(In no specific order of preference)
If you ever wondered how did Laxman learn to weave his magic wand on 14Mar,2001 in Kolkata, go back a year in Jan’00, to the last test of the disastrous tour down under. He had opened in the test match and single-handedly destroyed the Aussie bowling. His 167 in the team total of 261 was followed by second highest score of 25! That just about explains his dominance over the Aussie attack. The reason why the Aussies respect him a lot can be traced to this very knock.
The innings was intoxication at its best – you would just drown in the beauty and wide array of strokes on display, the ease in his batting, the delicacy of his wrist play! Sigh a-la Azhar in prime form. As a friend once said, “Sachin is God, but there are strokes that Laxman plays at times, which Sachin would only dream of.” I dare not debate with him!
If a list of the best knocks in the history of Indian cricket or World Cricket is written – this one will feature right at the top of the list and stand there undisputed. What he achieved with this knock does not merely amount to an Indian victory to be stored in cricket’s record books. In that one knock, he truly reflected the attitude that John Wright and Ganguly were trying to build into this team – to make them world beaters. In that one knock, he showed that his team was not the one to give up, had the courage to get up and fight, had the courage to conquer all demons and withstand all attacks. In that one knock, he got Dravid out of his self-imposed shell, did wonders to the team’s confidence, and laid the first brick to India’s success in test cricket – of achieving the Numero Uno position. In that one knock, he re-assured the fans of their belief in this team. In that one knock he thanked his family, team-mates and the fans for their undying, relentless support to this crazy bunch.
In that one knock – Laxman weaved his magic forever on us.
Of the numerous shots he played that day – one remains stuck in my head forever – replayed a million times, in awe of this man. Warne bowled a delivery leaving the leg stump, Laxman got behind the delivery, his bat almost facing the on-side and hit the ball in the extra-cover region. That was as classy an extra-cover drive you will ever see but against a ball wide of the leg-stump! Not a single soul moved on the field – Warne stood still wondering what had just happened.
The magic had begun – one hour into the day’s play, my friends called me to check if I was coming to college for the final year project. I had said, “Are you kidding me, did you even see the first hour of play? Laxman and Dravid seem to be onto something special today – cannot miss that. I’m not getting out of the house for the next 2 days!”
I never regretted bunking college for those 2 days.
93 runs of 6 innings in his last tour down under was not a memory that could be erased easily for someone who had a 50+ average in tests since his debut in 1996 and was India’s most dependable batsmen. The failure on that tour had played on his mind for long. He looked in good form against Zim before the Aussies set their foot on Indian soil; but double failure in the Mumbai tests had the fans wondering if the demons had been erased at all.
This knock broke all the shackles in his mind, and it was fitting reply to all his critics who had run him down. Did you see the expression when he got to his hundred on day 4? Fist punched in the air, a jump and bat pointed at the press box – Dravid almost mouthing Take That! I cannot forget that – the ever so calm Dravid reacting in that manner. He had finally let the steam out!
The knock resulted in setting up India’s famous win and one of the best test matches the world ever witnessed. The innings transformed him completely and did wonders to his confidence. He has not looked back since then. He has gone to play many pivotal knocks for India in her wins abroad and at home. Till date he remains her “Wall”, the most dependable man in the team – The Best Man ever!
In conditions that were fully conducive to swing, Ganguly made the bold attempt to bat first on winning the toss. Dravid and Bangar held fort, one of the finest displays of batting in test match cricket. Dravid’s defence was par excellence and his shot selection impeccable. His innings laid the foundation for the huge total which inspired two fantastic centuries by the Captain and Sachin later next day. This innings set the tone right for the rest of the series, one in which India hardly faltered. A series win was not possible then, but it was fitting that he came back as captain in 2007 to lead India to a series win against the Poms in 21 years.
If it weren’t for the magic woven by Laxman and Dravid in 2001, this one would be right on the top of my list. Call me a sentimental fool, but I’ve immense respect for Dada whatever people may say about that bloke. He is responsible for India’s turnaround in cricket – he deserves as much credit as anyone else, for India becoming the best side in the world today.
In a test foiled by the rain gods, Ganguly came out to bat when India were 62-3 against Australia’s 323. Along with Laxman he launched a fantastic counter attack against the Aussies. He did not have a great record against them and had dealt with enough sledging from McGrath and Co. This knock was a nice slap in the face at their home ground. They did not expect Ganguly to fight it out and he kept surprising them as always. India took lead in the first innings which made a huge difference to the psyche of the team. The knock defined the series to follow – India was on the backfoot only once in the entire series in MCG. The remaining three tests tilted heavily in India’s favour.
Ganguly has always been the ‘Capital A of Attitude’ installed in this Indian Team.
