Balaji was more popular in Pakistan than Imran Khan in 2004: Ashish Nehra

By: Sports Desk |

Published: April 19, 2020 11:16:57 pm

Lakshmipathy Balaji was India’s surprise weapon on the 2003/04 tour of Pakistan. (File Photo/AFP)

Lakshmipathy Balaji was the most popular player on India’s tour of Pakistan in 2003/04, Ashish Nehra said. The historic bilateral series might have seen a hat-trick from Irfan Pathan and a triple century from Virender Sehwag, but Nehra said Balaji’s popularity had reached such heights during that tour that he would probably be more popular than Imran Khan.

“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,” Nehra said on a Star Sports cricket show.

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“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.

Balaji, mostly batting at number 10, scored 45 runs at a breathtaking strike rate of 160.71 in the 5-match ODI series, with 36 of his 45 runs coming in boundaries (6 fours and 2 sixes). Balaji also took 6 wickets at an economy of under 6. Balaji finished as the joint-second highest wicket-taker along with Irfan Pathan in the Test series.

Balaji, who played 8 Tests, 30 ODIs and 5 T20Is between 2003 and 2012, has also said previously that the 2003/04 tour of Pakistan was one of his greatest moments.

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Balaji had said about that tour in a TNPL interview in 2016, “To be honest, I was embarrassed because I was the most famous player on that tour. There were so many big names, who looked after me like elder brothers, they were always there for me, and that tour helped me to get recognition.”

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