VVS Laxman: The Stylish Soldier
The clouds came in and again went away. The weather was consistent like this, all the time, and hogged all the limelight in Barbados. A very very stylish Hyderabadi batsman was like the weather here; consistent with two half centuries in two innings, very classy and serving the purpose, thus putting India in the driving position. Perhaps that’s not the first time VVS Laxman has done that, but unlike the weather he hasn’t hogged the limelight throughout his career which he should have been.
India’s win in the first test match was an encouraging start to their series, but the West Indies didn’t lose any hope of winning the next test match. A very confident Sammy put India to bat considering the cloudy weather and the susceptible wicket. With India’s batsmen not doing very well in the last match (Except the Wall, no prizes for guessing) there was a good chance to dismiss India for a low score. India were off to a bad start as both the openers, Mukund and Vijay struggled and departed early. The West Indian team had their tail up when India were 4 for 38. Laxman had already seen more than a dozen balls at the time he had come out in the 11th over when his fellow mate Rahul Dravid had departed to the pavilion. Surely it was a difficult task. But like so so many innings before where Laxman has pulled the team out of awkward situations, he did the same with a typical Laxman 50, finally scoring 85. The innings had the Laxman trademark written all over it, where there was pure wrist and willow work. He, along with the young Suresh Raina put up a 100 run partnership. Moreover the innings was also a perfect example of a typical innings to be played in a tricky situation, and the youngster might have taken some notes from the master, for Raina had the best seat in the so called class room of classy batting by the teacher VVS Laxman.
Laxman played brilliantly in the first innings, more importantly ignoring the pressure and his failure in the last test match. Though Bishoo deprived him of a well-deserved hundred in the first Innings, he came out to bat in the second innings and scored a brilliant 87, missing out another hundred, but not only to put India in a safe position, but a platform to even set up a test match victory where the experts had predicted a draw, after getting the weather forecasts. Both of Laxman’s innings were very useful and were not easy to get. Even the evergreen Dravid fell cheaply in the first innings, while Laxman scored 42 % of India’s 201 in the first innings with the contribution being 32% of the total in the second innings. Clearly Laxman’s innings were a message that he still has the ability to be at the top, and he will be taking India out of awkward situations when it falls into one.
Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman, part of India’s Fab Four, has been sometimes even more stylish than Tendulkar when it comes to stroke plays or equal command over the leg side like his idol Mohd. Azharuddin. With an average of 47 and a total of 8000 runs, the Hyderabadi batsman has won matches for the country, fought valiantly and has given strong answers to criticism, day in and day out. Right from his debut in 1996, Laxman has strived to play the best cricket with his textbook strokes and a temperament that only champion players posses. Be it the first century in Sydney where he hit a brilliant 167 as an opener against Australia or any other memorable innings of him for that matter, he has even scored when the best of those around him were finding it difficult to get a grip on things.
The 281 in Eden Gardens in Kolkata is an innings which any cricketer can dream of and any fan can demand. A colossal innings along with compatriot Rahul Dravid shocked the cricketing dominance of Australia led by Steve Waugh and made the country of a billion to shout in collective joy when Laxman broke Sunil Gavaskar’s record of 231 as India’s highest batting score. A constant nemesis for the Australian team, the Stylish Hyderabadi enjoyed playing the Aussies when they were world champions and that too playing exceedingly well in their own backyard, with the Australian bowlers being quoted saying they “don’t know where to bowl to him”.
In the past decade the Indian team has travelled an extraordinary journey to become the world’s best test side and Laxman’s contribution is as big as any other’s. He has played some very important 3rd/4th innings for India on spinner friendly and fast bowler’s paradise wickets like the 103* against Sri Lanka at the Premadasa in 2010 or 73* not out against Australia at Mohali in 2010. Though being the least talked about player in the Fab Four batting line up, Laxman has shown great temperament to perform day in and day out. Even before the West Indies series he hit a brilliant 96 in South Africa where Dale Steyn and co. were spiting fire, thus rescuing India. Over the period of 15 years, VVS has been part of some of the best test matches, the best partnerships and the best test innings.
The biggest reason for Laxman’s success at this level has been his extraordinary mental strength and how he doesn’t keep in mind the failures, obstacles and keeps moving ahead in what he does next. Having found himself amidst a series of frustrating 20’s and 30’s, he was dropped from the World Cup squad. But when he came back to the test squad, he continued to pile on the runs without any sign of that disappointment. Even in the ongoing series, he had a rather forgettable first test even with a duck in second innings, but he came back strongly to show his character in the second. Laxman been a solid pillar and a true solider for Indian cricket and he will be continuing to do so, with his full sincerity and focus.
India 201 (Laxman 85, Raina 53, Rampaul 3-38, Bishoo 3-46, Edwards 3-56) and 269 for 6 decl. (Laxman 87, Dravid 55, Edwards 5-76) drew with West Indies 190 (Samuels 78*, Ishant 6-55) and 202 for 7 (Bravo 73, Baugh 46*, Ishant 4-53)