Kolkata, Nov 15 : V. V. S. Laxman's love affair with Eden Gardens has been on for over a decade now. And it is still going strong. The stylish willower scripted his fifth hundred - an unbeaten 176 - in his 10th Test match at the iconic venue Tuesday.
Laxman now has amassed 1,217 runs at the ground, including Tuesday's sublime knock in the ongoing second cricket Test against the West Indies.
His average is an astounding 110.63 which is third in the roll of players with at least 1,000 runs at a particular venue.
The incomparable Don Bradman leads with a figure of 128.53 in Melbourne. Followed by fellow Australian Greg Chappell at 111.77 in Brisbane.
"It is a very special ground, definitely a very very special ground. It feels great. Especially getting a hundred for India. It's not anything different today," he said after the day's play.
Laxman is not sure what eggs him on to succeed match after match at the Eden. "But I have always enjoyed batting at the Eden Gardens. Not just batting, all the Test matches I have played here, I have really enjoyed playing here."
"It's a great ground with a lot of history. Probably the spectators, even though they were not a lot in this Test match, make it special, the people of Kolkata make it special and it is a special ground for all of us."
Among the Indian players who played at the Eden, the one who is closest to Laxman is former captain and another stylish Hyderabadi Mohd. Azharuddin, whose career ended in controversial circumstances for his alleged involvement in cricket betting.
Azharuddin has also hit five centuries averaging 107.50 at this venue.
Laxman, a touch artist in the Azharuddin mould, struck a chord among the spectators here with his epic 281 in the March, 2001 Test against Australia, that propelled India to a fairy-tale win from a seemingly hopeless situation. The knock has become a part of the cricketing folklore.
"Whenever I come here, all of you remind me about the 2001 Test match. That Test gives a lot of inspiration to me and all the guys who were involved in that game, So it's always a great feeling coming back to the Eden," he said.
An authoritative innings of 154 not out against the Carl Hooper-led West Indies the very next year and another unconquered 112 opposite arch-rivals Pakistan in 2007, have made Laxman a darling of the passionate Eden crowd. Last but not the least, he made an unbeaten 143 against South Africa last year that enabled india to canter to an innings victory and retain their place as the world's top Test team.
But before all these heroics, the gentleman-cricketer had a heartbreak of sorts against Mark Taylor's team in 1998, when he perished behind the wicket only five runs short of a well-deserved hundred.
Laxman was surprised at the abysmally low turnout at the Eden. "It was surprising, even during the One-dayer against England. I saw it on TV. We always felt that Kolkata was one place where you had a lot of support for Test match cricket." (IANS)