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Wow! What a fantastic Test match! It has been a really long time since India came back from the dead to win a game like they did today. The last time we had a comeback as impressive as this was back in 2001, also against the Aussies and spearheaded by the same here, VVS. Coincidence? I think not! The man has found it in him to dig deep, motivate himself and take us home, time and again. It was only recently in Colombo where Sri Lanka had us on the mat, and it took another special edition from Laxman to redeem things.
Yesterday, was a few notches higher on the difficulty scale though. When the scoreboard reads 124 for 8 and you have a fiery Australian attack to contend with, the target of 216 is more than just imposing; it is almost in the realm of impossibility – if you leave one crucial factor, the Laxman factor. The name is so appropriate – the man is so lax, he is deception personified. He caresses, he nudges, he glides, he glances…all with the grace and elegance of a Russian figure skater and yet with the precision and purpose of a surgeon wielding the knife, any innings of his is a delight to watch. And I won’t even begin to talk about the back spasms – the man pulled off what he did when his back was so bad that he needed to bat with a runner all through. Facing an Aussie onslaught for a few hours is bad enough – and when you have to take stance 79 times in the course of that four hours, bending back and forth, that is just a lot of punishment. It takes a great fighter to just endure that battle, so one can imagine what it would take to come out on top at the end.
Those of us that have had the good fortune to meet Laxman in real life, we know he’s a class act. He’s been consistently under-rated and under-appreciated, and ferried in and out of the team more times than anyone else I can recall despite arguable being one of India’s biggest match-winners – to his credit, he has taken it all in stride and never let it get him down. Having watched him practice at the St Johns facility in Marredpally, it is no surprise that success follows him. A terrific work-ethic and really strong motivation to perform at the highest levels, the effort and commitment that he puts into the game is nothing short of remarkable. No wonder he’s able to pull one out of the hat almost on demand – and we do seem to demand that kinda performance quite often when it comes to Laxman, don’t we?
In all that celebration, lets not forget Ishant either – and again, how appropriately named. I-Shan’t! Another one that was ruled out of the first innings because of injury, he played the knock of a lifetime in shouldering the load with Laxman. One statistic that will probably get forgotten is that he faced more balls than any other batsman in the Indian innings. For someone coming in at No 10, that’s an accomplishment in itself – and when you consider the circumstances in which he accomplished that, it speaks volumes of his poise, his confidence and his resolve. And lets not forget the inspired spell in the second innings to destroy the Aussie top order and set up the win to begin with. It would have been poetic justice had Ishant stayed till the end to finish it off, but he got us close enough and that makes him a match winner in my book. Way to go, Ishant!
This is the first time, by the way, in India’s history that we’ve won a test with just one wicket to. Don’t know about you, but that tells me that comebacks aren’t our biggest strength. In fact, we usually seem to be at the receiving end of those comebacks – especially against an Australian side that is known to never give up. So it sure was nice to see us give it back to them for a change. There is a lot of talk about how special this test match was, how it was one of the best ever played and how its going to revive Test cricket’s popularity – I wouldn’t quite go that far, but it certainly was a very special finish to a very special game, and one that made several peoples’ day yesterday. Go India and Go Laxman, success couldn’t come to a more deserving individual!