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Laxman answers critics with fine 50

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November 23, 2007 19:13 IST

He has played one of the best knocks in India's Test history, but every time VVS Laxman steps out to bat in a Test match it looks like he has to prove himself all over again.

- Laxman saves India the blushes

That knock of 281, which helped India register the epic win Australia despite following-on was six years back, but even today Laxman is capable of turning a match on it's head even though not with the same flair.

Before the start of the first Test against Pakistan, there were calls for Yuvraj Singh's inclusion at the expense of Laxman.

The claims were because of left-hander's form in one-dayers and Twenty20 and in your face all the time through hundreds of ad campaigns.

- Scorecard | Images

Captain Anil Kumble knew how much experience counts in Tests and that a player of the status of Laxman cannot be just dumped in favour of someone, who is yet to make a mark in Tests. It was therefore befitting that it was Laxman who led India's rescue efforts with a fighting half-century in India's first innings on Friday.

Despite scoring 205 runs in three Tests in England at an average of more than 50, many questioned Laxman's inclusion for this Test and even Laxman himself was surprised.

"It is always when your captain has got faith in you. It is really surprising [that my place is being questioned] because I had a really good series in England where I averaged more than 50 and people still doubt my place," Laxman said after the second day's play.

"I really don't think about the things that I cannot control. I would like to play both forms of the game. I was very happy with the way I performed in England and I hope that the team recognises my performance in England.

"Apart from that I really don't take any pressure because some things are not in my control."

With India precariously placed at 93 for 5 after lunch on the second day, Laxman brought all his experience into play and in the company of the swashbuckling Mahendra Singh Dhoni rescued India with a 115-run partnership.

"The situation was definitely tense because we lost three quick wickets after lunch. So it was very important that we put up a partnership and I am very happy we did that," the 33-year-old.

Dhoni was out stumped off Danish Kaneria for 57, while Laxman is still holding out bravely on the same score.

The stylish Hyderabadi admitted that he relishes batting in such situations, adding that this would rank one of the important knocks in his career.

"I always feel I would like to play under such situations whenever the team requires. I always love such situations and I am happy that I have done well in this game.

"I was happy that me and Dhoni put up that partnership, it was very important at that stage of the game. It was one of the most important knocks of my career."

Laxman's last century came almost 17 months back in the West Indies and he would be keen to post another here and take India to a good first innings total.

"It is important to get as much lead as possible in the first innings and I think that will be crucial. As the match goes on the wicket will deteriorate and will definitely become low and slow so it will be very important that we take a good first innings lead," he said.

Laxman said that with the wicket deteriorating rapidly, it was important that India tries to get as much runs as possible in their first essay.

"The wicket is still low and slow so it is very important that we get off to a good start tomorrow morning. The first session will be very crucial and if we can take a good lead then we can put them under pressure. As of now, the match is equally poised and tomorrow's morning session will be very crucial.

"Definitely it will be a tough challenge [to bat in the fourth innings]."

Laxman also reserved special praise for Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who claimed two for 36 in a fiery spell of fast bowling.

"I think we lost quick wickets after lunch. It was good swing bowling because Shoaib, Sami and Tanvir really bowled well and I think all of them [wickets] were wicket-taking deliveries. It was unfortunate that Sachin got out in that fashion. Getting used to Tanvir's style was challenging, but I thought Shoaib bowled the best among them."

Laxman admitted that Dhoni's positive approach proved the key, but believes his wicket fell at the wrong time.

"It was good to see the way Dhoni played. He is a positive player and he has done the same even tomorrow and it was good that we put up a partnership. If he had been there at the end of the day then it would have put a lot of pressure on Pakistan tomorrow morning. His wicket fell at the wrong time."

It may not have been a Very Very Special knock from Laxman, but certainly it has proved to be a Very Very priceless knock for India.

And hopefully in the next match he bats with no sword hanging over his head.

Harish Kotian in New Delhi