Off-spinner Jason Krejza, who played both his Tests for Australia in 2008, recalled how Michael Clarke’s words inspired him to pick up a dream haul of 12 wickets in his maiden Test against India, which included a ripper to dismiss VVS Laxman.
Krejza, who last played first-class cricket in 2013, was Australia’s lone specialist spinner on his debut against India in 2008, featuring under Ricky Ponting’s captaincy in the fourth Test of the series in Nagpur, against India’s vaunted batting line-up.
On a deteriorating Nagpur pitch, Krejza couldn’t make much of an impact in his opening spell, which left the captain looking for answers and seeking help from Clarke, who later went on to succeed Ponting as Australia’s Test skipper.
“At the start of the Test, I started getting taken apart a little bit because the Indians went quite hard at me. I didn’t start doubting myself but those thoughts almost start creeping into your mind,” Krejza told ESPNcricinfo’s The Cricket Monthly.
“But when Shane Watson got Murali Vijay, I remember hearing Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting talking and Punter was going, ‘What do I do?’ and Clarkey just said, ‘Mate, you’ve got to back your spinner, just bowl him.’ When I heard that I was pretty sure I’m going to get a decent crack here to find my feet and keep bowling.”
With pitch turning and confidence booming, Krejza tore through India’s starry line-up, picking up eight wickets in the first innings, including a stunner to dismiss VVS Laxman, an off-break that viciously turned off the pitch. The ball hit the deck well outside off stump and turned in sharply to sneak past the gap between Laxman’s bat and pad, taking a bit of an inside edge along to rattle the leg stump.
“By that stage, there was a little bit of rough, and I was thinking, ‘Right, I’ve got some assistance now, I can start trying to throw it out into the rough and let it spin.’ We set the fields for that, with quite a straight cover. I call it [the Laxman delivery] a fluke because I think it was a fluke, like Warney’s ball of the century was a fluke.
“In my whole career, you could probably count them on two hands, those deliveries where everything just comes out perfectly.”