Retirements are always bitter sweet and Laxman’s farewell is
no different. It is bitter as Indian
cricket is losing one of its most loyal servants – one who has served selflessly
for over a decade and a half – and it is this that makes this a difficult pill
to swallow. However at the same time as
farewells go, it is a time to celebrate the career of Laxman and be grateful to
a man who has helped transform Indian cricket.
VVS Laxman announcing his retirement
When Laxman dressed in a formal suit, from the conference
room of the Rajiv Gandhi stadium announced that he would be retiring from
international cricket with immediate effect, a surprise murmur spread and
emotions of disappointment, anger and frustration at the BCCI’s selection
panel, gratitude for a man who served Indian cricket for over a decade and a
half, admiration at the genius that was Laxman, sadness at the unfortunate
ending of such an illustrious career, and a sense of worry looking at the
future of Indian cricket without Laxman flooded the hearts of millions of
Indian cricket fans. Perhaps it was only
fate that Laxman retired in the same fashion that he has always played cricket
for India – with an axe hanging over his head, horde of criticisms and admiration from his critics and fans alike.
Whatever the circumstances be, the fact is that Indian cricket has lost
one of the greatest gentlemen to have held the willow.
VVS Laxman – the man who turned his back on becoming a physician
remains one of the nicest men to have ever played the game. Laxman was part of a golden generation of
Indian cricket and despite being overshadowed in a dressing room that consisted
of stars such as Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tenulkar and Sourav Ganguly, he has
managed to hold his own and has carved himself a place in Indian cricket’s
history and every cricket fan’s heart, and that speaks volumes of this man’s
When one thinks of Laxman, immediately it’s the magic in his
wrists that come to mind. Laxman was a
wizard in every sense of the word, and the only wand he wielded was the bat in
his hands. He was elegance personified and
his batting had a sense of class that I’m sure even James Bond when seducing a
lady would have tried hard to replicate.
It was this exquisite and graceful style combined with a solid technique
that saw Laxman triumph with the bat. A
ball, swinging away at 90 MPH on the middle stump would be clipped fashionably away
through midwicket or square leg as easily as a baby would drink milk. Laxman’s magical playing style (style is an
understatement) was often described to be similar to the Indian prince Ranjitsinhji
and former Indian skipper Azharuddin.
Everything about his playing had a sense of royalty about it. His often ‘lazy’ stance had a majestic and
regal edge and as he waited for the bowler to run up and deliver the ball,
Laxman looked lost – a wizard lost in a duel, and when the leather made contact
with the wood, there was magic – simple yet indescribable magic as the ball
races away to the boundary. Laxman was
an artist and he confused the pitch as the canvas, the bat as his brush and the ball as the paint. He made the simple look so
rich and complex that it took your breath away.
There was no better sight on an Indian summer than watching Laxman bat,
as one slowly sipped some cool lemonade or hot chai.
Magic in his wrists - VVS plays a trademark flick.
In a team of heavy weight batsmen, Laxman was unique. While Sehwag would bludgeon the opposition
senseless as a remorseless butcher would of a piece of hard mutton, or
Tendulkar chop up the bowlers in neat, small pieces as a chef would of a
delicate fruit, Laxman would make fine cuts like a chief surgeon, so fine and
delicate that one would hardly notice that the opposition is slowly bleeding to
Laxman is credited for being the chief architect of the
greatest resurrection in history since Lazarus when he helped India do the
impossible by winning the Calcutta test in 2001, after being asked to follow on
by the Australians. Braving the world’s
best bowling attack of the time, under extremely humid conditions, VVS Laxman
batted for over 631 minutes (10 and a half hours) alongside Dravid to score one
of modern day’s most epic double centuries.
His 281 consisted of 44 hits to the fence and had the Australian
captain, Steve Waugh in a mess that he had 9 bowlers (except him and Gilchrist)
bowl at Laxman. History was made that
day as India not only went onto win the match but also the series. It was a feat worthy to be included in the
epics alongside Achilles and Odysseus. That
innings of Laxman, heralded the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket that saw
the team rise from one high to another.
VVS Laxman - a recurring nightmare for Australian bowlers.
