Another master player calls it a day. It’s a situation every sportsperson has to face — right from Pele, Maradona, Muhammad Ali and Bjorn Borg to the great Sir Donald Bradman. It’s not like other things in life, which go on forever. Sportspersons have a shelf life.
After 16 memorable years of international cricket, VVS decided to call it a day on Saturday. I completely agree with Laxman’s way of stepping down, even after being selected for the Test series with New Zealand.
People like Laxman don’t need a farewell series. I know Kris Srikkanth is nearing the end of his tenure, but selectors need to remember that players shouldn’t be picked at their whims and fancies. If one is dropped on account of poor form, the same rule should apply to others as well.
Making this sound like a farewell series does not make any sense. It’s a fantastic decision... By this, he has sent a loud and clear message to the selectors.
The first time I saw VVS was in the dressing room at Headingly during India’s ’96 tour of England, where the visitors were playing an ODI, of which I was not a part.
He made his home debut in 1997, playing a superb knock on a dust bowl in Ahmedabad to win the game and signal the start of a terrific career, which took Indian cricket to great heights.
When I saw him for the first time, he reminded me of Md Azharuddin. Laxman's wristwork resembled that of his predecessor, but in due course, his technique turned out to be much stronger. Soon, Laxman became a massive match-winner for India in Tests.
A lot of cricket-loving people in India would have seen all his amazing knocks, but what stood out for me was the one he played against Australia at the Eden in 2001.
I am someone who respects runs and wins abroad, but this particular innings was not only Laxman's best but also one of the finest hundreds scored in Test cricket. That knock not only changed the game and the series, it also started the journey of Indian cricket, which saw them winning matches overseas as well.
Laxman has played a lot of good knocks and to evaluate them all would not be possible. But Sydney 2000, Adelaide 2003, Durban 2010 and Mohali 2010 were very, very special, as his name got transformed from Vangipurappu Venkat Sai Laxman to 'Very Very Special' Laxman.
Off the field too, VVS is a thorough gentleman and I can vouch for that. He loves his rasam and curd and is a vegetarian but that didn't stop him from being mentally aggressive and tough on the field.
I still remember the day he stood at second slip next to me in the 1999 Sydney Test. He was going through a rough patch. VVS was not quite sure if he would retain his Test and ODI spot and was in a speculative frame of mind.
But, the next day, he played one of his best knocks, which gave his career a fresh boost.
Ever since, there has not been a 'negative bone' in his body. That's the reason why he has served Indian cricket for so long. He was always frustrated - and rightly so - about not playing a World Cup. I think, his ODI career should have been allowed to blossom. He was not the quickest on the field, which probably hurt his ODI career, but he had the talent to make up for it. He was especially severe on the Aussies, who respected him like Tendulkar.
The writer is a former Indias skipper. (360 Corporate Relationz)