Lakshmipathy Balaji is known for being praised by then-Pakistan Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf for his heroics during India's 2004 tour of Pakistan.
The lanky pacer made his Indian cricket team debut as a fast bowler in 2003.
Playing for Tamil Nadu since 2001, Balaji made his Test debut against New Zealand at Ahmedabad in 2003.
The right-arm pacer's highlight of his career came in 2004 during the India vs Pakistan series.
On that tour, India won the ODI series 3-2. Balaji played a significant part in the Indian team's historic victory 50-over series win. He bagged six wickets in 5 ODI matches at an average of 45.
During the Test series on the same tour, Balaji was amongst the top 3 wicket-takers for India. He accumulated 12 wickets at an average of 30.75.
Balaji was the most loved India cricketer eclipsing Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. He was the most talked about player after smashed the Pakistani pace attack — boasting of Shoaib Akhtar — to all parts of the ground.
Musharraf after the series praised Balaji's bowling and talked about his fighting qualities.
However, injuries took a toll on his international cricket career after the 2004 series. He made a comeback in Pakistan's 2005 tour of India, taking 5 wickets in the first innings. But he was out with injury for 3 years.
Balaji made his return to domestic cricket in 2007 and in 2008 he was instrumental in helping Tamil Nadu reach the Ranji Trophy semifinals,
The pacer was included in 30 probables for the World T20 tournament to be played in Sri Lanka in September 2012. Subsequently, he was selected in the final 15-member squad. He made his comeback to the Indian side in the second T20I against New Zealand at his home ground —Chennai.
Balaji was part of the Chennai Super Kings team for the first three seasons of the IPL.
On May 10, 2008, he picked up the first hat-trick of the IPL tournament in the match against Kings XI Punjab at Chennai, and rounded off the evening with a match-winning five-wicket haul. Subsequently, he went on to play for Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab in the domestic T20 league. He went on to win the IPL title with KKR in 2012.
After hanging his boots in 2016, Balaji was appointed as bowling coach and mentor for KKR. He was later appointed as the bowling coach for Chennai Super Kings in 2018.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)