Thursday, November 6, 2008

India's Laxman vows 'special' 100th Test

Indian batsman Venkatsai Laxman on Wednesday said he was hoping for a "special" performance in his 100th Test against Australia, the team he has smashed more centuries past than any other.

Laxman has scored six of his 13 hundreds against Australia, including two double-centuries, and is only the second Indian after Sachin Tendulkar to have made more than 2,000 runs against them.

"I have always enjoyed playing against them (Australia),"
said Laxman, who on Thursday will become the eighth Indian to play 100 Tests.

"It gives you a lot of satisfaction to do well against the top side in the world. They have always been been number one since I started playing international cricket.

"It's been an amazing journey. It's a great moment for me and for all the people associated in this journey of mine. I hope I can make it special."

Laxman's liking for the Australian bowling began in 2000 when he hammered a robust 167 in Sydney for his maiden Test hundred.

His best came the following year at Kolkata when he hit 281 under pressure to turn the second Test against Steve Waugh's Australia upside down, eventually setting up India's win after the follow-on.

He looks at his fluent best against Australia, having been involved in four massive partnerships against them.

The middle-order batsman put on 376 with Rahul Dravid in 2001 (Kolkata), 353 with Tendulkar in 2004 (Sydney), 303 with Dravid in 2003 (Adelaide) and 278 with Gautam Gambhir last month in Delhi.

Laxman, 34, is a spectators' delight when on song, with timing being his hallmark. His wristy shots and impressive footwork have often reduced the opposition to a state of helplessness.

Yet, he has never felt as secure as his renowned middle-order teammates -- Tendulkar, Dravid and Sourav Ganguly -- since making his Test debut in 1996 against South Africa at home.

He was often criticised for not converting solid starts into big innings in the early stages of his career, taking three years to score his first Test century.

Laxman was also pushed up and down the batting order in the initial years, his first hundred coming as an opener.

He was upset when the media reported after a Test series defeat in Sri Lanka in August that it was time for veterans, including Anil Kumble, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly, to make their retirement plans.

"It hurts when people criticise,"
Laxman said after scoring a double-century in the third Test in Delhi last week.

"Don't over-respect us, but we don't want people downgrading our contributions for so many years. Everyone keeps advising us to retire, but each of us is mature and responsible enough to make his own decision."

Kumble retired after the last Test while Ganguly has already announced he will quit after Thursday's match.

The hosts lead 1-0 in the four-Test series following their 320-run win in the second match in Mohali. The Tests in Bangalore and Delhi were drawn.

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