The knock helped erase his ghosts of past. The knock helped shut the critics up who always had one sore point against him, that he does not guide India to victory. (I have always disputed that point and the proofs will run into pages!) But more than anything, the knock helped a nation smile. Mumbai’s favourite son had this to say after the knock:
“By no means am I saying this will make everyone forget what happened in Mumbai but I’d like to thank England for coming back and playing Test cricket and we’ve witnessed a wonderful Test match – people are enjoying cricket the way it’s meant to be.
“What happened in Mumbai was extremely unfortunate and I don’t think by India winning or me scoring a hundred, people who have lost their loved ones will feel any better. It’s a terrible loss for all of them and our hearts are with them, but whatever manner we can contribute to making them feel better we’ll make that effort
Somehow it was only apt that her favourite son was responsible in giving the city something to cheer about.
As much as Sachin’s knock helped take the ship safely to the harbour, it was Sehwag’s blitzkrieg that set the ship racing like a speed boat. His 83 of 68 not only demoralized the England bowlers but almost sealed the victory for India. A target close to 400 was reduced to 250+ in no time on day 4 and that makes a huge psychological difference. The disdain and total disregard he showed to the England bowlers never got them out of their shell. Sehwag proved once again that on his day there is no one yet born who can stop his hammering.
Sachin’s most tons abroad have gone in vain – either in losses or drawn matches. There have been very few instances where he has hit tons abroad and we have won. There is nothing to fault with him – in the 90s he was the sole performing batsmen until Dravid walked in to keep him company. It’s only since 2001 that India began to record wins abroad and a good unit was built with some excellent batsmen and competitive bowlers.
This knock contributed heavily to Indian’s first series win in NZ in 2009. The master blaster was exquisite and if someone said that this bloke was playing for 20 years and was 36 years old – one would be shocked. The hunger for runs remains unchanged, the balance still perfect. It will remain one of Sachin’s best knocks – he played like the old Sachin would and finally resulted in an Indian victory
To last 11 hours and ensure a draw, after being asked to follow-on with two days to go and a deficit of 314 runs, is definitely not an easy task. He has had an awesome two years being adjudged the best player of the year and topping the batting ranks. But for me, this young lad is all about Attitude and Adaptation. He adapts to any situation perfectly – defend, attack, anchor. The bloke can do it all, and he shifts gears with amazing ease! If it comes so easy to him imagine what a great car racer he will make. His attitude is an inspiration for youngsters aiming for the India Cap. Heads down – work to be done – will do it! We need so many more like him.
He is my bet for the future and I am willing to put my money on him. The one guy who has impressed me after the Fab Four, my sole hope that the team will not falter after the 3 big guns of Indian batting call it quits.
Along with Laxman,Dravid and Sachin, he ensured India would see through the day and not squander the lead in the series.
To me he is undoubtedly the second Wall – truly a man of steel.
You don’t need to go to a dictionary to understand the meaning of the word – Mayhem. Just search for this innings and you will get your answer. Sehwag unleashed havoc and terror in one go on the Sri Lankan team that day. What an innings to end the decade for India. I was so freaking irritated when he got out on 293 and I think so was he for the first time in his life. Disappointed on missing a milestone, of being the only person in test cricket to achieve 3 triple centuries.
Sehwag is the mad-man of Indian cricket. I don’t think we will ever have a character like him again. His “I-don’t-care-what-you-bowl-if -it-is-there-to-be-hit-I-will-hit” attitude has more often than not WORKED and worked big time.
At times like this I hate being in Dubai, Brabourne is 20 minutes away from my home in Mumbai. He butchered the SL attack and effectively messed up their confidence. The other batsmen had to walk in and mark their attendance – Sehwag had sealed SL’s fate and ensured India would have it easy on their way to No.1
This amazing filmy video on the terror unleashed by Sehwag here.
It’s only ten best knocks I’m picking but I cannot end the post without mentioning these:
Another Dravid-Laxman partnership, this time around Dravid was in the Groom’s place. Set up India’s win. One of the best knocks I’ve seen. It makes you forget Ponting’s double in the first innings.
If he makes a double, India will not lose – this was almost the mantra when India started winning. Stood like a Rock of Gibraltar and was out only when he tried to accelerate. Pakis never looked like they could get him out.
Sehwag century on debut at one end and Sachin in prime form. Cricketing fans couldn’t have asked for a better viewing. The God and His Follower at their supreme best. India were racing at 4 an over and then at the end of the test match, one was left wondering how could a team that rushed to 350+ in a day could lose the game! Sachin scripted another beauty following his 169 on the previous tour in ‘96.
First triple hundred by hitting a six when on 295 and that too against Pakistan on their home soil! If it weren’t for those other ten exciting knocks this one was a sure shot in my ten favourite innings of the decade.
These are my personal favourites for different reasons – pure cricketing reasons, sentimental ones, for the attitude change those knocks brought in. I’m waiting to learn about yours!
P.S: Yes best Indian bowling performances and my personal year end wrap up will follow but maybe a day or two into the new year!