One Test match which will never be forgotten is the iconic contest between India and Australia played at Eden Gardens in 2001 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
That game made VVS Laxman an immortal name in Indian cricket, thanks to his innings of 281 runs and him batting a whole day along with Rahul Dravid, who scored 180, to turn the tables on Australians.
India were forced to follow on after getting bundled out for 171 in reply to Australia's first innings total of 445. It was then Laxman and Dravid produced two of the greatest Test innings ever that helped the home team to notch up 657/7 (declared) in the second innings.
Set a target of 384 in the fourth innings, Harbhajan Singh scalped 6/73 as Australia collapsed from 166/3 to 212 all-out to give India a historic 171-run victory. The Kolkata victory also ended Steve Waugh’s men 16-match winning streak while this Test was only the third instance in history when a team had won a match after following on.
Dravid, who had the best available seat in the house to witness Laxman’s masterclass that day, recently termed the knock as the “greatest innings played by an Indian”.
“Without a doubt, I think, the 281 was probably one of the most significant and greatest innings played by an Indian cricketer, in terms of the context, the consequence, the innings was played in,” Dravid said at the launch of Laxman’s autobiography “281 and Beyond” in Bengaluru.
“I really had the best seat in the house for the greatest Indian innings ever played,” he added.
Dravid also heaped praise on his stroke-making capabilities during that masterful knock.
“I was still imagining him and visualising him, stepping outside the leg-stump and hitting Shane Warne through the covers, for a ball that is pitched yards outside the legs-stump. Or to be able to flick a ball on the middle and off-stump on a turning track in Kolkata, across the line, against a great bowler like Shane Warne,” Rahul asserted.
“Or driving Glenn McGrath or Jason Gillespie. The way he did it, I think, for me, it was an incredible experience, watching him bat,” he further remarked.
The duo of Dravid and Laxman had batted the entire fourth day at the Eden Gardens, adding 335 runs and their eventual stand of 376 carried India from 254/4 to 589/4.
“It was absolutely phenomenal to watch. Sometimes, I don’t like watching a lot of cricket. I really hate watching myself bat again when sometimes they show these old matches. If I am playing in that, I actually change the channel,” Dravid said.
Talking about his own innings, Rahul recollected that he was not in the best of form but gained confidence after watching Laxman bat.
“To be honest, I was not in the greatest of form leading into that particular innings. By the time, I went into bat (at No 6), Laxman was batting at 90-odd. I was not playing well in that series and watching him play gave me a lot of confidence. It was a magical day,” he said.
“I am truly grateful and blessed to have had that opportunity and to have experienced that, with someone who I knew when I was a kid. In lot of ways, it (281) defines Laxman more than me,” Dravid concluded.
(With PTI inputs)