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Laxman magic leveller

For a better part of his 14-year Test career, VVS Laxman's place in India's strong middle order has been questioned. And every time, he has come up with a defining knock to silence critics and leave his many fans astounded by his artistry. Amol Karhadkar reports. Scorecard | Test Trivia

cricket Updated: Aug 08, 2010 00:50 IST
Amol Karhadkar

For a better part of his 14-year Test career, VVS Laxman's place in India's strong middle order has been questioned. And every time, he has come up with a defining knock to silence critics and leave his many fans astounded by his artistry.

Whether it's his 167 at Sydney in 2000, the epic 281 at Kolkata the following year, or his twin centuries in Adelaide and Sydney in 2003-04, or his unbeaten 200 at Delhi in 2008, Laxman has thrilled with his big knocks. The fact these efforts came against the best team in the world should have put all doubts over Laxman's place in India's eleven to an end.

The wristy Hyderabadi settled the matter once and for all on Saturday with an unbeaten 103 that helped India register their fourth-highest run chase and level the series at 1-1.

"I have started dealing with them (critics) much better. But what matters really is how the team feels about you. And there is no doubt that the team members feel how important my contribution is," Laxman said. "I really don't think about what people are thinking outside the dressing room. It's unfortunate. Initially it was tough to play with that insecurity feeling. Sometime I imagined that if given a free hand how I would have probably got much more runs."

With India reeling at 53 for 3, 204 adrift the target of 258, India needed one big partnership if they were to avoid another heart-breaking defeat away from home. And Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar did just that with a 109-run fifth-wicket stand. When Laxman took guard after nightwatchman Ishant Sharma perished off Suraj Randiv in the fourth over of the day, India were still 195 runs behind the target.

More than the manner in which he handled pressure, what was startling about Laxman's knock was that it came when the 35-year-old was suffering from a backache.

"It was painful. When we were fielding yesterday, I had spasms in the lower back and it was troubling. I stared my innings well, but during the partnership I had lot of discomfort and spasms, which didn't allow me to move freely. It was definitely very painful. Once I was into my 30s it became very painful," said Laxman.

Just when the Indian dressing room could rest their backs to the seat, with Laxman and Tendulkar's association having crossed the century mark, Laxman had to get treatment from the physio and was forced to have Virender Sehwag as his runner.

"It was a difficult call. You don't want to create confusion and also not break the rhythm. If you see, Sachin got out once I took the runner," said Laxman. "But I was in such pain that I thought that the best decision in team's interest was to have a runner instead of just giving away the wicket. The intelligent move was to have a runner."

When Tendulkar offered Mahela Jayawardene a straightforward chance, India were still 86 behind. Laxman and rookie Suresh Raina knocked off the runs with ease, the latter completing the formalities with a six over mid-wicket off Chanaka Welegedara 16 minutes before tea.

With Laxman setting up one of India's most important overseas victories overseas, all that one can hope for is that cynics don't wag their tongues before India's selection for the Australia series.