Wednesday, 22 August 2012



While other people are waiting for the Indian Test summer to begin, I am dreading it. I am honestly dreading the moment when the Indian cricket team will walk into Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium at Hyderabad, dressed in pristine whites. I am dreading the moment when MS Dhoni and Ross Taylor will head for toss. I am dreading the moment when Dhoni will announce India’s playing XI. But most of all I am dreading the moment when India will come in to bat and the first (and then third) wicket will fall. When Rahul Dravid will not come in to bat.

For as long as I have watched cricket, I have never seen an Indian Test team without Rahul Dravid. And though this betrays my age and ignores the minimal matches he missed due to injury, it is true. I have never been upset at the fall of India’s first wicket, ever, even when Viru-Gauti were on song. Because my favourite batsman walked in at No. 3. And tomorrow if India bat first and Chris Martin or Neil Wagner clean up Virender Sehwag or Gautam Gambhir, and some Indian batsman walks into the middle, I for one will watch with wistful eyes. To make matter worse, when the third wicket will fall, VVS Laxman will not walk in. And what happens when India is fielding? Who will stand in the slip cordon? Who will be standing behind Dhoni, alongside Tendulkar? The emo Indian cricket tragic in me weeps, how will I ever watch India play Test cricket again?!?!

Will we ever be able to replace the indispensable duo of RSD-VVS? It has been almost four years since Sourav Ganguly retired and we still haven’t managed to have a settled No. 6 batsman. Will we find a batsman with the potential to take up the crucial No. 3 spot, let alone No. 5? The answer is no. I don not think India will ever manage to find two batsmen with the calibre of Dravid and Laxman to play Test cricket at the same time. But I wholeheartedly believe that India will find two batsmen good enough to take up the No. 3 and 5 slot, in Indian conditions, and deliver a worthy performance. Being an Indian cricket fan, I am an eternal optimist. And I believe that there will be life after Dravid and Laxman. Not a successful one maybe, but a satisfactory one.

So when the Indian team is announced at the toss tomorrow, I am going to try my best to not feel let down. Because if the two guys who will replace the two greatest Indian batsmen of our era, are considered good enough by Dravid and Laxman, then they are good enough for me. So tomorrow whoever walks in at No. 3 and No. 5 will have my full support. Be it Subramaniam Badrinath, Chesteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina or Virat Kohli, I sincerely hope that 10-15 years down the line, some other fangirl will write similar tributes for them. As for now, I will watch the Test match tomorrow, filled with dread, and hope. Hope that there will be life after Dravid and Laxman for India

Monday, 20 August 2012


That's it folks. Farewell VVS Laxman

March, 2001 was a pivotal time for Indian Cricket. It wasn’t exactly ashes, but it was among the embers and we needed someone to come and savage it. On the back of a match-fixing scandal, change is captaincy, young, unbred players and uncertainty, Indian cricket needed a hero. And that hero came in the unexpected form of Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman.

I am one of the lucky few who started watching cricket at the start of 2000, and I believe that the new phase of Indian cricket started around the same time. I am also among the few who fell hopelessly in love with Indian Cricket team after the epic Kolkata Test in 2001. By this virtue, I am an eternal admirer of VVS Laxman. His Very, Very Special innings if 281 after following on in Australia’s historic defeat at the Eden Gardens, sealed his name in the Indian Test team, history books, cricket legends and our hearts. Ever since that day, Laxman has been my hero. Ganguly is Dada, Dravid is my idol, Tendulkar is India’s best batsman, but Laxman is the hero. Sometimes unsung, sometimes fallen, but always a hero.

Over the last few days, a lot has been said about his batting, his match-winning innings, his affinity for Australian bowlers, his contribution to the Indian Test team and I don’t think there is anything new I can add to his tribute. His batting was so exquisitely technical that even the coaching manuals would have to take notes. A slight flick of his wrists could fetch a four, in areas where you thought were impossible. His wrists were out-worldly  in the words of a friend, if put on auction, VVS Laxman’s wrists would fetch more than his bat! His presence on the crease was reassurance, India was in with a chance till he was there, even with 9 wickets down as he showed us in Mohali in 2010 against Australia.

Of course Laxman vs the Aussies is a different story altogether. There was a perceptible change in him, and in the Australians, whenever he came in to bat. And it comes as no surprise that almost all of his iconic knocks have come against the former World No. 1 side. It is said that is there was one Indian batsman they feared, it was him. Not Tendulkar, not Dravid, but Laxman, and rightly so, he could literally decimate them at will! The irony of life is that it was his failure against the very same team that has led to his retirement and me writing this. His last series came against his favourite opposition, in his favourite country but unfortunately with unfavourable results. I don’t want to delve into his retirement and the reasons for it, but only about the man and the void he has left behind.

But what I really loved about him was his attitude towards the game. VVS Laxman loves cricket, he absolutely loved his cricket. He played the game as a form of worship. His batting was veneration on the pitch he considered hallowed. And this is what I will miss the most – watching Laxman offer his devotions with the bat. He was not a great runner between the wickets, but his boundaries made up for that. He was an ok fielder, but his sharp slip catches made up for the runs leaked. His numbers don’t do him justice – 8781 runs in 134 Tests with an average of 45 doesn’t look spectacular. But his mere presence in the team made up for that. With VVS Laxman gone, world cricket has lost a true devotee, Indian cricket has lost its soldier and I have personally lost my hero. There is so much more I want to say, but cant. I am just glad, elated that I was there at Wankhede in November 2011 to watch Very, Very Special Laxman play his last Test match on Indian soil. At least I’ll die with the satisfaction of seeing him play live. Hopefully one day I will get to meet him, meet my hero.

I’ll conclude with borrowed words, lifted straight from my favourite writer Jarrod Kimber (hope he doesn’t mind too much) – “It’s not often you get a professional sportsman who plays just because he loves the game, without trying to prove anything to anyone, but just because of the thrill he gets out of playing a good shot. Players who make it look as easy as VVS do are often said to not care as much as others. When someone like him moves on, even if it was time for him to go, cricket loses something.  It loses a star, a poet and a cricketer. Cricket will move on without him, but it will miss him.  Very very will never quite do him justice.”