Cricketers pick their favourites

'The best playing of spin bowling I've seen'

Part eight: Ian Chappell on the best centuries he's watched. No. 8: VVS Laxman's 281 against Australia (00:00)

Producer: Ranjit Shinde

September 4, 2012


VVS Laxman, 281 v Australia, Kolkata, 2001

'The best playing of spin bowling I've seen'

September 4, 2012

VVS Laxman drives on his way to 281, India v Australia, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 4th day, March 14, 2001
Laxman in Kolkata: footwork lessons © AFP

VVS Laxman
281 v Australia, Kolkata, 2001

The Australian tour of India in 2000-01 - before the Australians left home Steve Waugh said, "This is the last frontier, this is the one we need to conquer." He must have thought that he was well on the way to conquering India.

They won the first Test match, in Mumbai, convincingly. Second Test match, in Kolkata, Australia enforced the follow-on, 270 odd ahead. So Steve Waugh must have almost been able to feel that Border-Gavaskar Trophy in his hands.

The smart move that India made in that match… I always thought that VVS Laxman, to me, is the perfect No. 3. He is a good player of fast bowling, he has got that ability to see off the challenge if an early wicket falls but he can dictate terms, and he is also such a good player of spin bowling.

He had been batting down the order. I think No. 6 in that series up to that point. He was not out in the first innings [he was the last man out]. When everybody else fell around him, he was well and truly on top, but he just didn't get any support in the first innings. I don't know who made the move, but it was a very smart move - they bumped him up to No. 3 in the second innings.

He came in, and as I say, India was in dire straits. For the circumstances in the match, I don't think I have ever seen a better innings played. I mean, you are 274 behind - that is a hell of a deficit to face. He erased the deficit on his own; he got 281.

The thing about that innings that will always stick in my mind is the way he came down the pitch to Shane Warne. I mean, here is the best legspinner in the world at the time, spinning the ball a lot… and to me, the toughest shot, even on a good pitch, the toughest shot to play is an on-drive to a legspinner. You think about it: the ball is spinning that way and you are trying to drive the ball [the other] way. You've got to be absolutely precise with the way you play that shot. And here was Laxman, coming down three paces, probably three metres out the crease, getting to the ball and then just driving it wide of mid-on, off Shane Warne. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. It was a magnificent innings.

I remember talking to Shane Warne at the end of the series, and I said to him, "Mate, how do you think you bowled?" And he said, "Well, actually I didn't think that I bowled that badly." And I said, "You didn't, you just came up against the player who… I think that's the best playing of spin bowling that I have seen."

When you've got a player who can come out three metres, and then you go a little bit higher, and a little bit shorter with the next one trying to strand him, and the guy goes back on his stumps and pulls you through midwicket for four, that's not bad bowling, that's just damn good batting, excellent use of the feet.

You are never ever going to see a better example of good footwork than VVS Laxman when he got his 281 at Kolkata. It was magnificent.

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