Laxman always had something special for the Australians and Steve
Waugh and Ricky Ponting must be wondering just what grave sin they had done, to
be punished by Laxman. His first century
came against the Aussies – a 167 at Sydney, and it was perhaps fitting that his
last test be against the team he so enjoyed performing. Laxman was a warrior and like all great
warriors, he loved fighting against the best and the Australians found that out
on more than a few occasions. In the
2003-04 series, he was again the main tormentor and the Australians slowly
started respecting this enigma that thwarted them time and time again. Steve Waugh didn’t have a dream farewell as
he expected, and Laxman helped India seal a memorable overseas series – the first
of many. In 2004, he again showcased his
temperament as he helped India to a win in the Mumbai test, in an otherwise
disaster series for India.
Then came the slump in form and having fought his way back,
in 2007, Laxman of old surfaced. In 2008
amidst all the controversies, Laxman managed to hold India’s batting firm as
Australia witnessed again his silken touch.
Same year in Delhi, he scores his second double century and again
against the Aussies. In 2010, Laxman
plays an undefeated knock of 73, struggling from severe back pain that makes
standing a herculean task. Sedated by
painkillers, he helps India register another memorable victory against Australia
by rallying the tail on a crumbling pitch of the final day. He showed tremendous courage and commitment and his knock of 73 was equal to that 2001 Eden Gardens knock, and Laxman's face at the end of the match which betrayed just a small smile, betrayed the pain he was trying to hide and the relief and joy of taking India to victory ruled supreme. Laxman also had a love affair with Eden Gardens and time and
time again he scored there. His 173
against the West Indies in 2011 was another stunning Laxman masterpiece.
Laxman’s presence in the middle had a calming effect on the
dressing room, and was a player generally relied to turn a precariously bad
situation into a decent or a good position.
The 2010 Mohali test where he rallied with the tail, facing the odds and
a searing back was everything Laxman was.
He always put the team before himself and even in his retirement, he has
stated that despite having been selected, he steps down before the New Zealand
series, so that a chance can be given to blood a youngster in familiar home
conditions. Such is his
selflessness. The IPL witnessed the
same, when in the first season, he declined Deccan Chargers making him their
Icon Player, thereby saving the franchisee millions so they can better spend it
on building a strong team.
Laxman’s fitness has come up as an issue more than once, and
it was probably one of many other reasons that saw his ODI career being
curtailed so early. However, he worked
hard on it and as a fielder, he was one of India’s safest houses. He was a brilliant slip fielder, and now with
the likes of Dravid and Laxman gone, the slip cordon like the batting looks
empty. He was also an equally good close
in fielder with amazing reflexes and he often fielded close for the spinners
pulling of stunners on a turning pitch.
It is very rare that a very good human being is also a very
good cricket player, and Laxman was more than just good in both aspects.
The one thing that makes Laxman so heroic among the other
great cricketers of our times is that Laxman never really belonged in the
modern age. He had an archaic charm and
was one of those nice gentlemen that you’d read in a story. He was a person too good to be true, a
romantic idea if whispered would be lost forever, and yet India had the honor
to have such a man don her colors and represent her with honor and dignity.
Perhaps that is what makes this retirement more tragic than
others. It’s the way that Laxman has
decided to go. For a player of his
stature, the selectors must have been more patient and shown respect. His loyalty and commitment after all was unquestioned
throughout his career, and perhaps Srikanth and his fellow selectors would have
done some good in reciprocating some of that.
It was disgraceful the way they handled the entire situation, and a blight
on the BCCI’s part. Its tragic to see
such a illustrious career come to end like this and making Laxman the scapegoat
for India’s recent failures isn’t a very productive move on the administration’s
Farewell to one of India's glorious sons!
Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and now VVS Laxman
have all called it a day and with it a generation of Indian cricket comes to an
end. India is yet to fill the void left
by Ganguly in 2008, and now with the quick retirements of Dravid and Laxman,
the Indian middle order that was once was the pride of the nation and envy of
others is no longer there, and a bare emptiness remains. The Indian bowling has never looked weaker
and now the batting after a decade will finally lose the sheen of stardom it
had held. India is in for difficult times
ahead as the new, young bloods try to fill up the big empty shoes in the middle
order. Only then will we fully
understand what we had in Laxman and how blessed we were to witness this grand
moment in Indian cricket. The youngsters
however with lofty expectations on their shoulders don’t need to look very far
VVS for most reporters has stood for Very, Very Special, and
as special Laxman is, it is simplicity that defines him. He is a gentleman from another era – a regal aristocrat
who believed in austerity and a wizard whose magic was all in his wrists. The future indeed looks bleak for Indian cricket with the departure of one of India's glorious sons.