Second God Of Cricket – To mark the Young Master’s 50th birthday, we look back at his incredible two months in charge of the Australian team in 1998, focusing on the three-Test series in India and his battle with Shane Warne.

Adam Burnett is the features editor. He has written for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Saturday Paper and Wisden Monthly.

Second God Of Cricket

Second God Of Cricket

VVS Laxman was eight Tests into his memorable career for India when he was called back into the playing XI for the second match of the series against Australia in March 1998.

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From the fringes of the motley batting line-up, Laxman had for weeks been watching the preparations – and later watching – of a young man 18 months his senior, considered the greatest player in the best in the world.

In fact, like other Indians, he watched everything Sachin Tendulkar did for almost a decade.

Laxman explains: “I personally wanted to play for the country, I watched all the games played in India, which were broadcast in India. “Since (Tendulkar) started in India (in November 1989), this event has really taken the whole country, because at the age of 16 he is playing against the powerful Pakistan, and doing so in such a way that Batting is not afraid of anything … no doubt he had talent, but what really impressed me was the confidence and aggressiveness he showed as a batsman. It was something which I really liked.

Laxman first met Tendulkar four years ago. While the Little Master was already strutting his stuff on the full international stage, his future Indian teammate was shining for the national Under-19 team against Australia. In three matches, the fiery youngster dominated the ‘Test’ series with scores of 88no, 5, 151no, 77, 36, and 84, and in the process caught the attention of Tendulkar.

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Laxman remembers: “Then I met Sachin at a match in Hyderabad.” He knew about my games, the way I hit. He used to follow those youngsters. grow as players. So it was a very encouraging conversation.”

Within three years, Laxman was making his Test debut against the Proteas, with Tendulkar as their captain.

“The first experience, you were afraid to share the dressing room with him, but Sachin himself would break the ice,” he recalls. “He’s the one who will make any guy feel comfortable in the locker room.”

Second God Of Cricket

Half a year to start was enough for the 22-year-old Laxman to visit South Africa for the return series in January 1997, but the tour ended in heartbreak when he had to retire from hearing. pain In the third Test in Johannesburg. , It was also Tendulkar who put him at ease.

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“I have broken my left arm and am out of the series,” says Laxman. I couldn’t control my emotions and I was sitting in the dressing room with tears streaming down my face. All the players came. “

“When everyone had gone and I was alone, Sachin came to me, and what he said was amazing. He said that I will have a wonderful career, because it is not many young people would have made the difficult journey to South Africa… But here I was depressed and didn’t want to go back to India.

“He said I had a mindset that I wanted to compete with the best, and he felt that mindset would serve me well in my career.

Around the time Laxman felt his career was beginning, thousands of miles from Sydney, the off-spinner was already coming to terms with his fate.

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Blues tweaker Gavin Robertson was selected for Pakistan’s ODI tour of Sri Lanka in the spring of 1994, and started playing with his state team-mates and long-time friends Mark Taylor and Mark and Steve Waugh.

Robertson has been on the domestic circuit since 1987, and was considered an economical player, if not a game winner. However his national representation was over quickly, and after playing the last two matches

In the famous 1994-95 one-day series against Australia A, he made five appearances for New South Wales before finding himself out of the country.

Second God Of Cricket

“I didn’t have a contract,” he says. “I was like a mess. Five weeks after playing those finals I was put on the Parramatta Centrelink line, and three weeks after Centrelink I wasn’t competitive at all.

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“Monday to Friday, I would get a copy and a newspaper, and hide in Parramatta Park all day. I only did that for four months.”

Robertson found his purpose again and moved on to a new job, and when time allowed, he continued to train in New South Wales, often in the evenings. Over the next two summers, he was selected to play eight one-day matches for the Blues, but his big break came when leg-spinner Stuart McGill was ruled out for the Sheffield Shield. in Adelaide a week before Christmas in 1997.

The then 31-year-old ran through South Australia in his second innings, taking match figures of 7-92 to help the Blues to a 10-wicket win.

“And then I went back to work,” he smiles. “Six weeks later I was selected again to go to Australia.”

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This time, Robertson was on board for a one-week, four-game tour of New Zealand. He played every match and finished the series as the leading wicket-taker with seven.

According to Robertson, Test captain Taylor and Steve Waugh were the men behind the selection, with McGill also named in the squad.

“Those two are the ones who put me in,” he continued. “They said they were looking for someone who could bat in Warney’s (Shane Warne) side, and that was the only reason why I was selected.

Second God Of Cricket

All talk of the three-Test series has focused on the battle between Tendulkar and Warne. It was the market’s dream: the 24-year-old Indian batsman against Australia’s blond-haired Bansler, who spins hard.

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Warne stunned South Africa with 11 wickets in the Third Test in Sydney, passing 300 in the green, while Tendulkar had 58 Tests and 14 hundreds in his impressive career, the highest in most of the ICC. stability. 10 batsmen from the age of 19.

However there had not been a Test match between the two since the Australian summer of 1991-92, and Warne’s appearance was a poor start in Sydney (where Tendulkar made 148no).

“Tendulkar vs Warne was considered the heavyweight fight of the decade,” Warne wrote in his autobiography.

Although he often played it, Tendulkar knew exactly where all the eyes were, so he set out to do his homework like a diligent student.

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He said, “I have always said that this series is a game between two teams, not two people, although I knew in my heart that this was a very important game against Warne.”

“Knowing that I was going to face him soon, I studied Warne’s bowling carefully in that (South Africa) series. delivery.” If he batted in the traditional style of the side.

“As a result, I decided to open my position a little bit for Warne and wait a little bit outside the leg stump. I planned to play him even later at the crease.

Second God Of Cricket

“Having worked on this concept, I now needed to practice against the deliveries that Warne used when he was under pressure.

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“I started training at the end of January, a month before the series, and asked the best spinners available in Mumbai to give me leg stump outside the round wickets. I was confident What was Warne going to do? Over the wicket, I was able to attack him.

“This whole process in Mumbai… was very good, and when the Australian players came to India in February 1998, I felt ready to face Warne.”

The cat and mouse game started when the Australian team was surprised to see Tendulkar play for Mumbai in their first match of the tour. There were doubts that the hosts would keep their trump cards away from Warne & Co., lest they find an area of ​​weakness to focus on during the Review.

Tendulkar was clearly unfazed by such a prospect, and after Australia won the toss and batted on the first day to reach 8-305, the overnight notice meant that the time of small stars was about to arrive.

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Queensland bowler Adam Dale, who was making his debut for Australia, found two ways to take the wicket of opener Sulakshan Kulkarni.

Dale didn’t concede a run until his 27th delivery, but eventually, Warne came in as the first change and was immediately put into what later became a well-intentioned project. .