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Balaji was more popular than Imran Khan during 2004 Pakistan tour: Nehra

Tailender made some notable contributions with the bat lower down the order

Balaji was more popular than Imran Khan during 2004 Pakistan tour: Nehra PHOTO: AFP

Former pacer Ashish Nehra was part of India’s squad during their historic tour to Pakistan in 2003-2004, where the Men in Blue registered Test and One-day International (ODI) series victories over their arch-rivals.

While sharing stories from the memorable tour in Star Sports’ show Cricket Connected, Nehra said the Pakistan fans became so fond of Lakshmipathy Balaji, that the former pacer might have been more popular than Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Imran Khan during that tour.

“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,” said Nehra.

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Balaji made notable contributions with the bat lower down the order and even hit few sixes against Pakistan pacers, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami, during the ODI series.

“Those six weeks he [Balaji] 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 Laximathy Balaji in the dressing room,” Nehra added.

Nehra also recalled how the legendary Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad invited the Indian team to his home for dinner.

“I still remember Javed Miandad inviting all of us to his house and that food in his house was amazing, I still remember it,” he said.

Balaji represented India in eight Tests, 30 ODIs and five Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). The pacer bid farewell to his playing career in 2017 and has now ventured into cricket coaching.