What VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid did against the Australians at Eden Gardens 16 years ago was irrational. It could never have been forecast. It will not be repeated. And it was perfect. © Getty Images

What VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid did against the Australians at Eden Gardens 16 years ago was irrational. It could never have been forecast. It will not be repeated. And it was perfect. © Getty Images

It was a Wednesday. Wednesday was my Elementary Statistics class day. I couldn’t afford to miss that class, because (a) it was fascinating, and (b) the teacher wouldn’t let me and was too smart to listen to lame excuses.

If I’d stayed at home, I wouldn’t have missed about an hour of the most improbable of events, 16 years ago on March 14. One that at once illustrated the principle of how something that had a non-zero probability could come to pass, no matter how small – and simultaneously how it was a once-in-a-lifetime event that even as it was happening, you knew wouldn’t happen again. One sample does not a good statistic make. But one sample can make for great memories.

March 14 is known as Pi Day. It’s composed of 3 and 14, you see. Pi Day would become Pious Day for those that followed the religion of cricket in India. Pirates’ Day for those who delighted in the most improbable heists. Pint Day for those who were old enough to celebrate it properly.

It’s still Pi Day for me, because Pi is an irrational number. You cannot arrive at it through manipulating two other numbers. You cannot find a repeating sequence in it. And it is essential to perfection in geometry. What VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid did against the Australians at Eden Gardens 16 years ago was irrational. It could never have been forecast. It will not be repeated. And it was perfect.

***

6.30am
These were the days before mobile phones – or before I had one at any rate. No snooze buttons then, so when the alarm rang you simply had to switch it off to grab the required extra minutes of shut-eye before slumbering into school.

Question: If you had two choices – go to the eatery round the corner to make up for having missed breakfast or cycle home because the break was at 9.30am, which is when the day’s play started – how fast would you cycle home?

9.40am to 10.30am
Well, it looks there is some fight left in India. This is good. With Laxman batting on a century overnight and Dravid, already thought of as becoming Mr Reliable in spite of a recent lack of form, together there was hope that an innings defeat could be avoided.

It’s strange to look back on it now and think that the most one could hope for at that stage was avoiding an innings defeat. Avoiding defeat wasn’t even considered an option. Forget about winning the match.

March 14 is known as Pi Day. It’s composed of 3 and 14, you see. Pi Day would become Pious Day for those that followed the religion of cricket in India. Pirates’ Day for those who delighted in the most improbable heists. Pint Day for those who were old enough to celebrate it properly.

Laxman and Dravid had begun well – but I couldn’t stay to watch. Statistics class time. Regretfully, we did not discuss improbability. It hadn’t crossed my mind that the day would be an improbable one.

12pm till close of play
Even with India successfully weathering the first session, hope was kept at bay.

Actually scratch that. It’s revisionist nonsense. I was too young then to keep hope anywhere but front, centre and screaming out loud. You always dream of your team making the most improbable of comebacks and only tell yourself they won’t, to insure against disappointment. Until they actually start to have that sort of day. Then all bets are off. And all non-Statistics classes are also off. (Apologies to former teachers who might be reading this, I wasn’t technically down with fever. Though my excitement did rise to fever pitch).

Later, we would read of how the two kept themselves hydrated during that epic stand. Later, we would know of the medical efforts that went behind keeping Laxman standing. Who would have thought he had a problem with his back when he was showing spine enough for ten teams? Later we would look back on Dravid’s animated gesturing towards the press box when he got 100 as that one moment when Dravid was un-Dravid-like but that made every fan watching want to roar with him.

That day passed in a dream-like state of VVS inside-out drives against Shane Warne. Laxman was the irresistible force, Dravid the immovable object. The paradox is what will happen if they collide. What happens when something else – Australians in this case – collides against them working together? A world-record streak ends. An impregnable team is broken. History finds an inflexion point.

But that day itself passed in a dream-like state of VVS inside-out drives against Shane Warne. Laxman was the irresistible force, Dravid the immovable object. The paradox is what will happen if they collide. What happens when something else – Australians in this case – collides against them working together? A world-record streak ends. An impregnable team is broken. History finds an inflexion point.

***

Between Indian cricket’s holy trinity of dates: June 25 1983, April 2 2011 or March 14-15 2001, there will always be the debate on which is the greatest. It depends on your definition of great. You can argue that 1983 gave incredible fillip to the cricketing revolution in India and led to the BCCI commanding the clout it does. Or you could say that from the point of view of fans who want an ‘I was there moment’ in the digital and television age, 2011 was supreme. For no Indian triumph before or since, has there been that much of public outpouring of manic delight.

If you had to go by instilling the mindset of a champion team though, of having players believe they could come back from any situation and that no match was lost, then nothing will match 2001. Before this they might have mouthed platitudes of ‘there’s still a long way to go in this game’ and ‘cricket’s glorious uncertainties’, but it was only after this that it would have hit home.

It was a day when all the truisms we had come to know about cricket were inverted, but with such finesse that you never even noticed. Laxman’s batting made numbers superfluous, but it is still the 281 that you instantly recall. It’s even in his Twitter handle. The great lament of a core of Dravid’s followers is that he was unsung, his contributions never properly appreciated. This may be true for a lot of other instances, but not this one. He was the support act in that partnership but do you ever find yourself mentioning one man without the other when speaking of that day?

One day’s play; 90 overs, 335 runs. Two men, and only two, batting. We’ll never see the like again. We wouldn’t have seen it ever – except two men decided to defy probability and embrace the improbability of immortality.