VVS Laxman: The Classical Musician Of Indian Cricket
There was a reason why VVS was called ‘Very Very Special’. Perhaps, it’s because in an age where cricket ruthlessly went from being a subtly charming fest of team-based triumph into a sport driven by glorious individual triumphs, VVS Laxman was the last remnant of what it meant to be a team player.
Shy, amicable and mild-mannered, VVS’s batting bore the great hallmarks of his gentlemanly personality and it can be gladly submitted that in an era where dynamics of Indian cricket have posed so much merit on playing aggressive albeit consistent cricket, VVS Laxman was the gentle giant of the soft-spoken game. Even when he appeared brittle and somewhat challenged by the opposition, while these were rare sights; rear as his falling batting average, that till his final test stayed north of 45, Laxman never seemed frustrated.
As Laxman almost turns 44, silently and calmly as his glorious batting, one that carried utter disregard for shenanigans, we find so many reasons to celebrate this one of a kind legend. But here are 7 qualities that hail Laxman as a cricketer that shan’t be forgotten:
- A cricketer who recovered stupendously despite a slow start to his test career
He was one of the few Indian batsmen who played Laxman burst onto the Test arena in 1996, debuting at Ahmedabad against the Proteas. From the first 16 tests, he took a bit of time to show what he was made of, managing just an average of 24.
However, by the time he finished his stellar career, the remaining 118 tests yielded a batting average of 49, which is commendable, considering he was an individual in a dominant era of Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly.
- An exceptional start to his Under 19 career
Perhaps if there’s a facet that often goes unnoticed in VVS Laxman’s stellar career- where he scored as freely on domestic tracks as he performed magnificently overseas, then it was his Under 19 career. The time was February- March 1994 and a young VVS is facing the indomitable Aussies at home during the start to his Under 19 career. By the time 3 games are done, Laxman commands an average of 110, facing the likes of Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds and Jason Gillespie.
- Making an impression in his debut test match
The 1996 test series where Dravid, Laxman gave glimpses of what they were capable of doing at home in front of South Africa was a telling tale. It was one of the few times that we mauled South Africa 2-1 in a three-match series. Especially, the triumph of India was savoured for it came against a Protean attack featuring ‘White Lightning’ Alan Donald, at the peak of his powers.
In the very first test match at Ahmedabad, VVS Laxman, who couldn’t manage more than 11 in the first inning, came out with a resolve; one that would go on to become a customary mode of operating in a test match; the idea of batting long and sticking to the crease. He countered the pace of Donald and combated the seaming prowess of Fannie De Villiers to stroke his way to a glorious 51. It must be said, right from the onset of his second test inning- Laxman, showed signs of staying at the crease for long hours- batting for 170 minutes in compiling an ardent fifty.
Interestingly, even Tendulkar hasn’t managed a fifty in his debut test, in an otherwise starry career.
- Hammering Australia
6 of his magnificent 17 test centuries were scored against the mighty Aussies. In the pantheon of modern day greats, only Tendulkar and Lara have scored more centuries versus the Aussies. And it has to be said, what Laxman tamed, so often, mostly on Australia’s den wasn’t a lean bowling attack for it featured Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Stuart McGill.
But the inning that really started Laxman’s classy domination of Australia was his gritty 167 scored at Sydney on January 4, 2000.
- The only man who spoke vehemently against Laxman’s dropping in 2003 World Cup
It has to be said that while we saw so little of Laxman in the ODI arena, where he scored 6 centuries, he was only beginning to show signs of his class when he was dropped toward the end of 2002 from the limited overs side. Despite showing rich form courtesy 2 glorious hundreds, also against Australia, his maiden 101 at Margao and his 102 at Gwalior, Laxman was inexplicably dropped from Indian Squad for ICC World Cup 2003.
But the omission didn’t appeal to one of Laxman’s adversary; a man who had watched Laxman’s game flourish and transform into a coherent force of grace and great ability, Adam Gilchrist. He is known to have gone on record to say, ‘it bewilders me how they could drop him from the ODI squad’.
Ever the gentleman, VVS Laxman didn’t complain much and continued to focus where it mattered most; test cricket.
6.VVS Laxman Was Inspired by Mohammad Azharuddin
The right-handed southpaw has always openly stated that the former Indian Captain Azharuddin has been his inspiration and he was always looked up to his senior statesman. So if you ever wondered how VVS developed that magical wrist work, you know now!
7.A man Brett Lee feared and McGrath dreaded
The faster Lee would bowl to Laxman during his imperious 178 at Sydney 2004, a series which belonged to his good friend Dravid for his consistently great batting, the more VVS would attack. It was as if the stylish Hyderabadi was putting an elegant signature to the saying that attack is the best form of defence. In his special 178 run inning, Laxman struck 30 boundaries, giving Aussies a blaring shout to his daft touches and willowy flicks.
Post the inning, Lee is known to have said that there’s nothing better and brighter than getting Laxman’s wicket early. And astonishing indeed that a batsman who nearly came at the lower middle order to bat, went on to score close to 9000 test runs.
- Laxman’s heroic role in turning a tide, a giant one at that for India
His classy 281, supported magnificently well by ‘The Wall’s’ 180 at Eden Gardens, the home of cricket in India. How can anyone ever get past this scorcher of an inning?
In denying Steve Waugh his conquering of his ‘final frontier’ (winning in India as a captain), VVS Laxman didn’t just put up a battling effort ensuring it were Aussies and not India who swallowed the hard bullet, despite having India with their backs against the wall at one stage, he blazed a trail by handing India that improbable victory, which would later become a winning habit for the side donning whites.
Even in his final series in Australia, where VVS Laxman like so many of our greats including Sachin, Sehwag and Dravid struggled, he refused to give up the fight. His scores of 31, 35 and 66 proved he had the fight in him even if the tenacity was waning out. And as a mark of a true selfless man, Laxman preferred to hang his boots instead of being asked to hang’em. And in doing so he left open a void in the test arena that may never be surpassed despite bigger individual achievements. For all this and more, CricCrak extends a token of gratitude for VVS Laxman’s stellar contributions to Indian Cricket.