Hello and welcome to DRS once again, my very own personal space where we talk matters cricketing.
These are not the best of times for Indian cricket. We've slipped down the world rankings, we're no longer seen as the dominant power of Test cricket and we're losing one by one the stars who took us to the top. A few months ago, it was Rahul Dravid who called it quits and now it's VVS Laxman.
Dravid and Laxman, in a sense, you could call them Ram and Laxman because they will be associated forever with the golden annals of Indian cricket, particularly after their match-winning partnerships, the one at Kolkata and the one at Adelaide. Kolkata was quite remarkable, the manner in which India won a Test match after following on and Laxman scored, what most experts would concede, the greatest innings played by an Indian. That 281, not just for the runs he scored but the manner in which he scored them, must rank as the finest innings ever played by an Indian.
And don't forget, he did that more than once so it wasn't just a one-off against Australia. At a time when Australia was the best team in the world, Laxman always stood up to the Australian attack. Sunil Gavaskar was rated by many as the greatest opener of the 1970s, and perhaps of all-time, because his average against West Indies, the great West Indian pace attack, was higher than against other teams. He tested himself against the very best in the game and came out on top.
Much the same can be said about Laxman. He scored his runs against Australia at a time when they were undeniably the best team in the world. That what makes a man stands out from the boys and Laxman was the true man, a true giant of the game. In a recent article I read that Murali Karthik described Sachin Tendulkar as the God and Laxman as the 'guardian angel' of Indian cricket. It's almost a fair comparison. If Rahul Dravid was ‘The Wall’ of Indian cricket, Sourav Ganguly was the Prince of Kolkata, Sachin Tendulkar - the God of cricket; not a bad way to look at Laxman as not just the Very Very Special, which of course he was, but a bit of a guardian angel, someone who quite remarkably did extremely well in the fourth innings of a Test match.
Now anyone who has played this game will tell you that one of the most difficult things is to score runs in the fourth innings of the match, when the wicket is wearing, when the situations are tough; that's when Laxman stood up and stood out. To my mind, he's clearly an all-time great, a legend of the game which is why it saddens one that Laxman is leaving in somewhat controversial circumstances because controversies are not something that you would associate with Laxman. He always played his game, as any great player should, with a straight bat. But towards the end, there were calls for his removal saying he has become slow in the field, that he wasn't scoring the runs he once did and he was holding up a place for a younger talent.
Somehow this public criticism of Laxman, I think somewhere affected the man. Like all individuals, he's deeply sensitive and I think Laxman felt that the jury was being less than fair to him. Remember, less than a year ago, he scored a hundred, a big hundred against West Indies. He still remains, and most opponents would concede, one of the finest players of both fast and spin bowling. Yet over the last few months, I don't think the selectors communicated with him, I don't think the captain communicated with him, with the result Laxman must have felt that he was being left to fend for himself. And that's a rather sad thing for Indian cricket.
Why do our greats have to retire on a controversial note, or a deeply emotional note? What I would have liked to see is Laxman being celebrated in Hyderabad, the city where he played his cricket, in the first Test against New Zealand and being hailed as a true legend of the game.
Instead he will not have that fond farewell that somewhere I'm sure he would've liked. But then VVS is not the kind of person who'll hold this against his critics or he's not the kind of person who is known to rancour. I think he has left us with the memories, memories from Kolkata to Adelaide to other wonderful innings that he played over the years which we'll not forget. He must rank certainly among the top ten batsmen this country has produced and he must certainly rank as one of the finest ambassadors for the game of cricket. VVS Laxman was truly a genius, the one whom we should remember and celebrate.