VERY VERY SPECIAL LAXMAN....

VVS Decided to hang up his BOOTS…………………….


WHAT VVS SAID ON HIS RETIREMENT

 V.V.S. Laxman has decided to call it a day. “I announce my retirement from international cricket with immediate effect,” the stylish India batsman informed a crowded gathering at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad on Saturday.

In a way, he set a unique trend by quitting the game when he is already in the squad for the Test series against New Zealand starting on August 23 in Hyderabad. “I am not playing in the two-Test series,” he made it clear.

“I listened to the divine inner voice and to my conscience. I feel it is the right time to move on. And, as one who always put the team’s interests ahead of personal goals, I thought this is the best way to give the youngsters a chance in a home series ahead of the tougher overseas assignments,” 37-year-old Laxman said to a stunned audience.

“I would have loved to play the tougher series against Australia and England later this season. But, somehow, I found it extremely difficult in the last four days to keep going,” the elegant Hyderabadi said.

Fabulous journey

“It was my dream as a youngster, to represent India. And, I am blessed by the almighty to have played for 16 glorious years of international cricket. I cherish every moment of that fabulous journey,” Laxman said.

“I always read about sportspersons entering a phase when they feel they should call it a day. I thought I have entered that phase, and I will not regret my decision,” he said. “I am very clear in my mind and conscience. There is no way I am going to regret this decision.”

Laxman also apologised to the family members and well-wishers, who were hoping he would play for one last time in a Test in Hyderabad. “I know my parents, especially, would have loved to see me in action. But, I repeat, that I listened to the divine inner voice and that is it,” he said.

Referring to his cricketing journey, the veteran of many a battle said it was an honour to play alongside legends like Sachin, Rahul and Ganguly. “I enjoyed every moment of my association with all of them and my captain M.S. Dhoni. I will never forget the bonding and the affection they showed me right through,” he said.

The star India batsman said he informed the national selectors on Saturday morning about his decision to retire. What was their response? “Definitely, they were surprised and did not want me to quit. But, I convinced them, as I did my parents, that I would be happy if I retire,” he said braving a smile.

“I am grateful to the HCA, BCCI and the national selectors over the years and all those well-wishers for extending their support. I think it is time to express gratitude to all of them and my coaches in domestic and international cricket,” he said.

Struggling to control his emotions, Laxman reminded that he always gave his best for the Indian team. “I might have disappointed sometimes. But, that was not for want of commitment,” he said.

Not hasty decision

The classy batsman, who made his Test debut in 1996 against South Africa, also asserted that it was not a hasty decision or one taken because of the adverse comments in a section of the media that he is blocking the chances of youngsters.

“No doubt, it is a very emotional decision. Especially in the last four or five days, I found it really tough when I was debating about retirement. But, I must thank my parents for giving me complete freedom to take the final call,” Laxman said.

“Definitely, till a few weeks ago, I never thought of quitting at the start of the two-Test series against New Zealand. In fact, I have been training really hard for the last four months. But lately, there has been a serious internal, mental battle which suggested I should end my career,” he said.

Did the dismal tours of England and Australia last season play a role in his decision? “Definitely, they were huge disappointments. I mean, no Indian cricketer would like to see the team lose so badly. But, then again, you should also remember that we were on top of the world at our best. So, I look at that phase as part and parcel of the sport,” he explained.

“Yes, I did call up my India teammates including captain M.S. Dhoni, who is very difficult to get on phone (with a smile) and spoke to them. Honestly, I was moved by the abundance of affection they showed. And, all of them were surprised and did not want me to retire,” Laxman said.

To the delight of the HCA secretary Dr. M.V. Sridhar, president G. Vinod and vice-president N. Shivlal Yadav, Laxman made it clear that he would now chase another dream — to lead Hyderabad to Ranji Trophy victory this season.

Dr. Sridhar announced that the Northern Stand at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium will now be named after this “great cricketer”.

 

 

 

VERY VERY SPECIAL LAXMAN FOR THE CRICKET COUNTRY

Conjuring up mere statistics will certainly be the worst way to judge and analyse the calibre and utility of VVS Laxman, as his contribution to Indian cricket for the past decade-and-half goes beyond that.

As the ‘Very Very Special’ man walks into the sunset of his illustrious career, it won’t be a ‘wonderful afterlife’ for India’s next batch of Test aspirants as the bar that has been set by the Hyderabadi stylist is pretty high.

