New Delhi: On this day, 17 years ago, legendary India cricketers VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid stitched together a historic partnership against Australia to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took to social media to pay tribute to the duo and their post read: “#ThisDayThatYear in 2001 VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid scripted a historic Test comeback ever at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata #TeamIndia"
Laxman also took to Twitter to remember the historic Test when India recorded a stunning comeback win and his post read: “Some days give us an opportunity to know ourselves better & realize what we are capable of.17 years ago was one such day,which reemphasized my belief that we should not give up and an opportunity to serve my country. Was not just me and Rahul,but Bhajji ,Sachin and the whole team".
Some days give us an opportunity to know ourselves better & realize what we are capable of.17 years ago was one such day,which reemphasized my belief that we should not give up and an opportunity to serve my country. Was not just me and Rahul,but Bhajji ,Sachin and the whole team pic.twitter.com/Z9Pivm2NSx— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) March 14, 2018
They are known as two legends of Indian cricket. Talent was never an issue with either VVS Laxman or Rahul Dravid as they both made their presence felt on the international stage soon after their debuts. If Dravid was an immediate hit, Laxman had his share of ups and downs.
But if there is one match that transformed them from just supremely talented cricketers to legends of the gentleman’s game, it had to be the second Test of the three-match series against the Australians at the Eden Gardens in 2001.
It was on March 14, 2001 that Dravid and Laxman batted all day to get India from 254/4 to 589/4 in a historic Test comeback as the hosts ended up winning the game even after following-on.
Under Ganguly, India had made giant strides in all formats, and their form in Test cricket at home was nothing short of formidable. But the Australians under Steve Waugh were considered ‘Invincibles’. Yet they were still to win a series in India.
Under the able leadership of Waugh, with two of the world’s best bowlers in their arsenal, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, Australia arrived in India on a 15-match winning streak, already a world record.
Waugh had called India the ‘final frontier’ for a team, which was hailed by many as the best ever. The first Test in Mumbai went exactly as many had expected. The visitors registered a 10-wicket win, their 16th on the trot.
In the second Test at the iconic Eden Gardens, Steve Waugh won the toss again and decided to bat first. Matthew Hayden (97) and Michael Slater (42) put on a century opening stand, which was followed by a gritty ton by skipper Waugh (110) as Australia looked in cruise control. Harbhajan Singh took India’s first Test hat-trick to do some damage control, but the ‘Turbunator’s’ 7-wicket haul couldn’t stop Australia from posting 445 in the first innings.
Glenn McGrath ensured the hosts were on the ropes again, and he also won his battle against bitter rival Sachin Tendulkar. VVS Laxman (59) looked a class-apart in the ruins, but India were dismissed early on day 3 for 171. Steve Waugh enforced the follow on and it looked like the Aussies will wrap up victory number 17 within three days again.
But the rest as they say is history.
Indian opening duo of Shiv Sunder Das (39) and Sadagopan Ramesh (30) showed character and the will power to wage a battle. India were fighting hard, but when Sachin Tendulkar was sent back with the score reading 115/3, it looked like a matter of time before the hosts would collapse again. VVS Laxman’s first innings brilliance had seen him being promoted to no 3 and he along with Indian captain Sourav Ganguly started a rearguard. The duo put together a 117-run stand before Ganguly was sent back for 48.
Laxman completed a fine century as India ended Day 3 at 254/4, still 20 runs behind Australia with 6 wickets in hand. The next day turned out to be a day of defiance, a day that changed the course of Indian cricket history. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted out an entire day, making a mockery of the likes of McGrath and Warne. Laxman’s artistry took him to 275 and Dravid’s resolve helped him notch up 155 as the duo remained unbeaten at the close of play on day 4 with India at 589/4.
Laxman was eventually dismissed on the final day for 281, India’s then highest individual Test score, while Dravid departed for 180. Their 376-run stand meant India had set Australia an improbable target of 384 runs to win the Test.
ICC also took to Twitter on Tuesday to remind fans of that epic partnership that had the fans and pundits stand up and take note of a young Indian team that was taking the cricketing world by storm under the leadership of Ganguly.
There could be only one winner and it was India, but the Aussie opening duo of Hayden and Slater batted with resolve. Harbhajan Singh broke the opening stand by sending back Slater and then accounted for Justin Langer.
Venkatpathy Raju sent back Mark Waugh cheaply to raise the Indian hopes, but captain Steve Waugh in the company of the brilliant Hayden kept the Aussies afloat.
But Harbhajan broke the crucial partnership by sending back Waugh and then quickly wrapped up a struggling Ricky Ponting. Sachin Tendulkar was handed the ball and the master contributed by sending back the dangerous Adam Gilchrist and Hayden in quick succession, followed by the wicket of Shane Warne.
The last pair of Michael Kasprowicz and Glenn McGrath were not ready to bow out without a fight and with play entering the last hour, the crowd at Eden Gardens grew impatient. Anxiety was writ large over the faces of the Indian players as the duo fought hard to force a draw. Finally Harbhajan Singh trapped Glenn McGrath in front of the wicket to complete one of cricket’s greatest turnarounds. India had won the match by 171 runs, broken Australia’s unbeaten streak and most importantly, drawn level in the series.