The greatest Test innings ever played by an Indian
How our columnist Ian Chappell viewed Laxman's 281 scored over Day 3 and 4 of the 2001 India vs Aus Test at Kolkata
On a day when Laxman was Very Very Sure (VVS), he took on the Australian attack and came out a conclusive winner. India scored 297 runs in the day and Laxman plundered 25 boundaries in amassing 142 of them to give India some hope of extending the Australians in the second innings.
Relentless and skilful is the way to describe the Australian attack. They have three very good bowlers in Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie, and solid back-up in the tireless Michael Kasprowicz, and they constantly examine the batsmen’s technique and temperament.
Not only did Laxman score heavily but he also dominated this fine attack for long periods. In particular he played Shane Warne better than anyone else I’ve seen, skipping down the pitch confidently to drive through the on-side despite the leg spinner extracting slow turn.
Anybody wanting to know how to blunt Warne’s exceptional skill only has to peruse a videotape of this fine knock and note the way Laxman reveled in the leg-side attack rather than being bamboozled by it, as happens to so many players. Laxman showed the benefit of a mountain of first-class runs coming into the series and the move to promote him to No 3 came at the perfect time, with his confidence up.
His batting helped the other players around him and he looked set for a long partnership with SS Das until the little man was careless with where he planted his big feet. Being a back-foot player, he might benefit from standing with both feet outside the crease to give himself more room to move.
Laxman also guided Sourav Ganguly through a tense period at the start of his innings, when he was uncertain against the pace bowlers. Laxman took command of the quickies and soon Ganguly was on more familiar ground with the spinners bowling in tandem, and that partnership had the Indian batting on top for the first time in the series.
However, Ganguly allowed himself to get involved in a verbal joust with McGrath and he was out soon afterwards: if responding to a bait helps a batsman then it is fine to continue but it seems to affect the Indian skipper adversely and he’d be better off refraining from the temptation.
Warne looked a little weary, more mentally than physically, and this was a result of having to work extremely hard when bowling to Laxman. Laxman’s innings did a lot of good things for India – it gave them a No 3 that could dominate the opposition and it took some of the heat off Sachin Tendulkar – but most importantly it showed his teammates that the Australian attack isn’t super-human. If he can continue to play in that manner and coax a big score out of Rahul Dravid then India might just have the chance of producing a Very Very Surprising miracle.
In surpassing the highest Test score by an Indian, VVS Laxman became only the second from his country to score a double century against Australia, and is now the proud owner of the fourth-highest score against the baggy green caps. In doing so he passed a lot of famous names. His innings was of such high quality that he deserves the honour of being in that company, and in achieving such fame he also lifted India to a position of security.
On an amazing day for India, Laxman and a determined Rahul Dravid survived the whole day, and pummeled the Australians into the Eden Gardens’ turf. There’s an interesting similarity between Laxman’s knock and the previous best, by Sunil Gavaskar (236 vs West Indies at Madras in 1983-84): both players made their scores against the best attack of the time. Gavaskar made his against a West Indies attack that contained three champion bowlers, and Laxman did likewise in dominating Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie.
A chanceless double century is something special, but when it comes in circumstances where the team is down and out it becomes exceptional. I had the pleasure of witnessing Brian Lara’s brilliant double century (277) at the Sydney Cricket Ground where he excelled in piercing the field rather than clearing it, and Laxman’s innings featured 40 fours and no sixes, a tribute to his timing and placement. This innings was every bit as good as Lara’s.
Dravid copied Laxman’s habit of dancing down the pitch to combat the spin and drift, and it wasn’t long before the leg spinner was struggling to cope with two confident drivers.
If Laxman’s innings was one of defiant spirit, Dravid’s was a knock of character, showing that he may have been replaced at the top of the order but he isn’t about to be forgotten. This irrepressible partnership not only denied the Australians but it also put India into a position of great strength, and if it hadn’t been for fatigue Sourav Ganguly may have been able to produce a cheeky declaration late in the evening.
However, so weary were both sides in the last session that it was like two heavyweight boxers who had thrown a flurry of punches in the early rounds and were now too tired to lift their arms in the late going.
Excerpted from Ian Chappell’s reports for www.total-cricket.com reproduced in the book A Golden Age published