Laxman: 2001 Kolkata Test inspired us

Hyderabad: Stylish middle order batsman VVS Laxman, one of the architects of India’s historic win in New Zealand, on Tuesday credited India’s 1-0 series win to inspiration from the epic Kolkata Test of 2001 which helped them salvage a draw in the second match in Napier.

Laxman said when India was following on after being bowled out for 305 in reply to the Kiwi’s 619 in Napier, they recalled the Kolkata Test against Australia and opener Gautam Gambhir went on to score 137 in a 10 hours 43 minutes marathon innings.

Laxman himself remained unbeaten on 124 to help India salvage a draw in the second Test. India won the series 1-0 in New Zealand after 41 years after clinching the first Test and drew the remaining two matches.

“There’s obviously a lot of similarities. We always remember the Kolkata Test in such circumstances. It (Eden Test) was a historic one that continues to inspire and give confidence whenever you’re in trouble,” Laxman, who had scored a career best 281 to turn the table on Australia in the Eden Test, said.

The 34-year-old wristy batsman said India — now on the third spot with 118 rating points — said were close to becoming the number one side in the world.

“It was very satisfying for all of us to be a part of history. More importantly, the win gives more confidence now. We are very close to becoming number one in Tests which is our main aim. We are consistently winning Tests abroad,” Laxman said.

Joining the chorus in the praise of charismatic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Laxman said the young Indian skipper was the best leader he had player under.

“Dhoni is one of the best captains I played under,” said Laxman, who debuted under Sachin Tendulkar and then played under Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.

“He is so calm and composed. He exudes a lot of confidence. It’s a great feeling to play under him,” he said.

Laxman also lauded Gambhir, who was adjudged man-of-the-series in India’s series win over New Zealand.

“Gautam really played well. Especially, in the second innings of Napier Test. Batting for more than 10 hours requires a tremendous effort. It was great. He carved and then paced his innings well and played his natural game. It was a very important knock during that match.

“I always call him ‘run machine’. He has the appetite for runs. He was consistently doing well in domestic circuit and it was really pleasing to see him start performing at international level.”

In the Delhi duo of Virender Sehwag and Gambhir, India are “lucky to have a great openers who demoralises the opposition bowlers,” Laxman added.

The elegant Hyderabadi batsman also gave credit to coach Gary Kirsten and his support staff for creating a wonderful atmosphere in Team India dressing room.

“Also the way Gary (Kirsten) is coaching, credit should be given to him and the support staff (Paddy) Upton, (Venkatesh) Prasad, Robin (Singh), all of them have been a great help to all the players,” he said.

Laxman said India actually picked up confidence to defeat big teams after their epic 2-1 Test series triumph coming from a match down against Australia who were on a record 15 wins on the trot.

“It started changing in (March) 2001 after our historic win in the Eden Test. In fact, that series in totality was a turning point for the Indian cricket. Since then whenever we travel abroad, we have been doing very well.

“After that my first overseas tour was Zimbabwe and we won there. We won another Test in the West Indies… then in England in 2002. Slowly we started winning abroad. Thereafter, we were all very keen do well abroad.”

The 281 is very very special for Laxman but he does not want to rate any of his knocks.

Laxman, who rose to 15th spot in the ICC Test rankings for batsmen, said: “I am very pleased to see my performance. I contributed especially in both the innings (in Napier). I relish performing under pressure. It was one more good knock. Really glad that I could able to contribute for the team’s success it makes one happy.”

Another reason for success in New Zealand, Laxman said, was the pre-conditioning camp ahead of the Test series.

“It was good that we landed there almost 15 days before the start (of Test series). It was a huge help for most of us. How much you practice in Indian conditions, it’s difficult to adapt overseas. We got an opportunity to play first class matches there and it really helped us.”

With India’s next Test series — against Sri Lanka — more than four months away, the Deccan Chargers batsman in the Indian Premier League said he was looking forward to the T20 tournament in South Africa.

After IPL II, Laxman will play in English county Lancashire.

“My county stint for the next four months will keep me actively involved playing cricket till our next series against Sri Lanka,” he signed off.

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