16 years is a long time.
But for people who love to watch something that looks almost impossible, it is a ‘very very short’ period. Yes, VVS, by leaving ahead of the New Zealand test, you introduced one more acronym, to the cricket world, that would fit the bill when one poetically remembers your career span.
I still remember the time when I watched his epic innings on Doordarshan’s website – yes you read it right, it was DD’s website! – It was like one long pot boiler which dramatically changed the confidence of a cricketing nation. I never imagined that anyone else could script another such dramatic story till I saw his knock of 72 that pulled the victory out of the bags of Australians. It is definitely cruel to say VVS Laxman loves Australians, for he never wooed them or kept them comfortable. He always tormented them, albeit with a calmness which could easily be dubbed as ‘cold-blooded’ if the story were to be written by an Australian fan.
I don’t think anyone would advise a young lad to flick a ball to midwicket when it is trying to snake into the hands of a gang of six men, standing in the slips and gullies. Laxman did it numerous times and did so on the bouncy pitches of Australia. Punter once lamented that he was clueless when it comes to getting VVS out. That’s one hell of a compliment one could ever get.
I started watching him since his very first knock, which lasted for just 11 runs, against South Africa. I felt a little disappointed with that short innings, for I wanted to see the rise of yet another Hyderabadi. On that day, maybe, I was a tad biased because of the regional connection. But Laxman made sure my love for him was not just because we share the same city, but because of his excellent batting and impeccable grace. I did not see many cricketers who stay that calm while lurking under the shadows of constant pressures.
I always used to wonder, if it is his mastery of handling tough situations that made him likeable or is it his humility. But now I think it is neither of those. I am sure it is the sheer confidence he shows when he gently disposes of the toughest of the deliveries to the unlikeliest zones of the ground. Often hitting two similar looking deliveries into two opposite corners. No mere mortal would ever imagine in his or her wildest dreams to have a repertoire of non-textbookesque shots and live entire life dishing out those. His ability to score boundaries off so-called good balls has made everyone sit up and admire. No wonder, commentators used to advise youngsters not to try those shots at home.
I can never forget the nonchalance he showed when he hooked Shaun Pollock for a six on a fast Bloemfontein pitch. A shot, I think, I had the privilege to watch. It has so much control and grace. Probably Laxman is the only batsman who deserves a word like ‘grace’ to describe a shot like the pull. His shots are impeccably timed – he never needed a harsh thrash to send the cricket ball to boundaries. They were like romantic caresses, which carefully and gracefully guided the balls to the boundaries. It could be this love towards the ball that made him stay away from the maximums, which often demanded the ball to be ‘punished’. He ended up with just five half-a-dozens in his illustrious test career.
Sad that I am no longer going to watch this wizard play test cricket. Not sure if anyone else would enthral me like he did.
All the best Lax.