Former Indian bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji might have played just eight Tests, but his popularity during his time with the Indian team was such that fans still hold a soft corner for him.
On Thursday, Balaji announced his retirement from first-class career, and his former teammates and fans took to Twitter in appreciation to what has been a memorable career.
In a career that lasted almost 16 years, the Tamil Nadu pacer took 330 wickets in 106 first-class matches, which included 27 wickets in eight Tests at an average of 37.18.
Balaji’s highlight came back in 2004 during India’s tour of Pakistan where he was very popular with the local fans, which took many – including Balaji himself – by surprise. In a team which had the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, the Chennai-born cricketer received the biggest reception from the Pakistani public.
Just realised L Balaji played just 8 Tests. For a guy who has left back so many memories that seems like an awfully small number— Sidvee (@sidvee) September 15, 2016
Irfan Pathan, who was on that tour of Pakistan with Balaji, remembered the times when Pakistan fans sang for Balaji. Balaji, zara dheere chalo is a modified version of popular Bollywood song Babuji, zara dheere chalo.
I shared many beautiful memories with him one of them was in Pakistan 2004 series where crowd in Lahore chanting "Balaji Zara dheere chalo"— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) September 15, 2016
When we first met during India A tour Balaji tried 2 teach me English n I was trying to teach him Hindi,he was successful at it but not me;)— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) September 15, 2016
Former Indian opener Virender Sehwag, who is a very popular figure on Twitter, used the platform to send a heartfelt message to Balaji which roughly translates to “No one can smile all the time, but there was no answer to Balaji’s smile“.
Long-time team-mates at the domestic level Ravinchandran Ashwin, Dinesh Karthik and Subramaniam Badrinath also showered their praises on Balaji. Karthik and Badrinath called him Tamil Nadu’s greatest fast bowler.
Tamil Nadu cricket's legend calls it a day, so proud to have played alongside him.Thanks @Lbalaji55 for being an inspiration to all of us.— Ashwin Ravichandran (@ashwinravi99) September 15, 2016
Well done Bala on a wonderful career.He's arguably the best fast bowler TamilNadu has ever had and a brilliant career for team India as well— DK (@DineshKarthik) September 16, 2016
Former Indian team-mates – including current Indian coach Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kathik – also showed their appreciation towards Balaji on Twitter.
Wonderful career Bala! @Lbalaji55 well done! Congratulations on your contributions to cricket! All the best for the future.— Anil Kumble (@anilkumble1074) September 15, 2016
Congratulations @Lbalaji55 on your career??Wishing you lots of success in your future endeavours?— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) September 15, 2016
One of the most loving always smiling and very skilful bowler my brother @Lbalaji55 wonderful career..wishing you happiness going forward?— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) September 15, 2016
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