In college we used to have a different class of students. Those who would struggle in easy subjects but they would be somewhat extra ordinary in cryptic courses. Somehow, to me, VVS Laxman signifies that class. VVS would remain an ordinary player if situation is ordinary. But you put him in hostile situation with formidable opponent and then a palpably different VVS would come up. His name was Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman but he excelled himself to a level that he became Very Very Special Laxman.
During summer of 1990, Azhar had a dream tour of England. He was in sublime touch and scored two magnificent centuries during the Test series. English media was for all praise for the then Indian captain. One of the comments I particularly remember was that batsman like Azhar is an endangered species, should be preserved. Laxman perhaps was the result of that supplication. But alas the class had finally disappeared as Laxman called it a day just before the Test match, which was played at his home ground.
This one time aspirant doctor knocked the door of Indian team in 1996. Remained on and off the team until he came up with that real gem of the knock at Sydney in January 2000. Indians were decimated by oz ruthlessly during the series and Laxman’s century during the last Test was like a doze of oxygen for dying team spirit. That was somehow glimpse of days to come and it was also the start of his love affair with Aussies.
Had Laxman played only that Test in his life and nothing else, I would still be writing this article because that one knock of him worth an accolade of a career with one hundred Test matches. I am talking about Kolkata 2001 against Australia. People may have their own opinion but with out iota of doubt in my mind, I treat it best Test innings by an Indian along with Dravid’s double ton at Adelaide two years later. He was with Dravid again at Adelaide for that monumental 300 run partnership, which enabled India winning a game from no where. Aussies were beaten on home ground despite double ton by Ponting.
He again scored a century along with a mammoth partnership with Sachin in the last Test at SCG. India scored 700 plus in the first innings and Steve Waugh had to fight it out to save the game which actually was his last Test.
He was a different bloke and certainly wasn’t a guy who can be judged by numbers. He lacked that solid consistency in scoring runs and in fielding but he was consistent in winning games for India, particularly in fourth innings and in crunch situation. After one such heroic of him against Australia, the heading in TOI next day said it all “Incorrigible Laxman did it again”. He had the same relation with Australia what Sunil Gavaskar had with Windies.
There are few things, which VVS Laxman would like to forget, like not playing a single world cup or never lead the side despite 130 plus Test match career. He somehow lacked all that off field charisma as he maintained a very low profile throughout. Someone like Dilip Vengsarkar. He was never a newsmaker off the field.
It was sad to see him struggling in England and Australia in 2011-12, but I believe that still some Cricket was definitely left in him.
Not too sure whether the species has been extinct with VVS but I don’t see anybody who can take over the legacy.
Bye Bye VVS. You would surely be missed. Particularly when India would need a savior in fourth innings of the Test or whenever Aussies bowlers would intimidate Indian.