By T S Sudhir
A friend, Madhavan Narayanan, who is a wonderful wordsmith, posted this on his facebook page after VVS Laxman’s century in the third Test against Sri Lanka, that India won.
“Never since the Soorpanakha days has an Indian called Laxman made such a big wave in Sri Lanka.”
Indeed, in many ways, Laxman being in the forefront of India’s triumphant `face-off’ with the Island nation in the third Test was just in keeping with what his namesake in the most popular tale in Hindu mythology did.
Just like Laxman played second fiddle to Ram in the Ramayana, here too Laxman’s exploits were in the shadow of Sachin `Ram’esh Tendulkar becoming the most-capped Test player in world cricket. And an injured Laxman on day 5 even needed a Hanuman-like sprightly Virender Sehwag to be his `Sanjivini’ runner.
No one doubted that Laxman would do the job for India. For when the chips are down, Laxman has more often than not, come to the party.
But has India treated Laxman in a very very special manner? Far from it. Here is a man who has time and again in his career been taken for granted by the Indian cricket establishment. A middle order bat who was told to open the innings, if he wanted to wear India colours. It took a 281 against Australia for Eden Gardens and India to sit up and take note that Hyderabadi biryani was not the only treat the city of the Charminar had to offer.
Laxman’s problem has been that he has always had to fight for his place. With names like Sachin, Saurav, Rahul and Sehwag preceding him, Laxman invariably walked in with the scoreboard reading xx/4. Certainly not the best opportunity to play his natural game.
The situation would often be one of desperation with only bowlers to wag the tail at the other end. But what is special about Laxman is that despite being without illustrious company, he has done the job for his team and India with aplomb. A cricket writer in fact wrote : “There is a complete lack of anxiety about Laxman’s batting that steadies his partners.” India’s number 7,8,9,10,11 batsmen would agree.
A lot is made of Laxman’s running between the wickets and his fielding, two reasons used to shove him out of the Indian one-day team. I remember he was very upset when he was ignored the first couple of occasions, even prodding his home association in Hyderabad to shoot off a protest letter to the BCCI. That did not work as the selectors were determined that Laxman wouldn’t be one of the men in blue.
The insults, in hindsight, seemed to have motivated him to prove that when it comes to elegance, Laxman knows no Laxman rekha. VVS is a man in white who plays his game, technically correct and pure.
Laxman would admit himself that he is not the quickest of runners in the Indian team but can other rabbits and hares replicate this rock of Gibralter in the eleven. And those who poke fun at his fielding, forget Laxman is an excellent and very safe slip fielder with over 100 catches in his account. Agreed, one needs faster legs in the shorter format of the game but it is time selectors treated precious talent with respect instead of highlighting what they lack and not what they possess.
At 35, Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman probably has a couple of years more of cricket left. Yet, when his wrist is in motion, you would want him to go on and on and on forever. In full form, Laxman is poetry in motion. He is not a butcher, given to savagery and bloodshed on the 22 yards. That Laxman annihilates his opponent bowlers with surgical precision is perhaps not surprising considering both his parents are doctors.
After his 103 helped India draw the series 1-1, Laxman praised the dressing room atmosphere, terming it the best ever. That’s a huge statement from someone who has been part of the Indian XI since 1996 and has been a dependable soldier to commanders like Azhar, Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble and now Dhoni. But Laxman, who has been at the helm of affairs for Hyderabad and South Zone, was never even in the running to captain the country.
Laxman’s artistic batsmanship has often been seen as yet another link in the kind of skills Hyderabad bats have displayed over the years. M L Jaisimha and Mohammed Azharuddin being two names, Laxman is often compared with. Yet when the epitaph of his cricket career would be written, it would perhaps read : `A gentleman cricketer, who deserved to be treated better’.
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