Monday, August 20, 2012

Very Very Special

Its been a couple of days since VVS Laxman announced his retirement with "immediate effect" from international cricket. Millions of blog posts have already been written about the man in the interim. Here is one more tribute to the man who made Indian fans believe in miracles.

I have actually seen him bat. That was in 1998. It was a Ranji Trophy match between Bihar & Hyderabad played in Keenan Stadium. To be honest it wasn't VVS whom I had gone to watch. It was the 2nd or 3rd day of the game. Hyderabad was batting. VVS and Venkatpathy Raju were the batsman. But I was more interested in getting a glimpse of my then idol, Mohammed Azharuddin, who would occasionally wander into the pavilion balcony and receive loads of cheers. That I got to see a triple hundred from VVS was a small sideshow at that time.

I was too young to probably realise it at that time. But that certainly was an example of how a beautiful innings is constructed. I am no master of words. And hence won't be able to do any justice to the artist that was VVS Laxman. "Lazy Elegance" must have been a phrase coined to describe VVS Laxman. The elegant wristwork, the flicks, the cuts. An inninigs could be built at a great tempo without the man even breaking into a sweat. An example of a great innings when all was lost was Sydney, 2000. India staring at a 3rd consecutive defeat while Laxman pulling off one shot after another to get to his maiden century which included 100+ runs in a single session of play.

Probably that was the innings which set up his love affair with the Aussie bowling attack. Guess that explains why the first cricketer to comment about VVS's retirement was the Aussie Captain Michael Clarke :). Jokes apart I doubt there has been any innings greater than the 281 at Eden Gardens. It was a freakish innings and had a Dravid special to complement it. An innings which has changed the way captains worldwide have perceived the follow-on. Enforcing the follow-on has become more and more debatable amonst captains worldwide.

A look at the Greatest Innings of Modern times.

If Laxman hadn't done anything else he would still have been remembered for that 281. But of course he isn't called Very Very Special for nothing. There were a sequence of 4th innings chases. The Aussies were sick of him. There was a case where Laxman got a big score and Australia lost even though they were playing in different continents.

Its a question often asked about geniuses. Individually brilliant, but was he a team-man? Well, all I can say is he refused the marquee player status in the 1st IPL and let Deccan Chargers pick him at a much lower price than he would have got otherwise (15% higher than the highest bought DC player). All this to ensure that limited money is spent wisely. That his team failed him is a different matter altogether.

With the retirement of Laxman coming soon after that of his most-oft partner-in-crime, the Indian Test batting order will bear a totally different look. Their retirements have been much discussed. But now that the reality is here, how the replacements will perform is still to be seen. And it is not just the batting lineup which will become different. There is big void created in the slip cordon. No Dravid at 1st slip and no VVS at 2nd. Who will be the replacements to fill in these legendary boots? Pretty tough to fathom.

In the end, thank you VVS Laxman for giving endless hope to the Indian fan. After all till you were at the crease, miracles did happen.

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