Sachin Tendulkar may be the greatest and Rahul Dravid maybe the stalwart. But, when it comes to guiding the team through to victory under the toughest of circumstances, one cannot look beyond Vangipurappu Venkata Sai aka VVS Laxman in the Indian Test team. As if the match-winning effort at the P Sara Oval in India’s last Test wasn’t testimony enough, VVS stood tall once again amidst all the ruins against his favourite opponent, Australia, at Mohali. For those seeking similarities between the two knocks, the bad back is the obvious one. However, medical treatment combined with Laxman’s desire to win it for India at all costs, pushed all the negatives into the backseat.
There is a lot one can say about Laxman, the magician, but it may still not do justice to his achievements. What can one say about the may be majestically went about his business in the company of Ishant Sharma? And what about the manner in which he inspired Sharma in what turned out to be a match-turning partnership? Yes, that is the soothing effect Laxman can have on the game and his mates. The assurance with which Sharma batted out in the middle was a clear indication that he found himself in a divine state of mind in the company of Laxman. The man himself was all charged up for another mission impossible.
So much has been written about the classy Hyderabadi’s wristy style of play, and still one longs for more from him. Probably because, along with his artistic strokeplay, he brings a measure of dignity to the game that looks long lost when Laxman is not at the crease. Let’s not take names, but there are a couple of characters in this Indian side who would have taken on the Aussies using their mouths. And, they may have still won the battle. But, would that win having been as pleasing as the one achieved courtesy Laxman’s single-minded devotion, preferring to remain in the silent zone all the while. The question doesn’t even need to be answered. And this is exactly the reason why Laxman is highly respected by opponents, Australia in particular. Sad then that he’s been so shabbily treated in his own country over the years.
Arguably India’s most under-celebrated great, Laxman has been in the firing line time and again over the years and yet has incredibly managed to come out with his honour and dignity intact, whilst also reclaiming his deserved spot in the team purely on the basis of his batting heroics. Thankfully, over the last couple of years, things have changed and Indian cricket has benefited immensely. While all the talk has revolved around Sachin Tendulkar and his return to prime form, in an almost unnoticed manner, Laxman has averaged 95 this year. But then, that’s the way Laxman likes it and he would prefer it to stay that away. That said, he is expected to get his fair share of limelight following two ‘back-breaking’ match-winning efforts.
The same ones who would have been gunning for his head had he not batted due to fitness concerns, will now be heaping praise on him. After all the years of toil and hard work, he deserves his time in the sun. Not that Laxman would be desperate for it. But then this is India, and even if he doesn’t like it, the fourth-innings specialist would be hogging the limelight for the next couple of days, even though he himself would be hoping that the Commonwealth heroes don’t get overshadowed in the press because of his efforts.
The sad part about the whole thing is that we get to watch Laxman very sparsely these days, owing to the fact that he plays only Test matches, or rather he is forced to. Watching him in T20 isn’t the same for true blue Laxman fans. And so he has featured in only six Tests in ten months. There will only be one more against Australia, unfortunately and then a few against New Zealand and South Africa later. In between though, there would be plenty of limited-over games, as that is the order of the day. In no time, Laxman’s heroism would be confined to distant memory, until one fine day he returns to remind us that he is still around.
Hopefully, the wrists would remain supple. His back will remain a problem. But, for a man who has seen it and done it all, that shouldn’t be much of a hindrance as he has proved on two occasions now. Age may not be on Laxman’s side, but with the kind of magical form he has displayed recently, one only hopes he can carry on for another couple of years. Sounds difficult and irrational, but for VVS, EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
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