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Vintage. Velvety. Sublime. Laxman

Krish Sripada
Editor's Pick
858   //    02 Jul 2011, 20:31 IST

“If you get Dravid, great. If you get Sachin, brilliant. If you get Laxman, it’s a miracle.Brett Lee

Very Very Special Laxman does something fascinating, every time he uses his bat like a surgical knife. The magician, who was studying to be a doctor, robs commentators,  fellow players and everyone else of words. For since when did words have the charm needed to describe Laxman playing his usual mellifluous innings? Writing about Laxman takes one beyond the realms of sports writing. You could only write an ode or a paean to extol the poetry of his game. Even the cricket strip that spits venom at everyone else almost turns placid and tranquil to reflect his mental state in a crisis.

If runs could be weighed in terms of their value to a team’s cause, Laxman’s 8000 test runs would be worth their weight in gold dust, outshining the sparkling list of greats who have scored many more in test cricket. Laxman gives the impression of an artist who transcends to the sublime realms when the muse appears. For him, a lively, venomous pitch is the muse, the team in crisis is an inspiration and to accomplish the impossible and the surreal is the motivation. He seems too bored to bat, when things are easy, as if to say, “I will chill out, while others are capable of managing it.” He would don the superhuman attire and the unperturbed, saintly mask of supreme calm, only when everyone else is on the edge of their seats, biting their nails, gearing up for embarrassment. Then Laxman shows that winning wasn’t really as impossible as it seemed.

It is perhaps this supreme tranquillity that rubs off even on tail-enders, who start ‘believing’ instead of hoping, becoming accomplices in breathtaking quests, like Ishant did against Australia last year and Zaheer managed in Durban. He isn’t bereft of passion, as the calmness during adversity might hint at. Who would forget his wafting of the bat and admonishing a stunned Ojha, a gesture that is part of cricketing folklore now?

Laxman Vs Australia & Several back spasms!

It is just that the only way he can express his artistry is through silken touches, and velvety manipulations of his wrists. That supreme skill is significant too, for there are no loose ends leading up to the legend that is Laxman. In the 120+ matches that he has made an appearance, he has played more innings with the tail than any other batsman. Most times, he faces field settings that wouldn’t let him do anything but run a single. But he still scores boundaries, where other mortals can only defend and wait till the 5th or the 6th ball. He still picks the gaps and pushes an aching, ageing back, to run the doubles. He still eggs on a body that surrenders to his genius.

He, like his idol, Azharuddin, is perhaps a member, of that rare group of talented batsmen, who can hit the same ball, to either side of the wicket for runs.

Could be a ball that pitched 2 feet outside off stump!

Everything he does on the field is riveting, smooth and poetic, even the way he shoulders arms to let a ball go to the keeper. If he had Azhar’s agility too, perhaps a certain Dinesh Mongia, wouldn’t have come anywhere close to pushing him out of the 2003 WC squad. Nevertheless, the splendid wrists and the unshakeable boat have rowed the team to a safer shore many a times.

In an era, where numbers are steadily gaining in importance, Laxman’s statistics are a case study in themselves. The heart screams for an added column – ‘causes won from dead’. Only then can we do some justice to his services. For long, Dravid has been the wall, resisting, with his steely resolve. Laxman is the sponge that soaks the pressure and beautifully deflects it too, smoothly, beautifully and calmly. Not scoring enough centuries would still be a regret, showing he is human, although, cricket connoisseurs would disagree to bring him down from the mantle of godliness.

I have not converted many of my 50s into hundreds, and so you feel bad after having put in the hard work – Laxman

Sachin’s conversion ratio from 50s to 100s is close to 50% (51 out of 110). Dravid has a conversion rate of 35% (32 out of 91). Laxman converts only 25% (16 out of 65 at the time of writing this article. No, wait, add two more 80s in the current test ). If the number of centuries were considered as a benchmark, Laxman would never make it to the hall of fame for cricketing legends. However, Laxman has batted at No. 6 or No. 5 for a greater part of his career, in spite of scoring the epic 281, arguably, the test innings of the century at No. 3. So, it would be unfair to judge this special cricketer on the basis of runs scored. He actually helps his cause by giving us certain parameters based on which we could judge his greatness, his talent and his skills.

  • Runs scored alongside tail-enders
  • Runs scored in the 4th innings of a test match on a wearing wicket
  • Runs scored when the team has lost half the side for fewer than 100 runs
  • Runs scored to win a match

A whole country that obsesses over the great SRT, almost believes that if it is a crisis, Laxman will take care. Since 2009, Laxman has scored 2 centuries and 8 half centuries at an average of 141 in 13  4th innings knocks. Performing under pressure has been a hallmark, right from his debut, when we were treated with a gritty half century against a merciless and intimidating SA. That he is one of the most selfless Indian players to have graced the game is beyond doubt too. This famous quote of his would probably sum it up:

My personal achievement is secondary. The team’s cause comes first. If team management wants me to go for quick runs, I will do so,” – V V S Laxman after the close of fourth day’s match at Eden Gardens.

No wonder, he played an unnecessary shot on the 5th morning to throw away a great opportunity to be India’s first triple centurion.

The great grand nephew of S. Radhakrishna and recipient of Padma Shri, is almost at the twilight of his career, hitting a purple patch of his own. I wouldn’t need to make a case for Laxman’s greatness. He has racked up enough single handed victories to stare down at any doubters. His most prolific innings(6 out of 16 test hundreds including 2 double centuries and 4 out of 6 ODI centuries) have come against the then best cricketing team on the planet. This fact alone proves how much he loved being challenged. But, unlike a Sachin or a Dravid, a Steve Waugh, a Lara or a Ponting, Laxman faces a challenge, as if he was born to do exactly that; as if that is the only scenario, where he can be his true self, his normal self, a genius, a magician, a cricketing legend.

Krish Sripada
And I prayed when Sachin bowled the final over against SA. And I smiled when Goran finally won the Wimbledon. And I wept when Zidane had to walk out. And I jumped when Bryant dunked. And I..and I..and I...sports..and I live to feel what they go through on the field.
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