Dravid rates Laxman's 281 as one of India's greatest knocks

Rahul Dravid contributed most to the legend of V.V.S Laxman, for, he was the other half of the iconic '281' association at the Eden Gardens.

VVS Laxman , Anil Kumble and Srinath during the launch of Laxman's book '281 and Beyond'.   -  Bhagya Prakash

As the title suggests, V.V.S Laxman’s 281 and beyond is much more than that one epochal innings against Australia in Kolkata. On a crisp winter evening in the city on Thursday, amidst a glittering array of stars, cricket aficionados got to experience the best of it.

“The whole idea behind having the book launch in five cities was to share it with those who were involved in this journey,” Laxman said. “How privileged am I to have E.A.S. Prasanna sir, Vishy sir [G.R. Viswanath], World Cup winner Roger Binny sir here… In fact 1983 was the turning point in my life. I had hoped that one day I could also do something like that.”

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On stage were Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, with whom Laxman shared his best cricketing days. Dravid, in particular, contributed most to the legend of Laxman, for, he was the other half of that iconic association at the Eden Gardens.

“I had the best seat in the house to watch probably the greatest Indian innings ever played,” said Dravid. “Both in terms of the context it was played in and the consequences it had.”

“Generally I don’t like watching much of my own batting. But I have a tape of that 281 and some of the shots he played were phenomenal. The innings obviously defines him more. But that partnership probably defines our relationship the best.”

Kumble wasn’t part of that series as he was recovering from a shoulder surgery. His yearning to watch a similar partnership unfold was however fulfilled not long after.

“I never watched that live as I was travelling back to India from South Africa after my rehab,” Kumble said. “When it started happening in Adelaide in 2003, I wanted it to be like Calcutta so that I could watch it. And I was fortunate and probably also had the gut feeling that we would win.”

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If that feat in 2001 had changed the way an Indian side looked at any adverse situation, the acrimonious Sydney Test in 2008, known for the infamous ‘monkeygate’ scandal, achieved the same off the field, felt Kumble, the country’s captain then. Laxman even recalled with great respect the role played by Kumble, ‘the diplomat’, when players, himself included, wanted the tour called off.

The occasion was not without banter though and the jovial Srinath was central to this — be it in narrating Laxman’s love for pasta, or the alleged ‘ragging’ of Laxman during his debut, or how visiting Indian teams touring the West Indies would often land up uninvited in the houses of the diaspora in search of a vegetarian meal.

Above all, Srinath said, was the confidence bowlers had when Laxman and Dravid were manning the slip cordon. It was indeed 281 and beyond.