28 September 2007

Very Very Strange

I got damn excited when hours before the T20 finals, I noticed that a certain VVS Laxman was batting at 54 off 54 balls, for Lancashire in the fourth innings, chasing a county record 489 to win against Surrey and keep their title hopes alive. For a while there, the clash with Pakistan was not at the top of my mind. Sitting in office, all I could think of was VVS, imperious at the Oval. He eventually made a run-a-ball hundred which went a long way in denting that imposing total - but it was not enough. Lancashire fell short by 24 runs.

I will admint that I have a fondness for VVS Laxman, that borders on the insane - and I am probably never objective enough when discussing him. It is not a complex relationship. Just one of blind idolatry. Very simply, there is no other batsman in the world (now that Lara is out) that I'd rather watch make a hundred. There are similarly gifted people, of course, and Mohammed Yousuf and Jayawardene are almost in the same league, and perhaps Michael Clarke and Ashraful too, but as far as I am concerned, there is only one Laxman. He has his critics too, and I have never listened to them.

He has a modest Test batting average of 42.71. It is not so bad, considering that he has played 37 of his 83 Test matches at number 6, and only recently has there been the fairly decent buffer of MS Dhoni between Laxman and the tail. Three hundreds and thirteen fifties from this uneviable position is really not a bad record, if you have to go by numbers alone, and in Laxman's case, numbers don't come close to doing justice. He has remarkable records against the best team of his generation, and I will never regret having slipped away from home three days before my Std XII exams to watch him make the epic innings, whose burden he is forever destined to carry, every time the team is in trouble.

A consummate team man, Laxman has always batted at whichever psotition has suited the management of the day. Even as late as last year's tour of Pakistan, he was asked to open the innings. It was nothing new for Laxman. He has opened the innings without complaint on 25 occasions, never compalining even though his average drops to 29. Opening the innings in a losing cause in a dead rubber in sydney in '99, he scored one of the majestic Indian innings' of the last decade against a fire-breathing Lee and co, making 167 in a team score of 261. Laxman was the emperor on the burning deck.

Over the last couple of years, the penchant of scoring massively seems to have petered out, but he has contributed handsomely in some famous Test victories. On a minefield in Mumbai, he earned India a consolation win against the Aussies with a superbly executed 69. In the home series against Sri Lanka that followed, he made a 69 and a 104 in the second and third Tests, both of which we won. In the Jo'burg Test, he was the highest scorer in the second innings, propping India to a comfortable 236 to set up the win. In the historic series win in England, he continued on his recent trend of being more safe than spectacular, collecting two fifties on the way. Of late, he has played his part in some tough fought drawn matches too. Facing defeat at the hands of the Windies in St Kitts, he made 100 and 63, batting at number 3 in both innings.

He has played in 83 Test matches and has represented India with distinction, and unless the selectors decide to play spoilsport, should be around to shepherd the younger generation of Uthappa, Sharma, Gambhir, Tiwary etc. even after the Big Three (phttth!!) retire. For some reason, he has a Grade B contract. Perhaps his omission from ODIs is the reason, in which case, I guess it is fair. But if the reason is that his spot in the Test team is not as certain as Ganguly or Dhoni (!!), then I think he is entitled to be angry. Like me. But perhaps this will produce from him the kind of heroics we saw from Zaheer to earn a propulsion from C to A.

To me, he also looks an automatic candidate for Test captaincy. Experienced and a usually attacking batsman, the only problem is that he is no longer an automatic choice in the team when India play five batsmen. But then is Dhoni assured of a spot? Don't we have two keepers in the team already and another (Parthiv) with a Grade D contract?

9 comments:

Soulberry said...

You've said it all here, John.

I was distracted by the lancs match too back then.

Was it Adelaide...the 163 or 169 that he scored? (the exact runs and place don't matter as long as that innings is in mind) I saw that innings standing. The common room of the doctor's hostel was choc-a-bloc full and Laxman had just begun to weave his magic when I joined in. I saw every ball of it, from a spot about seven meters away from the idiot box and peering above a million restless heads. I just remember the shots...not the ultimate score..nothing else of that match..it was mesmerizing.

Give me a Laxman special anyday!

Very nice appreciation by the way...

John said...

Thanks, Soulberry.
It was at the SCG.

Soulberry said...

SCG...there were many in that common room that time who felt it was a one-off going down in a balze of glory kind of innings.

I'd like to hear what they have to say about it since. Some, I have met and have amended their views on Laxman, but many have become diaspora.

Potty said...

Good post, man.
I too love this cricketer,though not as much as you do,I guess.
I remember that 167 at Sydney. I guess it should go down as one of the bravest knocks by our batsmen.

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