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banner Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 17:39 GMT
Laxman's gamble pays off
VVS Laxman on his way to a hundred in Calcutta
Laxman puts away a short ball at Eden Gardens
BBC Sport Online profiles India's record-breaking batsman VVS Laxman.

Refusing to open the innings in a Test match when you are not certain of your place in the side is a brave decision.

Some might consider it foolhardy.

But it paid off in Calcutta for Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman. And how.

Over the course of two hot days at Eden Gardens Laxman has defied the world's best team to record the highest score by an Indian in a Test match.

On and on he went. The mighty Glenn McGrath, scourge of Tendulkar and Lara, was seen off - the great Shane Warne suffered a day he his rarely experienced since he took his first tentative steps in Test cricket.

Laxman scores a hundred against Australia at the SCG in 1999
Celebrating his maiden Test century in Sydney

Shortly after tea on the fourth day Laxman passed Sunil Gavaskar's 236 not out made against West Indies 18 years ago in Madras.

The first Indian 250 soon followed and it came as something as a surprise when he was out for 281 on the final morning.

Laxman has developed a cardinal fear of the opener's slot after getting a raw deal during his international career.

A victim of the selectors' revolving-door policy, he was twice discarded after being pushed up from the middle-order as India experimented with a variety of openers.

When his chance came again, he did not want to become a sacrificial lamb by being made to open, with India again struggling to find a reliable pair to negotiate the new ball.

Regaining his Test berth against Australia, Laxman took the unprecedented step of stating his preference for the middle order, even if it meant being left out of the final eleven to accomodate a fifth bowler.

  Highest Indian Test scores
281 VVS Laxman
v Australia 2001
236no S Gavaskar
v W Indies 1983-4
231 V Mankad
v N Zealand 1955-6
227 V Kambli
v Zimbabwe 1992-3
224 V Kambli
v England 1992-3

Asked by captain Sourav Ganguly if he would like to open the Indian innings to ensure a place in the side, Laxman politely declined.

Dilemma

It was a bold move as he had played most of his Test cricket in that position and hit his maiden Test century - a stylish 167 against Australia at Sydney last year.

Laxman's insistence on a middle-order berth placed the team management in a dilemma, but he has justified their faith even though it resulted in the omission of a fifth bowler.

The move seemed to have backfired during Australia's first innings at Eden Gardens with India lacking the firepower to run through an Aussie tail that wagged long enough to enable Steve Waugh make his 25th Test century.

A fifth bowler, the argument went, would have given the attack more variety and the skipper more bowling options.

But 26-year-old Laxman emerged as a new national hero as he cut, drove and pulled his way into the record books.

VVS Laxman ducks a short ball at Adelaide
Avoiding a Glenn McGrath bouncer

Having shown a fetish for big scores with nine centuries, including two triple hundreds, in 12 domestic matches this season, Laxman was under pressure to do well.

Living up to his promise that he would write his own destiny, Laxman said: "This innings is close to my heart because of the precarious position we were in.

"All the Australians bowled well. They are class bowlers without exception."

Laxman relished being promoted up the batting order to number three after a fighting 59 in the first knock.

"Number three is is my lucky position," he said. "I often bat at this slot for Hyderabad and South Zone."

Now, even more than before, the opener's position will remain a taboo.

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13 Mar 01 |  India v Australia
Laxman's lucky number
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