The Indian cricket team has risen in international as a mighty force in ODI cricket in the early years of this new millennium. The combination of Coach John Wright and captain Sourav Ganguly made India a force to reckon with in international cricket.
Talented young stars like Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra had been producing rollicking performances in world cricket.
India has already reached the ICC Champions Trophy twice, but could not win the final. But, that did not change India’s performance on overseas conditions. Sourav Ganguly’s decision to make Virender Sehwag as an opening batsman was a historic decision.
An inform Sehwag could alone destroy the opposition bowling line up. The series is well remembered for the opener’s 309 at Multan.
Captain Sourav Ganguly and his boys were touring Pakistan in 2004 after an outstanding 2003 Wolrd Cup performance with manager cum coach John Wright, who was India’s first foreign coach.
India injected young players like Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji in the team. The bilateral series between archrival India and Pakistan materialized after 14 years of cricket dry. India had won the historic three Tests and five ODIs series at Pakistani soil. In the wake of political and diplomatic fiasco between India and Pakistan, the series drew attention from all quarters of the lives across the borders.
After the series, India’s swing bowler Laxmipathy Balaji was regarded as the “black Don Bradman” of world cricket by coach John Wright.
The series is golden memorabilia in the history of Indian cricket for many reasons. The first was Indian bowling line up, who played an instrumental role in India’s 5 run victory at Karachi National stadium. India scored 349. Pakistan were 5 run short of the target. Indian fans erupted into vociferous celebration.
Pakistan restored the parity in the series in the next match at Rawalpindi and took the lead at Peshawar. India kept the thrill on of this rollar coaster series. In the fourth ODI, India chased down Pakistan’s 293 with 30 balls remaining. Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif were unbeaten on their respective score 76 and 71.
In the fourth ODI bowler Balaji’s delivery to Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul, Haq has changed the course of the match. Inzamam has scored 123 off 121 balls. Indian fans were scratching their hair. But, Balaji came up with a brilliant piece of delivery to uproot the off stump of Inzamam.
A set, classy Inzamam ul Haq was beaten in the air. India squared the sereis 2-2 and eventually won the series 3-2. VVS Laxman, who came in place of Hemang Badani and scored a brillaint 107.
Laxmipathy Balaji had tromented Pakistan through out the series. His leathal inswinger had won the heart of Pakistan fans.He was swining the ball in the air. In the fourth match at Qadaffi, Stadium Balaji hit a six off Shoaib Akhtar coming at No. 8 during India’s chase. His bat was broken while hitting the six, but the bat is now an antique of the series.
Suddenly, Balaji has become a cult figure across the border. Pakistan fans were fascinated by his swing bowling. They even chanted his name in the stands during the Test match as well.
“I have never got this kind of reception anywhere. Not even at home. It’s clear that the people in Pakistan like me a lot, because they’ve been chanting “Balaji, Balaji” in the stands, and there are many songs based on my name. I was very surprised when it happened for the first time, but I must say it was a great encouragement for me. That people view you like this makes a huge difference,” Balaji admitted.
In 2004 when Balaji was asked about the broken bat, he said, “I’ve got it autographed by various members of the team.” Coach John Wright has written, “To the next great black Bradman,” so you can see my batting is causing a few laughs in the team”, Balaji said.
Bajali had taken 7 wicktes in ODI and 12 wicktes in three Test matches.
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