and Laxman, though, rose to the occasion, calmly getting the scoreboard ticking. By the time, Laxman was dismissed on 148 – a knock full of his quintessential shots – India were in a very good position.
Eventually, it was the partnership between Dravid and Laxman that made the difference as the Kangaroos were cheaply bowled out in their second inninga, and India won the match.
73 vs SOUTH AFRICA at JOHANNESBURG, 2006
India had never before won a Test in South Africa, but this time, they were determined to script history. An inspired team rose to the challenge and bowled out the hosts for 84 in the first innings, taking a lead of 165.
India needed a challenging score in the second innings, but were reduced to 41/3. Once again, Laxman took matters into his own hands and nothing from the opposition could affect his batting rhythm. He put 70 runs on the board with tail-ender Zaheer Khan by his side.
By the time Laxman was dismissed with India’s score at 218, the visitors had a good lead. India ended up winning the game by 123 runs.
103 vs SRI LANKA at COLOMBO, 2010
Sri Lankan off-spinner Suraj Randiv looked dangerous on a fourth-innings wicket with India chasing 257 for a win. The visitors were 53/3 on the final day, with Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma at the crease.
The latter could not take the pressure for long, and Laxman out came to bat. Along with Tendulkar, Laxman smartly dealt with the Sri Lankan bowlers, destroying their hopes of a win.
Even after Tendulkar departed following a half-century, Laxman continued to fight it out alone. In the end, he recorded a memorable hundred and India returned home victorious.
73* vs AUSTRALIA at MOHALI, 2010
This score might not look phenomenal, but when you discuss it in the circumstances of the game, you realise how important it was. Chasing 216 to win, India were reduced to 124/8 after losing wickets at regular intervals.
This time again, Laxman was the lone sentinel standing. Owing to back pain, he had batted at No.10 in the first innings and his back continued to disturb him on the big day.
The second fiddle was Ishant Sharma, along with whom Laxman commenced a terrific counter-attack, leaving the visitors shell-shocked. Ishant fell when India needed 11 runs to win.
Pragyan Ojha came to the crease, supported Laxman well and India clinched a dramatic one-wicket win.
The Indian selectors are all set to sit down and select the squad that will take on England in the first Test of their five-match series.
India, led by Virat Kohli, might be the Np. 1 team in the world, but there are some questions that remain and those will be answered tomorrow once the India selectors, led by MSK Prasad, announce the squad.
ISHANT SHARMA TO RETURN
Indian pace spearhead Ishant Sharma is likely to make a comeback into the Indian Test team after missing the three Tests against New Zealand due to illness. The 28-year-old played two Ranji Trophy matches in October, managing to pick up five wickets in three innings.
Although the Indian pacers did a good job in the New Zealand series, Ishant’s return will be a big boost for the hosts. The Delhi fast bowler, at 23, is the highest-ranked Indian pacer on the ICC Test Rankings.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed the third Test against the Blackcaps due to an injury and will most likely not make the squad, with Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav expected to join Ishant as the pace bowlers.
Bad news for Ishant Sharma. Cousin once had chikungunya and he said he had trouble with joints for a long time. Hopefully, this is milder— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) September 20, 2016
There was a lot of debate before the start of the New Zealand series regarding the openers slots with Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan all in the running to open for India.
Injuries to Rahul and Dhawan unexpectedly opened the door for veteran opening batsman Gautam Gambhir and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. In the third Test against the Kiwis, Gambhir notched up a valuable half-century as India went on to win the series 3-0.
If Rahul is fit, he is likely to be picked along side Vijay and Gambhir in the squad. But since he injured his hamstring in the first Test against New Zealand at Kanpur, the Karnataka opener hasn’t played any form of cricket.
With Dhawan in the same boat as Rahul, expect both to miss out and someone like Karun Nair to be included in the squad with Cheteshwar Pujara used as an opener in case of an emergency.
Yuvraj Singh is unlikely to make the squad despite his superb form in the Ranji Trophy.
HOW MANY SPINNERS WILL INDIA WANT?
Let’s face it, everyone knows what kind of pitches we can expect when England come visiting to India this month. The tracks will be on the slower side, with a lot of assistance for the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
With Ashwin and Jadeja comfortably the two best spinners in the Indian Test side, it’ll be interesting to see if the selectors decide to pick three or four spinners in the squad.
In the final Test against New Zealand, the selectors had decided to include Jayant Yadav in the squad and with Amit Mishra already there, it meant that Virat Kohli had four spin bowlers to pick from. In the end, Kohli decided to play two spinners with Mishra and Yadav warming the bench.
England’s struggles against spin in Bangladesh, though, might tempt the Indian think-tank into playing three spinners at Rajkot.
VVS Laxman is undoubtedly one of India’s greatest batsmen in Test cricket. With 8781 runs to his name at an average of 45.97, Laxman’s stats are up there with the best but it does not tell you the entire story.
The Hyderabad-born cricketer’s greatest contributions came when India needed him the most. His 281 against Australia at Eden Gardens in 2001 after India were asked to follow on is considered by many to be the greatest innings of all time.
Since his retirement, Laxman has been involved in commentary and is the mentor of the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise, the team that won the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year.
As he celebrates his 42nd birthday, his former Indian team-mates took to Twitter to wish him on the occasion. Here is a collection of the birthday wishes.
Many happy returns of the day @VVSLaxman281 Have a wonderful day and a great year ahead! God bless!— Anil Kumble (@anilkumble1074) November 1, 2016
Many happy returns of the day to very very special person and a legend of Indian cricket ! @VVSLaxman281 god bless you buddy— yuvraj singh (@YUVSTRONG12) November 1, 2016
Wish you a very happy birthday @VVSLaxman281 bhai. Have a great day.— ajinkyarahane88 (@ajinkyarahane88) November 1, 2016
Many happy returns of the day lachi Bhai!! I hope u have a great day and year ahead!! 😊@VVSLaxman281— Robin Aiyuda Uthappa (@robbieuthappa) November 1, 2016
If I had to trust someone with my life, it'll be VVS Laxman. Wishing the nicest person on planet a very happy birthday 🎉 God bless. 😊👍 pic.twitter.com/GlXyBeBM2q— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) November 1, 2016
Many many happy returns of the day Laxmanbhai @VVSLaxman281 wish you a very happy birthday— cheteshwar pujara (@cheteshwar1) November 1, 2016