The 37-year-old Laxman was never dubbed a genius like Sachin Tendulkar neither did he possess the swagger of Virender Sehwag or the doggedness of a certain Rahul Dravid, yet he will forever remain one of the all-time greats of Indian cricket.

Laxman was the touch artist, one can never forget. The suppleness of his wrists, as he played a delivery well outside his off-stump through the mid-wicket is something that a generation of cricket lovers have learned to adore.

Laxman played 134 Tests, amassing 8,781 runs at an average of 45.97. He scored 17 centuries and 56 half-centuries, many of which have gone a long way in helping India save or win a Test match.

He played in 86 ODIs for an aggregate of 2338 and average of 30.76 in the shorter format, which was not his forte.

His 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens is a stuff of legends and that majestic knock has now become a part of cricketing folklore.

Those who were present at the Eden Gardens on March 14, 2001, would vouch that one may not have ever seen someone repeatedly play the inside-out shot through the covers off Shane Warne with such ferocity and yet make it look so simple.

The Australian teams over the years have had the highest regard for Tendulkar but it has never been any less for Laxman, who has played some amazing knocks against them over the years.

Laxman’s 148 at Adelaide in 2003-04 series came at a crucial juncture and his partnership with Rahul Dravid kept India’s challenge alive and the team finally went one up in that Test series.

A teamman to the core, the smiling Hyderabadi was ever ready to stand up and be counted whenever the Indian team needed him. He was never a natural opener but yet he performed the duties against a lot of Test teams with admirable sincerity.

Some of his best knocks came at No. 3 yet his batting order always remained flexible — something he never complained about. He scored 17 centuries in 134 Tests but what figures don’t point out is that he also scored 56 half-centuries, many of which were significant in the final outcome.

Two such innings came late in his career, where he gave a lesson or two on how to bat with tail-enders.

The first one was an unbeaten 73 against Australia at Mohali in October, 2010. Chasing 216, India were 124 for eight as Laxman added 81 runs with Ishant Sharma and then batted for good 20 nerve-wracking minutes with No.11 Pragyan Ojha to win the Test match for India.

He was in acute pain fighting back spasms. He was getting medical attention from the physio after each and every over but he continued like a man possessed.

The most endearing sight of that match was an agitated Laxman abusing Ojha, as the latter nearly got run-out trying to steal a non-existent single.

It was something that was not associated with a man like Laxman — who was always grace personified even when off the field as much as he was on it.

The second one was an innings of 96 at Durban, couple of months after the Mohali knock. India was 0-1 down in the Test series and it was a knock played in the third innings of a match.

Again it was 148 for seven, when Zaheer Khan joined Laxman as he took India to a score from where it was difficult.

Running between the wickets was never Laxman’s forte and his fielding was always under scanner even though he was as safe at slips as someone like Dravid.

Yet, it was sheer joy to watch him as he had the talent to do the unthinkable at times. That is what separated Laxman from a bunch of ordinary international cricketers.

The only glitch that will remain in his career will be the failure of not being able to make it to the 1999 and 2003 World Cup squads.

Blame the Indian cricket set-up, which saw a player of his calibre represent the country in only 86 ODIs.

His best chance to make it to the World Cup probably was in 2003 but Dinesh Mongia was given a nod ahead of Laxman.

Till date, the erstwhile skipper Sourav Ganguly has failed to substantiate why VVS didn’t make it to the squad.

Probably, Laxman was destined to be the ‘George Best of world cricket’ — the finest cricketer of his generation never to have played a World Cup.

For his thousands of fans, he will always have a special place in their hearts as it will be near impossible to replicate that kind of artistry and the silken touch Laxman has shown with the bat.

 

VVS Laxman - a cultured man with cultured strokeplay

 

There was a vulnerability about VVS Laxman's batsmanship, a delicacy, that somehow enhanced the brilliance of his strokeplay. It made him the most loved of the middle order in India's golden age. Laxman was a throwback to an era of silken batsmanship, of velvet touches and all-round grace.

The men around him among India's Fabulous Four, were held in awe; Laxman's apparent fragility made him all too human, and therefore loveable. People who had never met the man spoke of his gentleness, their opinion based on nothing more than his cover drive or the ability to play the leg glance in the old-fashioned manner

Mentally, he was as tough as the Tendulkars, Dravids and Gangulys who formed that middle order, but he seemed to whisper his instructions to the ball to send it screaming to the fence where the others tended to shout at it. Soft hands, a benign attitude, a fine touch - yet the ball left the bat with the air of someone rushing for an appointment he is late for. If a portrait of Indian cricket were to be painted, pastel colours would best represent Laxman, a cultured man who dealt in cultured strokeplay.

