The Sydney 167 was a turning point Laxman
Says Australian teams of his era were a cut above the rest
Before V.V.S. Laxman cemented his place in cricket history with his epic 281 at Kolkata, there was a time when he was in danger of losing his spot in the Indian team.
Coming into the second essay of the Sydney Test of the 1999-2000 India-Australia series, Laxman had recorded just 249 runs in his previous 15 innings.
Laxman resurrected his career with a brilliant attacking 167 at Sydney — the first of his 17 Test hundreds. India lost the match, but there would be no questions asked about his calibre after that knock.
“Sydney and Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) holds a special place in my heart. The 167 was the turning point for me, because I finally gained the confidence that I can do well against the best in the world.
“The Australian attack consisted of guys like Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Damien Fleming and Brett Lee — who was breathing fire at that time. Before getting that hundred, I felt that I didn’t belong on the international stage,” Laxman said here recently, during an event to promote his book.
Early in his knock, Laxman was struck on the helmet by a nasty bouncer from McGrath. “It woke me up. When you play quality bowlers like McGrath, you are bound to have difficult moments. It is very, very important to forget about the previous ball and focus only on the present,” Laxman said.
In awe of Tendulkar
Four years later, when the Indian team returned to Sydney, Laxman witnessed a Sachin Tendulkar masterclass. Tendulkar did not play a single cover drive during his 241, as he believed the shot was the cause of his poor run of scores.
“Sachin’s self-control was unbelievable. I had the best seat in the house (the two put on 353 runs for the fourth wicket). Sachin didn’t play the cover drive even to part-time bowlers like Katich, Martyn and Steve Waugh. That shows his mental fortitude. It’s so difficult to keep one shot locked up, because once you reach 100 or 150, you get into the flow and start playing your natural strokes,” Laxman said.
The Australian teams of his era were a cut above the rest, Laxman said. “The Australians I played against were fearless; not once did the thought of losing cross their minds. Even when they were in a gloomy match-situation, they would make us feel like they were on top. The current Australian team cannot match them in terms of quality and fearless mindset,” Laxman said.