Ashish Nehra heaped rich praises on Lakshmipathy Balaji and said that all he could remember from India’s 2003-04 tour of Pakistan was the performance of the Chennai-born pacer.
Former India cricketer Lakshmipathy Balaji and Pakistan’s Imran Khan (Courtesy- Twitter/Instagram)
- Balaji was hitting sixes left, right and centre: Nehra
- Balaji took 7 wickets in the Test series decider at Rawalpindi
- In the ODI series, Balaji scored at a strike rate of 160.71
Sending world’s fastest bowler Shoaib Akhtar’s deliver right into the stands, breaking his bat whilst batting, bowling his heart out in every game for India and a flashy smile, these are the few qualities which made Lakshmipathy Balaji a very popular figure in Indian cricket.
India’s 2003-04 tour of Pakistan was the highlight of Balaji’s career which was marred by series of injuries. The Chennai-born bowler played 8 Tests, 30 ODIs and 5 T20Is between 2003 and 2012.
Talking about the series former India pacer Ashish Nehra talked highly of Lakshmipathy Balaji. Nehra said that there were many highlights including Irfan Pathan’s hat-trick and Virender Sehwag’s triple century in Multan, but for him Balaji was the most impressive one on and off the field.
“Those six weeks he was hitting sixes left right and centre there was no doubt about it. Virender Sehwag triple hundred, Rahul Dravid double hundred, Irfan Pathan performance, all that is there but to me off the field, Pakistan, the nation as a whole and Laxmipathy Balaji in the dressing room,” Ashish Nehra told Star Sports.
“In the dressing room, Irfan can give you more stories, the only thing I remember is Laxmipathy Balaji on that particular tour. Maybe that time he was more popular than Imran Khan,” he added.
In the bilateral 5-match ODI series, Balaji, who would mostly bat at the number 10 position, scored 45 runs at a breathtaking strike rate of 160.71. 36 of his 45 runs came in boundaries (6 fours and 2 sixes).
That made him only 44 runs behind former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi in the series but his strike rate surpassed that of Afridi’s (121.91).
Balaji also took 6 wickets at an economy of under 6.
The Test series panned out in an even better way for Balaji as he finished as the joint-second highest wicket-taker along with Irfan Pathan. The best Pakistani bowler in the Test series was Shoaib Akhtar, who scalped 7 wickets.
In the series decider at Rawalpindi, Balaji was the lynchpin of Indian bowling. He hunted 4 Pakistan batsmen in the first innings to help India restrict the host to 224 and then in the second innings he sent Imran Farhat, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal back to the pavilion to help India clinch the series 2-1.
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