Sunday, August 19, 2012

V.V.S. Laxman - Indian Cricket's Mr. Rescue

If there is one thing V.V.S.Laxman will be remembered for, it will be for his rising up to the occasion whenever the challenge got tougher. Some people are made that way, they give their best when the going gets tough. And Laxman did it so many times in his long and illustrious career and one always knew that when a rescue act was needed, he would always be there.
Very Very Simple Laxman at the book launch of 'The Men Within' in 2007, with Mr. Melkote

There are players who play the same way in every situation as they have prepared so much and so well that the game is merely an extension of that practice. Dravid was like that. There are those who improvise and challenge the game and the technique and try to constantly rise above it. Tendulkar is that way. And then there are those who are content to lay in their lair and let the boys have fun when the going is normal, and wait for those times when the other boys have no answer. In those times they come out of their seemingly complacent environs and take on the mantle of setting things right. It requires immense confidence, a great sense of responsibility and drips with all the things that competitive games and sports are about - a big heart, steely nerves and a resolute and determined mind that gives everything for the team. Laxman falls in the third category for me. He rose only when the call was worthy and when it was done, he retired into his lair. A bit like Achilles did - when he went to fight the war against the Troy - rising for the battle he believed he was born for.
Laxman with Anil Kak and Ifti at the book launch, Bro. Joseph in the background

Tough competitors like the Aussies quickly realised that here was one of those players who was above them - he not only had the game but the heart - and they respected him immensely for that. They knew that with this Hyderabadi there would be no half measures if they threw the challenge (and they being Aussies could not resist throwing it) - and to their distress - Laxman picked it up each time and made their life miserable so many times.

It's a bit of an enigma really that his career had to have so much doubt and mystery around it. One would think that his talent, his record and his sheer contribution to the game would have automatically conferred on him a status of the legends. But though he earned immense respect all over the world from players and critics alike, he never found the complete acceptance from the system somehow. He was always just short of that legend status in the establishment when in fact all that he did proved otherwise. An irony that he never played a single World Cup game! I thought much about that and my only answer to that is that perhaps the unassuming Laxman himself was uncomfortable with such adulation. He probably believed he was doing his job - never threw starry tantrums nor did he create an air of the star around him. He was just that - simple and straightforward as he was the day you first met him. Quite unlike several others I must add. And to me that is truly the hallmark of a great man - to be humble and true to himself - secure and confident in what he really is and was.
One for the album - Me, Vidyuth, Baig saab, Anil Kumble, Noel David and Laxman at the MLJ Cricket Academy, 2009-10

I first heard of Laxman when he was really young - in his Under 13s perhaps - and I was a college student who was just then playing Ranji Trophy, two decades ago. Much talk was heard about this youngster but when I finally got to bowl to him a couple of years later (I had lost all the skill and interest in bowling by then). But I was amazed at the young 15 year old's soundness of defence - his bat appeared to be like a wall - and I felt a sense of hopelessness as I ran in to bowl to him. A feeling that I felt only against Sanjay Manjrekar earlier. Laxman rose higher and higher and played great knocks for Hyderabad and then for India and is perhaps one of the best sportsperson to have come from the city which is fast becoming a hub for some premier sportspersons.

So unassuming is he that he agreed to read the manuscript of my first novel 'The Men Within' when I met him at Gymkhana some six years ago. No starry airs even though he was one of the premier batsmen of India then. He was known along with Dravid and Kumble as one of the few cricketers who reads! And then when I really had the book published, he walked into the crowded Akshara Bookshop just like any other cricketer did that day with no airs again. Unassuming to the core. Unfortunately the copies got exhausted and I could not gift him a copy then. But I was so impressed with his humility and his down-to-earth manner that day. When I met him later at Vidyuth's Academy I gifted him a copy of the book. We bumped into one another many times later, the last time being when we met at Bro. Joseph's farewell in All Saints High School, a few months ago.
Older and wiser - Laxman and me and the All Saints Rector and Principal, June 2012

When I spoke to him after my appointment in the Selection Committee, the first thing he told me after congratulating me, was that he saw 'Golconda High School' the movie made on 'The Men Within' on the flight to America. He dwelt for a while on the movie and how he really liked it and how it made him reminisce his own days as a school cricketer in his Little Flower days and how it actually made him emotional. He had  just come back from the NCA, preparing for the season ahead, played a league game and got a hundred, played a state game and got a hundred and when he was all set for the Test match against New Zealand, he announced his retirement. There is more than what meets the eye there and the man who was simplicity, humility and politeness personified had to probably put up with some shabby treatment from the cricketing system for one last time. And believe me, the cricketing system is full of mediocre and shabby people who lack grace and heart - something that many associate with sportsmen ironically. But his big heart showed even in the way he took the decision - with the swiftness and decisiveness that would have shocked many for its aggressiveness and finality when such a big decision is involved - and in the way he bowed out gracefully and quietly. But Laxman, for all those who really love the game, who are real sportsmen, you will always remain high on the pedestal with your unquestionable credentials.

I was also immensely glad to hear Laxman state that his dream was to win the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad and it fits in perfectly with our campaign to win the Ranji Trophy this year. He adds 50% or more to the team as he induces a hopelessness in opposition bowlers and fielders by his sheer presence, gets his leadership abilities and is perfectly placed to achieve his ambition.I have a good feeling about it and I am sure Laxman will achieve that feather for Hyderabad too. But all that apart, thanks for the great memories Laxman and for proving with that 281 that anything can happen if one hangs in there, and for leaving the game and the world around you richer by your presence. Here's wishing you great peace, joy and satisfaction in all you choose to do with your life.


Cricket Jokes said...

What do i say... A genius is Sacrificed, all the best VVS, you were and still are VV Special... all the best... HATS OFF....

Harimohan said...

Yes, he will always remain very special.

sports2020 said...

Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place..Thank you so much for ding the impressive job here, everyone will surely like your post.

vvs laxman