| V.V.S. Laxman during his last Test at the Eden, in November 2011 |
Calcutta: A phenomenal average of 110.63 at Eden Gardens, an unbeaten hundred in each of his last three Tests here... V.V.S. Laxman had an extraordinary connect with the Eden and, clearly, will be missed during the first Test here after his retirement.
Laxman finished with 8,781 runs (average 45.97) in 134 Tests, the third most capped Indian. Besides, he featured in 86 ODIs (2,338 runs) in an international career spanning 16 years.
Despite a bereavement in the family, Laxman spoke to The Telegraph in the lead-up to the India-England Test.
The following are excerpts
Q At least one performance at Eden Gardens must rank very high on your list of most memorable moments as an India cricketer...
A Definitely... The 2001 Test against Australia. That entire series in fact.
Some words on your awesome connect with the Eden...
I was born in Hyderabad, but Eden Gardens gave me life where my career was concerned... Even before the 281 (against Australia), I’d scored 95 as an opener in the 1998 series against Australia... The Eden is, of course, a special ground and the fans there have made it more special.
What, then, would be your top-five moments?
No.1: My Test debut in Ahmedabad (November 1996) against South Africa... Naturally, it was a dream come true... I’d learnt of my selection from the media and I can’t describe my feelings then... As it turned out, India won that Test in thrilling fashion... I contributed 11 and 51.
No.2: The 2001 series against Australia, particularly the Test at Eden Gardens. That was the most competitive and tense series of my career... We lost the first Test, at the Wankhede, but won the next two — at the Eden and at the Chepauk... People largely talk of my 281 in the second innings, but Rahul Dravid’s contribution was no less important... Our partnership of 376 for the fifth wicket was very, very special.
[Laxman finished the three-Test series with 503 runs, at an average of 83.83.]
No.3: My 167 at the SCG in January 2000... It was in a losing cause, but remains an important innings in the context of my career... That was my first Test hundred and gave me the belief that I could do well at the international level... That I belonged to the big stage... People talk of being in their zone, well, I got the feeling during that innings. I hadn’t been picked for the tri-series which was to follow, so that was the last chance to make an impression in Australia. I wanted to play good cricket and to enjoy myself... I managed to do so and, in the bargain, was asked to stay back for the tri-series!
No.4: India becoming No.1 in Test cricket, at the Brabourne Stadium in December 2009... That was the culmination of all the hard work we’d been putting in from 2000... I contributed 62 and we defeated Sri Lanka by an innings. It was a highly emotional win for us.
No.5: The 2011 World Cup win... I wasn’t a part of the team, but out of sheer joy, I was almost in tears... I was watching the telecast of the final with my son Sarvajit and, seeing my emotions, he didn’t know what was happening... I told him he’d realise the significance of April 2, 2011, when he got a bit older... Physically, I wasn’t at the Wankhede, but I still felt a part of the winning group.
The last one... Is there a message for Calcuttans?
Sure... Eden Gardens was my home cricket-wise... It was because of the good wishes, prayers and the affection shown to me that I was able to do so well at the Eden... I hope the fans will continue to show their affection even though my India innings is over.