As befits a team man, his greatest fans were within the team. During a 353-run partnership in Australia, Tendulkar (who made 241 in that innings) said, "I just decided I was going to stay there and watch from the non-striker's end."

It was a vantage point much favoured by his colleagues. Dravid said of Laxman's batting during their 376-run partnership in Kolkata which turned a Test match against Australia: "I enjoyed it from the other end. It was like watching a highlights package."

Batsmen like Laxman do not assert their command in averages or in consistent centuries, yet tend to play the defining innings of an era. That 281 in Kolkata inaugurated the golden age of Indian cricket, and was voted time and again as the best innings played by an Indian. There is no record of his skipper Sourav Ganguly telling his players, like Bradman did when Stan McCabe was batting at Nottingham: "Come and watch this, you will never see the likes of it again." But the comparison is not so much with McCabe's batting as with the fact that even in the Bradman era, the two or three defining innings were played by McCabe. In the Tendulkar era, Laxman's 281, his 167 in Sydney and the 96 in Durban were the defining innings.

For someone who played 134 Tests, Laxman, amazingly was never in the running for the captaincy; he was never in a World Cup squad. In his early years, he wasn't even a certainty in the team. That a batsman of such obvious class was often challenged by lesser men and one-Test wonders for a place in the squad was testimony to the short-sightedness of the selectors. Perhaps they equated effortlessness with lack of effort. Everything Laxman did looked effortless - but it shouldn't fool anybody into thinking that he was too casual. A famous cartoonist once explained his craft thus: Half my job is the effort of drawing the cartoon, the other half is erasing the signs of such effort.

Batting came more easily to Laxman than it did to most, but that is not why he is in the Indian pantheon with 8781 runs, the fourth highest aggregate behind Tendulkar, Dravid and Sunil Gavaskar. He takes his place by right as a fully paid-up member of the Wristy Batsmanship Club, one of Indian cricket's two great traditions, the other being spin bowling.

It is a club with a distinguished membership - it has Ranji and Duleep (although neither played for India), Vijay Manjrekar, ML Jaisimha, Gundappa Vishwanath and Mohammed Azharuddin. A soulmate from outside India would be Lawrence Rowe, who had the same vulnerability, the same fluidity, the same effortlessness. And the same appetite for big scores. Among contemporaries, Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene is a similar visual treat at the crease. But it is a dying breed, as efficiency replaces style and effectiveness is rated above sheer magic.

To a generation brought up to believe that the product is more important than the process, Laxman might have been an anachronism but for one crucial quality: Laxman had substance to go with the style. He won matches for India, especially late in his career, when he made batting with nine, ten and jack into an art form. His batting, far from causing junior partners to give up the ghost in despair at being unable to match it, actually gave them the heart to carry on. Laxman gave them confidence, and they responded by concentrating harder.

As a catcher at slip, Laxman was only a whit behind Dravid, his friend and chatting partner in that cordon. Only Dravid, with his world record 210, has caught more. These two, along with Tendulkar, must take some of the credit for the success of the Indian bowling in the golden era. Fast bowlers knew that edges would be taken, spinners could experiment confident that even hard slashes would be grasped by the many soft pairs of hands.

There has been speculation for months now that Laxman might call it a day after the Hyderabad Test commencing on Thursday. That would have been a Bollywood ending - with perhaps a century on his home ground and an Indian win against New Zealand. It must have been a wrench, the decision to quit at this time. After all, he was already in the squad for the Tests. By doing the decent thing after the disastrous series in England and Australia, Laxman has given the selectors more time to try out more options before the tougher series abroad next year, even if by his own admission, he took them into confidence only on the morning of his announcement. It will not be easy to fill the shoes of players like Dravid and Laxman.

For 16 years at the highest level, Laxman personified grace in everything he did. He was incapable of an ugly stroke. He deserves his rest, his time with the family and our good wishes as he follows his final dream - to win the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad

…………………………………….. BY SURESH MENON

Comments   

 
0 #1 PRIYA MENON 2012-08-20 15:24
Goood article.....
all the best to the classic cricketer in his retired life
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