Very, Very Special

Date: December 19, 2011 / Posted by control

When the first Test gets underway at the MCG on Boxing Day much of the focus will centre on Sachin Tendulkar and his quest for that elusive 100th international century.

While Michael Clarke and his team will be especially keen to capture the great man’s wicket, another batsman will also have dominated much of Australia’s pre-match planning.

V V S Laxman has made a habit of peeling off big scores against Australia with some of his epics rating as some of the finest knocks registered against them.

Renowned for his leg-side dominance, brought about by his ever-present bottom hand flick, he often takes balls from outside off stump and thunders them through the on side.

He bats at times with an effortless that defies description. When on song, his batting is highlighted by exquisite placement as he frustrates opposing captains and bowlers by working the angles to perfection.

Such is his appetite for scoring runs against the Aussies, his three highest totals have been made against them, including his only two Test double hundreds.

Laxman first came to the notice of fans in Australia with a knock of 167 at the SCG on the 1999-00 tour. After making just seven in the first innings he opened again in the second and was eighth man out it in innings that totalled only 261.

But it was the next time the two sides met, this time in India, that Laxman played the defining innings of his career and one of the finest in the history of the game.

In the now famous second Test at Kolkata in the 2001 series, India was asked to follow-on after trailing by 274 on the first innings.

Laxman had scored 59 in India’s first innings total of 171 and was last man out having batted at number six.

Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly then pulled a masterstroke by promoting the in-form Laxman to number three in the second innings.

He came in with the total at 1-52 and at the fall of the fourth wicket was joined in the middle by Rahul Dravid with India still trailing by 42 runs.The pair were still together at stumps on the third day with Laxman on 109.

The next day produced a partnership that has entered cricketing folklore.

The pair batted the entire fourth day on a wearing pitch with the Australians barely having anything to appeal about through 90 overs, let alone look like getting the breakthrough.

Shane Warne was rendered completely impotent by the rubber-wristed Laxman as he played a succession of magnificent on-drives out of the footmarks with Warne operating around the wicket into the decaying surface.

In the final session Laxman closed in on Sunil Gavaskar’s Indian record of 236.

As he continued to near the landmark the electronic scoreboard kept flashing up financial incentives from the likes of the government, the BCCI and the Bengal Cricket Association.

Eventually, off Matthew Hayden of all people, another trademark flick to the leg side brought up the record.

Meanwhile, Dravid was playing a fine support role at the other end and stroking his way to an eventual total of 180. By stumps the pair had put the home side in front by 315 runs.

Early on day five, the stand was terminated by Glenn McGrath with Laxman out for 281 having added 376 with Dravid for the fifth wicket. India declared soon after with Harbhajan Singh spinning them to victory.

But Laxman wasn’t done with his mountainous compilation of runs against Australia – at Delhi in 2008, he made an even 200 not out.

For whatever reason, Laxman always seems to rise to the occasion when confronted by the baggy green. He has scored four centuries against Australia in Australia and averaged 54, against an overall average of 56 against the Aussies.

Clarke will be desperate to remove the potential match-winner early, for on the six occasions that Laxman has reached three figures against Australia he has averaged an astonishing 217.

At 37, this series represents his last on Australian shores. From a cricket fan’s perspective, let’s hope he peels off another one of those epic knocks somewhere along the way on this farewell tour.

While for the Australian team, they will be hoping that Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman doesn’t prove as bigger handful as his name.