VVS: akin to old wine
Some years back, VVS Laxman was always considered to be unfortunate. People felt that he was getting a raw deal from the selectors. He was not a regular in the side. He would constantly be asked to bat in different positions even in the few tests that he played in. VVS would also bravely put up a front in every role because the poor guy had no other option but to bow down to the whims and fancies of the selectors and his captain. He was the circus monkey and the selectors had the whip.
He opened in few tests with Sidhu, then he would bat at no.3 and then suddenly he would drop to as low as 7 or 8. Such was the uncertainty surrounding his career even after a masterly knock at Sydney where he made 167 as an opener in what was the sole highlight in an otherwise disastrous tour. VVS believed that he was not fit to open and rightly so because a player knows what best he can do. Thus, he sat out.
But after the 2001 Australian tour of India, where VVS dazzled with his now legendary 281 where he frustrated the Aussies for an entire day along with ‘The Wall’, VVS became sort of a regular in the Test side. The nick name Very Very Special stuck onto him like glue. VVS started getting a huge fan base particularly in Australia after a terrific tour in 2003-4 where he scored 3 ODI 100s and 2 Test 100s. Those 2 Test 100s came as part of 2 triple century partnerships with Dravid and Sachin.
Unfortunately 2003-04 would see the death of VVS as an ODI batsman after Greg Chappell took over. He was obviously a slow runner and not exactly a live-wire on the field in spite of being a highly acclaimed catcher in close positions in the longer version. And with the Aussie obsession with fit bodies and fast legs, the death knell was sounded for VVS and the poor guy would never get to play a World Cup in what has been a popular Test career.
At a time when he was starting to get noticed for his lazy elegance and his wristy brilliance, he lost his bearings in the long format too and he was dropped. Things didn’t appear too rosy for him and people were starting to forget the great Aussie t0rmentor.
But he turned it around in some style. The past few years in particular have been spectacular for the Hyderabadi. He has been noticed for his prolific scores in the 2nd innings of Test matches and particularly during the 4th and last inning of a Test. A batsman’s biggest Test is to negotiate the last few days of a Test pitch and VVS has come out with flying colors in this area. He has also shown a particular liking for batting along with the tail and the lower middle order. He has resurrected a few Tests through this facet of his.
He also renewed his love affair with the Aussie attack when they toured Indian recently where he scored a double century as well. The last few years have really been solid for VVS. Particularly the retirement of Sourav Ganguly and the failure of Yuvraj Singh to put up a consistent show in whites, have made VVS one of the privileged men who pick themselves in the starting eleven, irrespective of the conditions, the opposition and the state of the series.
The latest West Indies Test series has been no different. He scored a couple of 80s in the 2nd Test in what was a pitch that was slightly on the fastbowlers’ side. Along with that other old warhorse Dravid, he has saved the Indian side from embarrassment in this lopsided series with a team that is a mere shadow of its glory years.
The way forward
The way forward for VVS would be to concentrate on playing the Tests alone and not turn into a circus clown playing IPL, CLT 20. It is a real insult to the eyes seeing VVS trying to slog without the finesse and class that have come to identify him. He has had very minimum success to the extent that he has been left out of his own city’s IPL team.
In Tests, he is a royal and he should continue playing Tests alone and guide the youngsters who are coming in by the dozen like Kohli, Raina, Mukund and Rohit. The club culture where film stars mingle with cricket stars amidst a whole lot of skin and booze is just not for people in the classical mould like VVS. He is after all from a family of doctors and precision and firm nerves are part of the genes. And Tests give him the perfect platform to exhibit these traits in all their shining glory.
And all that image of VVS being given a raw deal by the selectors have been made a myth by the man himself. He has grabbed all the chances that have come his way and played more than 100 Tests with a great measure of success as well.
Being at the right place at the right time and making hay while the sun shines. 2 classical proverbs that sum up this classy cricketer perfectly.