E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As the cricket ball swings or spins towards slip and gully after leaving the bowler’s hand, every batsman with a coaching manual in his kit either prepares to shoulder arms and let it go past to the wicketkeeper, or cut and drive it in the direction of cover and cover-point.
Alone among modern batsmen, Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman aka V.V.S. Laxman, had the unique gift to whip it to exactly the opposite direction—between squareleg and midwicket—as spectators and viewers ooh-ed and aah-ed while the bowler and fielders suddenly adjusted their field of vision.
Verily, he was, in a manner of speaking, the world’s greatest leg-break “batsman”, those supper wrists turning anti-clockwise as a matter of course.
If Hyderabad was famous for its biryani, so was it for V.V.S. Laxman’s silken grace while he was at the crease.
He lacked Rahul Dravid’s concentration, Sachin Tendulkar’s power and Virender Sehwag‘s devil-may care approach, but each time when the team was in dire stress he delivered. And how!
Granting every batsman will have to pack up and go one day, what made VVS the special player that he became, a legend in his own way?
# Laxman had supreme confidence in his ability for he become the ‘Rescue Man’ time and again. He revelled in adverse and completely hopeless situations like the one in Eden Gardens in 2001. The tougher the opponent, the tougher the situation, it was more or less certain Laxman would deliver.
Australians by nature are tough as nails and never give an inch. It is this ability to take them on his terms that they came to admire in Laxman immensely. In him, they saw one of their own. That is why his 281 after being put to follow-on will rank one of the finest ever seen in Test cricket.
# Laxman had to do the recue act most of the times with lower-order batsmen and more often with tail-enders. He gave them the confidence and it is in his company some astonishing draw or victories that have been achieved.
Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble all brought famous wins with Laxman at the other end battling the opposition and also battling his perennial back ache.
# Laxman ‘s batting was sheer poetry in motion. You could see Keats and Shelley guiding with him when he was on a song. Even when India was losing a match in Australaia, his 167 littered with boundaries, made the Aussies feel they had lost the match.
# Laxman right from his Ranji Trophy days had the habit of chalking up triple centuries in quick time. He never occupied crease for the sake of it, never doddered around eighties looking for the hundred, never clobbered a cricket ball. Yet runs came in quick time, sheer timing and placements doing the job.
# Laxman after Dravid was the best slip fielder in the side. Most of our fast bowlers had a reason to be thankful as they knew they had safe pair of hands in second slips waiting for the snicks.
Nobody will ever know why such a one-man rescue team, who represented India for 17 years was ignored when it came to the World Cup. Their reasoning was he was far too slow. Those who are singing hosannas of him today themselves saw to him he was dropped from side in favour of Dinesh Mongia.
He had a poor tour in England and Australia but so did almost the entire team save Dravid in England. The so-called one-day experts hardly measure up to exacting standards of Test cricket and it would have been wiser to have Laxman around to guide the youngsters at least in the home series.
What made Laxman who was selected to play against New Zealand and who should have played against Australia and England at home suddenly announce his retirement? Did Krishnamachari Srikkanth tell him he was required for only series against New Zealand?
Did any of the cricketer turned commentators question his usefulness to the team anymore?
Why did Laxman decide not to play even in front of his home crowd in Hyderabad and quit in a huff?
We will never know.
Now it looks like it was a farewell match he played in Mysore when he scored 169 just 10 days back while playing in Shafi Darashah Tournament for Hyderabad against Karnataka.
Good bye, VVS. You brought that rare grace and charm that could have only come from the land of Jaisimha and Azhar. The days of wristy flicks are over in Indian cricket.
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