Monday, 20 August 2012

FAREWELL TO MY VERY, VERY SPECIAL HERO


FAREWELL TO MY VERY, VERY SPECIAL HERO
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.”

2 comments:

  1. Nice ! An ode to one of my favourite players , made for good reading! And as you mentioned about his last home test in Mumbai, I feel privileged to have been witness to his last century , an unbeaten 176 in the previous test at Eden . Incidentally , I was there at the ground on all 5 days, thus getting a chance to see Dravid and laxman bat together (Rahul too scored his last home century there) ! And the amazing shot by which laxman brought up his 100 was that famous flick , played through MID-ON !!!! Took me a while to realise that it fetched him a four in a flash! Simply spectacular !

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