If you’re a statistician, you should stop reading this right now. You’re likely to point to 7490 Test runs and list all those who have made so many more. You’ll underline 16 centuries, and show us batsmen who have comfortably doubled that mark. That, even on a day when he engineered one of Indian cricket’s greatest wins, VVS Laxman was not adjudged Man-of-the-Match, tells you the standards by which the world judges this great player.
The question that should be asked is not how much, but how. Who scores runs against the best team in the world, when the pressure is the greatest, and turns near-certain defeat into glorious victory? Laxman has come to India’s rescue with such regularity that on the eve of the final day, when Ricky Ponting sat down to eat dinner, it was Laxman who occupied his thoughts.
A stiff back and a brief appearance at No. 10 in the first innings notwithstanding, it was Laxman, Ponting spoke to his players about. “I was having dinner with a couple of the guys and I told them that he was dangerous, almost like a wounded player batting low down the order,” Ponting said. “I felt he’d make a big contribution today, and that’s how it turned out.”
The fact that the Australian team did not underestimate Laxman and prepared well to counter him, and still could not stop him tells you just what sort of control Laxman.
More often than not, you can tell what the opposition thinks is a player’s weakness by the fields they set to him and line of attack they employ.
With Laxman, though, this goes out of the window, as he routinely hits two deliveries pitched on the same spot, coming to him at the same height and distance outside the off-stump, to diametrically opposite parts of the ground.
Ordinary players are ruthlessly exposed by their weaknesses at the international level, good ones find ways to make their strengths count while the truly great improve every day.
Laxman? If you have figured out what his weakness is, please do let Ponting know.
There are few things more virtuous than giving joy without expecting anything in return, and Laxman has done this all his life. Lesser cricketers than him routinely walk away with giant endorsement deals. Poorer fielders than him occupy spots in limited-overs teams. While other cricketers fight amongst themselves to land bigger IPL contracts, Laxman voluntarily - at great personal cost — gave up his status as icon player, thereby freeing up money for the Deccan Chargers to build their team.
All his cricketing life, Laxman has given, without complaint, and when we ask for more, he just digs deeper, and produces. On Tuesday, a special player with a unique talent briefly made the lives of millions of ordinary people slightly more livable. From a sportsman, you really can’t ask for more.