When was the last time you have seen a number #5 batsman in the Indian test team bringing up longing partnerships with the tail to delay the fatally inevitable result, or sometimes conjuring up miraculous victories from times of adversities? Not in the recent times, at least. Because that magical art of batting that VVS Laxman once truly possessed, died down and has been buried since 2012.
Not many batsmen around the world are in the same breed of cricketers as VVS Laxman was. He had a unique quality of being able to perform at his prime in situations of mounting pressure, irrespective of whether how strong the opponents were. It was that ‘’very very special’’ quality of Laxman that helped him invariably keep producing match-turning performances, winning from the clutches of defeat.
The most attractive and laudable part was his batting technique. With so minimal use of his feet, he still produced extremely fluent strokes through use of his wrists, achieving sublime timing. The gentle calmness with which he faced the most aggressive attacks add the icing to his character.
Despite being so classical in style and artistically sound in technique, Laxman was an under rated batsman in a star studded batting order, but eventually ended up as someone who overly achieved in terms of his contributions towards the winning cause of the team. He had developed the art of creating milestones that were not just memorable but were also historically important for the team.
The man who always turned up when he was most needed
in 2001 at Eden Gardens, confronting the world’s best team possibly in that decade, a gentle and calm Hyderabadi batsman sensationalized the ‘’art of dealing with pressure’’, making the lethal bowling attack of Australia look shockingly bad. That magical innings of 281 got etched into Indian history, bringing a new belief – a belief which got imprinted into the team's soul that a game could be won even from the direst of situations.
In the whole of his life, Laxman had been asked tough questions. From batting position to being snubbed from a world cup squad, in which he duly deserved to be picked based on the ODI record he was basking in 2002. But one bad series of scores during the New Zealand tour before a world cup tournament in 2003 shattered his dream to don a blue jersey in a world cup match.
Amidst of all the criticism, heartbreaks and disappointment, Laxman’s indomitable zeal to contribute to India’s success was ever flaring. He still managed to guide his team to shores of safety whenever his contribution was needed badly. He held up falling pyramids by building up many crucial partnerships with the lower order and the bowlers.
In Mohali in 2010, he took the team to 216 for victory from 76-5 on a deteriorating pitch on which it was agonizingly difficult to bat. It sometimes goes beyond human grasp how he repeatedly does what appears to be a supernatural talent. The answer lies within. It was always the deepest of an extremely dire situation that brought the best out of VVS.
It was one of our glories of our age that we witnessed a player who had patience and perseverance at the highest possible level. Someone who remained committed to the longer versions despite the formats diversifying too fast.
There was someone who was technically sound with a minimal footwork, made judgments through his strokes and mastered the batting with a silky touch. Those enticing flick of the wrists from outside off stump to the deep mid wicket boundary, maneuvering the ball between the cover fielders with a deceptive touch and the rollover of the wrists which seemingly looked like a defensive stroke, guided effortlessly towards the boundary – These vividly painted arts are so not possible to be created ever again.