Hyderabad: As the much-anticipated series between India and Australia got under way at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Friday, VVS Laxman has fond memories of this venue. His epoch-making 167 in 2000 gave him the confidence that he belonged on the international stage.
Laxman said except for his last Test match here when he got 60-odd runs in 2012, but every time he played at SCG he got 100s. “There are certain venues which are very close to your heart. It gives a lot of confidence the moment you step on to the ground. That was the relationship with SCG or Eden Gardens because these two grounds always gave me confidence.’’
Call it superstitious, the Hyderabad stylish batsman always used to sit in the same place in SCG. “It gave him a feeling of comfort and confidence before any Test. That seat was reserved for me,’’ said a smiling Laxman.
On his romance with Australia, Laxman said he had the habit of scoring runs against them from the under-19 days. “Australia under-19 had come with players like Andrew Symonds, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Michael Hussey. As it turned out, I was the highest run-getter with two 80s and one hundred in the series. From that series I always loved the challenge against them. I liked their aggression and ruthlessness.’’
Laxman pointed out that 167 in SCG was a do-or-die affair. “It was probably the most important knock of my career. I made my debut in 1993 and I was opening the innings and never got a hundred. I was not sure whether I would be picked for India or not. But the turning point came when I was struck by a nasty bouncer from Glenn McGrath. I was rattled and I realised there was no point thinking too much. Instead I would bat more freely like I did in the Ranji Trophy.”
The 46-year-old, in fact, said his best innings was against Queensland. “I got this century within three days of my arrival in Australia after playing on a low bounce wicket at Gymkhana ground in Hyderabad. Playing at Gabba was a challenge because it was quick and bouncy with a lot of grass on it. I adjusted and executed my strokes nicely to get a century even though we lost in three days.’’
Since he was a natural stroke player, he enjoyed batting on all the surfaces of Australia. “I always like when the ball comes quickly to the bat as in my younger days I used to practice a lot on matting and cement wickets. Once you get your eye in, the Australian wickets were the best to bat and the quick outfield would give value to your shots. One could trust the bounce also.’’
Although SCG was his favourite ground, Adelaide was top of the list as at this ground he and Rahul Dravid had a massive partnership of over 300 that led to India’s famous win in 2003. “After that big partnership at Eden in 2001, Rahul and I repeated that feat at Adelaide. I always enjoyed batting with Rahul from under-19 days. I still remember John Wright telling me at the start of the third day, can we have a repeat of Eden. If you look at the situation of the match in this Test, Australia had scored 500 odd runs and we were 80 odd for four. Dravid and I stitched the 300-run partnership in quick time and went on to win the Test match. Adelaide win was the most satisfying one as I wanted a win in overseas conditions.’’
Virender Sehwag for no reason joked whenever Indians embarked upon a tour of Australia, he would say: “Laxman ka atma jagaya.’’
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