VVS Laxman has nerves of steel. No matter how trying and testing the circumstances, the man puts his hand up and delivers match-winning performances time and again. After yet another sparkling knock, he tells Hindustan Times about what gets the best out of him in challenging situations.
How do you rate the Durban victory?
It has to be up there. Beating South Africa on a bouncy track is very special and it gives you a lot of joy. The Durban wicket is one of the most challenging ones, and doing well here gives one so much satisfaction.
How did you and the team feel after losing the Centurion Test?
We had prepared well for the Centurion Test. So, we were very upset over not performing to the best of our abilities, though the toss was a major factor. On a personal level, I was disappointed over not making a contribution. I wanted to start the tour on a high, but got out cheaply in both the innings. So, I was determined to do well here.
What changed in Durban?
Aggression was the key. Coming into the Test after losing in Centurion, we discussed that we needed to be more aggressive. Even when we were bowled out for 205, we were pretty aggressive on the field and the body language was positive. This was a good sign.
How do you rate this knock and what brings out the best in you in pressure situations?
I don't like to compare my knocks. All knocks that have helped the team win are equally important to me. As for excelling under pressure, I have always relished the challenge of performing when the chips are down. I have always wanted to do well in such situations right from the start. Besides, I have been the main batsman for Hyderabad and have played knocks like these there as well. So, perhaps that experience is also helping me handle tough situations.
How disappointed were you at not getting a hundred?
From the team's point of view, I am happy to soak in the pressure and play a knock that helps the team win. But from a personal point of view, I feel very disappointed. I always feel my conversion rate isn't great. To have 49 half-centuries and 16 centuries is obviously not a great conversion record. I would have been happier had I got hundreds in these games, but I am happy that I have done reasonably well to bail the team out of trouble whenever required of me.
How do you prepare for a Test?
Preparation is extremely important for me. I have got a set routine. I see which bowler is going to bowl at me and where. So, I prepare accordingly in the nets. If you prepare well, you don't think about the result. You just stay in the moment and let your instincts take over. And gradually, while you are building your innings, you enter a 'zone'. Suddenly you realise there are no thoughts in your mind; you don't notice what the fielders are talking. You just see the ball that's coming at you.
You are one of the most respected cricketers around. How do you see it?
I've always wanted to be remembered as someone who contributed in winning matches for the team. And the biggest recognition is when your mates know you could go out and bail the team out in difficult situations. Also, it's satisfying when the opposition cannot take the result for granted till you are there in the middle. To know that you have performed in tough situations is very satisfying for an international cricketer.