Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
How trite it sounds, how repetitive , how boring.
But there is nothing trite about VVS Laxman,nothing monotonous and his sublime touch has cricket fans transfixed and spellbound.
He has always seemed the bridesmaid,never the bride.
Even though he has that very,very special 281 and that blinding, blistering 167, both against the Aussies, one at Kolkata, the other at Sydney in 2000 when he opened the innings at the outset of his career.The 167 denotes a period when the selectors persisted and insisted that he take up the opener’s role.
This at a time when although the Indian team had a multitude of contenders to the middle order , finding a regular opener to see off the new ball was an exercise in futility. Laxman, however, put his foot down and signaled his intention to stake a place in the middle or not play at all. For a lesser light it would have meant a premature eclipse to a budding career, but neither Laxman nor his claim to greatness could be denied, would be denied.
The 2001 home series against the Aussies cemented his place in the pantheon of cricketing greats. Laxman will always be identified by that defining, unbelievable, edifying knock against an Aussie side that seemed nigh invincible.
Steve Waugh’s kangaroos were made to bleed from a thousand cuts by a cavalier Laxman; the Eden loss also ended the Australian team’s run of sixteen victories on the trot. Interestingly, Australia’s world record of sixteen consecutive victories , was ended by India twice over. There really is something about an Aussie-India series; it brings out the best and sometimes the worst in both sides. A rivalry to match and perhaps surpass the Ashes.
The Wrist On Show
After Azhar, Laxman is India’s wristiest player of the modern generation but unlike his predecessor – another Hyderabadi - he exhibits no shortcomings against the short ball. He has more than enough time for two different shots to every delivery. With Tendulkar, it is about early anticipation. With Laxman, it is hand-eye co-ordination and his marvelous wrists. His supple wrists lend beauty to every slap at the red cherry.
He has been a match-winner; he is a match-winner; he will always be one.
He is a throwback to the wizards of yore; Ranjitsinghji and Duleepsinghji are his illustrious fore bearers.
Laxman epitomizes grace and poise in what is fast becoming a power sport where ugly hoicks are the order of the day (captain’s orders?) ; the hoicks are cherished and applauded by twenty-minute hacks.
Laxman is no travailer of uncertain fortitude.
One of two batters to have scored triple centuries in domestic cricket, the other being Wasim Jaffer – another battler who can consider himself distinctly unfortunate - Laxman has always seemed out of the ordinary. He now has sixteen tons against his name; he could have had a few more if he had come in higher up the order. His job has been to come in at number six (now five after Ganguly’s retirement), a difficult task because the number six plays out the second new ball. He needs to have the skill and temperament of an opening bat and at the same time have the requisite maturity to shield the tail enders from marauding pacers.
Laxman in Lanka
The final day of the 3rd Test against the Sri Lankans saw Laxman back to his best.By his standards, it had not been a great series so far. It had been Sehwag, Tendulkar and Test rookie Raina who carried India’s hopes. Laxman , as his wont, came to the party when he was most needed. An unbeaten hundred and supporting roles by Tendulkar and newbie Suresh Raina saw India home in a canter; the win also ensured that India stay No. 1 by a comfortable margin.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is India’s most successful captain in terms of winning percentage , 62.5%; under him, this Indian team has yet to lose a series. Of course, India have not yet played South Africa in SA and Australia in Australia. But defeating the current Australian team down under lies very much in the realm of possibility. It is the South Africans and a much improved England side that are the teams to beat now.
India finish the series much the way it started. The bowling lacks teeth in the absence of Nehra and Zaheer Khan. Would Sreesanth have made a difference? Only he knows. Munaf Patel does not enjoy the confidence of Dhoni; this is disturbing because he did have the trust of his earlier skipper, Anil Kumble. The finds of the series have been Suresh Raina and Abhimanyu Mithun. Mithun could well be the all-rounder India have been seeking. But it is too early to tell. Irfan Pathan comes to mind; where is he now?Ojha is fast improving as a bowler. But eight wickets in three matches is not much to write home about on pitches that were more suited to spin bowling. It is India’s vaunted batting might that carries the day and why not? By any reckoning, it is the best batting line-up in the world, bar none!
Indians are terrible starters; we seem to lose more opening games than any other team. CricInfo ran a competition last evening seeking six words as headliner to the India – Sri Lanka series. The tagline “India: Masters At the Trailing Win” sprung to mind. That reminds me – should I be mentioning competitors in this column? I’ll soon know!
Have a great day!