The events of March 13-14, 2001, forever changed the life of VVS Laxman, who was born today. Up to then an underachiever with a Test average of only 28, Laxman stroked a magnificent, chanceless 281 in Kolkata when India looked set to go 0-2 down to Australia. It was at that time the highest Test score by an Indian, and it went a long way towards ending Australia's 16-match winning streak. Thanks to the support of Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh in particular, his 281 set up one of the greatest Test victories of all time. Not satisfied with that Aussie-bashing effort, he was at it again in Adelaide in 2003-04, when he scored 148 and supported Dravid superbly in another magnificent triumph. Between dazzling and sometimes workmanlike hundreds, Laxman suffered the frustration of numerous twenties and thirties and has lost his place in the one-day side. But he repeatedly saved his best for Australia: in the course of the double-hundred against them in Delhi in 2008, he became the second Indian after Sachin Tendulkar to score more than 2000 runs against Australia. And then in 2010, he led India to a one-wicket win against them in Mohali, scoring an unbeaten 73 while struggling with back pain. But after India lost eight Tests overseas in 2011 and 2012, there were calls for Laxman's axing. He was included in the home Tests against New Zealand in August 2012, but announced his retirement a week later.
Given their problems of finding a stable opening pair, it seems strange that West Indies didn't find a regular place for the dashing Sherwin Campbell, who was born today. He was dropped after their disastrous tour of Australia in 2000-01 and that was that. Campbell was a curious case, a swashbuckling chancer of an opener whose flashing blade made him a dangerous customer on any surface (his 82 was comfortably the highest score in the Lord's dogfight of 2000). But he was just as likely to die by that scything blade, and his run of scores in international matches in New Zealand in 1999-00 (170, 0, 0, 3, 51, 0, 0) were symptomatic of the man.
The most underwhelming match ever contested for US$20 million. The Stanford Superstars, made up of West Indies players, thumped England - bowled out for 99 - in Antigua by ten wickets in a T20 that lasted 32.3 overs. The brainchild of Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire who bankrolled the tournament, and the England board, the Stanford 20/20 for 20 was part of a deal to play five matches for $100 million. But after Stanford was later charged with "a fraud of shocking magnitude" by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the USA, the England and West Indies boards broke ties with him.
Birth of a former Bangladesh captain who led his team in 15 ODIs in the mid-1990s. Akram Khan's biggest achievement was the ICC Trophy victory in 1997 which earned Bangladesh a place in the 1999 World Cup. As vice-captain during that tournament, Akram played Obelix to Aminul Islam's Asterix, twirling a menhir-sized bat for 42 in the controversial win over Pakistan. His technique was limited but he compensated with a good eye, and was at his most effective when lofting spinners over the top. He retired in 2003 after playing 44 ODIs and eight Tests and went on to become a national selector.
The birth of the man credited with being the first to experiment with round-arm bowling. Tom Walker was fast, so much so that a law was passed against his "jerking" as he bowled. He took 41 wickets and scored 1111 runs in 46 first-class matches between 1801 and 1810.
Birth of England's youngest captain. Monty Bowden played only two Tests, both in South Africa in 1888-89, but in the second, in Cape Town, he was captain, aged only 23, in the absence of the injured Aubrey Smith. Bowden and Smith stayed behind in South Africa after that to form a stockbroking firm, before Bowden travelled to Rhodesia with Cecil Rhodes' Pioneer Column. He died there in 1892, still only 26, after falling from his cart. He was taken to Umtali Hospital (basically no more than a mud-hut), where he died. Prior to being buried in a coffin made out of whisky cases his body had to be protected from prowling lions.
Pakistan won the Nehru Cup after a thrilling victory over West Indies in the final in Calcutta. Chasing 274 after Desmond Haynes had batted through for 107, Pakistan kept up with the rate throughout their reply, with Salim Malik cracking 71 off only 62 balls. It eventually came down to the final over: three were needed off two balls when Wasim Akram swung his first delivery (from Viv Richards, who'd bowled his big guns out and had to take the last over himself) high over midwicket for six to finish things off in style.
Birth of Craig Serjeant, a tall, powerful, leg-side-favouring batsman who made his Test debut at Lord's in June 1977. He had already gained a reputation as a hard-hitting middle-order player, and 730 runs at 66.36 in his first season, followed by four fifties in the five matches before the opening Test, won him selection. That form continued at Lord's where he made 81, but he struggled thereafter and passed fifty only once in his next 17 Test innings. He broke that poor run with 124 against West Indies in the third Test in Georgetown in 1977-78, and solid performances in the next two Tests seemed to have cemented his position. But he started the following summer poorly and never regained his place.