The Day Laxman and Dravid changed the face of Indian cricket

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14 Mar 2020 | 11:45 AM
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Pramod Ananth

The Day Laxman and Dravid changed the face of Indian cricket

A look back on one of the greatest comebacks in Test cricket

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Steve Waugh’s men were on a 16-match winning streak after they thrashed India by 10 wickets in the first Test in Mumbai in February 2001, and looked well on course to win the second Test at Eden Gardens. They would have made it 17 in a row had special knocks from VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid not come in their way on this day, 19 years ago.

India were already 0-1 down in the three-match series. In the 2nd Test at Eden Gardens, Australia scored 445 in the first innings. India was following on after being skittled out for 171 in their first innings. VVS Laxman had already scored a stroke-filled fifty in the first innings and as a result, was promoted to No. 3 in the second innings. 

Just like the first innings, Laxman was fighting a lone battle even in the second innings. He was unbeaten on 109 when the penultimate day of the Kolkata Test arrived. Considering how dominant Australia had been over the last few years, it looked like it was going to be just a matter of time before they would wrap up the match, possibly, with a day to spare. A first series win in India in more than three decades seemed to be on the cards for them.

However, Laxman and Dravid had other plans. What they achieved on Day Four of this Test changed the face of Indian cricket forever.

First session

Against a bowling attack consisting of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Shane Warne, Laxman and Dravid looked fearless. Laxman’s batting looked near invincible with beautiful strokes all around the wicket and was as elegant as ever off his wrists – something that would define him over the course of his illustrious Test career.

Dravid, on the other hand, was a perfect second fiddle, who looked solid, yet cautious at the same time. He did not let the huge task in hand get to him and reached a fighting fifty by the end of the first session. India’s lead was a mere 102, Laxman was batting on 171. A session without a wicket against a world-class bowling attack was an achievement in itself, but in the context of the match, it was a mere consolation. 

Second session

Runs continued to flow from the willows of Laxman and Dravid and the Australians did not look as upbeat. This despite Warne looking to pitch the ball on the rough outside leg, against which Laxman danced down the track and whipped it against the turn towards the mid-wicket or the mid-off fence. Safe to say, Australia had run out of ideas especially after using options like Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Michael Slater and also Justin Langer at some point.

Every run, every boundary was met by thunderous applause by the 50,000-plus spectators gathered in the Eden Gardens. Dravid reached his century before tea and his partner was just nine runs short of equalling the highest individual score by an Indian batsman. At tea, India were ahead by 217 runs and with six wickets in hand, they had given themselves a chance of setting Australia a big target to chase. 

India had Harbhajan Singh and Venkatapathy Raju, who could exploit the rough patches around the batsmen to make a match out of this. But Dravid and Laxman were not done yet.

Third session

As India continued to dominate, Laxman broke the record set by Sunil Gavaskar when he went past 236 and also surpassed Rohan Kanhai’s 256, which was the highest score at the venue and finished the day unbeaten on 275. Dravid, at the other end, remained unbeaten on 155. India’s lead was a daunting 315 and the partnership was unbeaten at 357. With just the final day to go, India seemed to have a full grasp on the match. 

Laxman played just two shots all day which he did not have control over – an inside edge off Gillespie and a pull shot off McGrath which went over mid-off. His knock along with Dravid’s was a true testament of what patience, perseverance, resilience and the will to win can do. 

What followed?

- On Day Five, Laxman was dismissed for 281, bringing an end to his 376-run stand for the fifth wicket with Dravid, who was the last man out for 180. India set Australia a 384-run target.

- Australia lost the match by 171 runs making it only a third-occasion a team has lost after asking the opposition to follow-on. Incidentally, it has been Australia on the receiving end all three times.

- India won the next and final Test in Chennai by two wickets to win the series 2-1

- Till date, there have been only six more occasions where teams have not lost a wicket in an entire day’s play

What they said

"We got a lot of recognition after the 2007 World T20 triumph. But before that, the 2001 Test series changed the face of Indian cricket. Because Australia was playing so well before that and they were almost an unbeatable team at that time. Beating them was impossible. But after that Test series, we got the belief that we can win anywhere in the world.” – Harbhajan Singh in 2018

“In the 1st innings I was batting with Laxman when Chetan Chauhan, who was our manager, called both Laxman and me and that is when Chetan sir told us how things can change in a Test match. He gave an example of how they had saved a match in Pakistan and told us it is not over till the end. That is when Laxman said that sir we are winning this match and I was giving him a smile, I did not want to smile a lot but I thought he has gone mad. But he knew it then, he was in such great form and he loved the Australian attack. He said that we will win the Test and that is what confidence is. I was making a comeback and it was towards the end of my career and I was just thinking that he (Laxman) has gone mad.” – Venkatapathy Raju in 2017

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Vangipurappu Venkata Sai LaxmanRahul Sharad DravidAustralia tour of India, 2000/01India vs Australia - 2nd Test - Border-Gavaskar Trophy, 2000/01India vs AustraliaEden Gardens, Kolkata

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