Nagpur awaits match of milestones

Updated: 03 November 2008 10:21 IST

Apart from Ganguly and Kumble's retirement, Nagpur Test holds special meaning for VVS Laxman, who plays his 100th Test there.


The ongoing India-Australia Test series, the climax of which is around the corner here, would be remembered for the retirement of two of India's biggest cricket stars - Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly.

The indefatigable Kumble bid an emotional farewell to cricket ahead of the fourth and final Test from November 6, after leading the country in the drawn third encounter of the rubber at New Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla on Sunday.

The classically elegant Ganguly has already announced that he will play his last Test in this Orange City before hanging up his boots after having embellished the fans of the game with his feisty approach and never-say-die attitude when the chips were down.

The four-Test series between cricket's most combative teams at present will also be recalled in later years for other milestones too set to be achieved by a few other Indian stalwarts.

Sachin Tendulkar has already walked into the record books by overtaking another famous name - West Indian Brian Lara - as Test cricket's highest run-getter at Mohali in the second Test won handsomely by the hosts to go 1-0 up in the series.

The champion batsman is also set to complete 100 catches, having pouched 99 so far in 153 Tests, and has 90 scores of fifty and above, inclusive of 39 centuries, and is on par with Australian great Allan Border.

V V S Laxman is also on the cusp of reaching a coveted landmark, of joining seven other compatriots who are in the 100-Test club.

True to his pedigree the wristy Laxman, who draws the opposition's blood with his bat used not like a bludgeon but similar to a surgeon wielding his scalpel, is one match away from joining the exclusive list.

Laxman, who turned 34 on November 1, during the course of the Kotla Test which he lit up with his brilliant unbeaten knocks of 200 and 59, would achieve a milestone that eluded two others -- who are talked of in the same breath for having possessed a similar batting style -- Gundappa Viswanath and Mohammed Azharuddin.

Viswanath, the little man from Bangalore whose languid and wristy approach to batting took away the breath of the cricket fans in the 1970s, turned out 91 times for India in Tests before a disastrous tour of Pakistan in 1982-83 finished his international career.

Former skipper Azharuddin was shortchanged just before reaching the 100-Test mark when he got embroiled in the match-fixing scandal.

The Hyderabadi - also a very wristy exponent with the bat - thus fell one short of achieving the landmark when he was banned for life by the Cricket Board for his alleged role in the match-fixing controversy. He is, perhaps, destined to be the lone man stranded at 99 Tests.

Now Laxman is set to achieve a feat that eluded the other two batsmen whose batting styles have resembled his own.

Former captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who has shared the dressing room for India with Viswanath and Azhar, drew a parallel in the wristy elegance of the trio.

"All these three batsmen have been fantastic players, extremely wristy. Sometimes they seem to have more strokes in their repertoire than others, scoring with ease when others get bogged down," the former middle order mainstay said.

"They are always a treat to watch. There's never a dull moment (for the fans) when they are batting. The bowlers and opposition too find it difficult to keep them quiet," Vishwanath added in his appreciation of the trio's style of batting.

Laxman has amassed 6313 runs in 99 Tests, more than a third of these against his favourite whipping boys - Australia - since his debut at Ahmedabad against South Africa in 1996 under his city-mate Azhar.

Australians fear him as much as they do Tendulkar and the Hyderabad stalwart is coming into the last Test, which has to be won by the visitors to square the series, on the back of two splendid unconquered knocks at the Kotla - a double hundred followed by a half century.

The Aussies know from past experience that when on song Laxman is unstoppable.

He had shown the world champions his true colours with his spanking innings of 167, his maiden three-figure knock, as a makeshift opener off only 198 balls with 27 fours in Sydney in 1999-2000.

Sourav Ganguly (25 in a second innings total of 261) was the next highest scorer against an attack comprising Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Damien Fleming and Shane Warne.

That was just the beginning of Laxman's superb run-scoring spree against Australia and, in a way, set the tone for his fabulous, career-best 281 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in the 2001-02 rubber that India won 2-1 after clawing their way back from the brink.

In 23 Tests against the World champions, Laxman has aggregated 2136 runs at 56.21 per innings, far above his career figures of 45.41 per innings till date. Six out of his 13 three-figure innings have been recorded against the Australians and three of those were hammered in Sydney.

Topics : Cricket Sreesanth
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