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Laxman set to call it a day

cricket Updated: Aug 18, 2012 17:40 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Hindustan Times
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A time comes when even the greatest have to bow out and this could happen on Saturday with strong indications that the two Tests against New Zealand could be VVS Laxman's last tango in international cricket.

Seen as a warm-up for the big battles ahead, the news will lift the profile of the low-key series.

Starting at home, Laxman will be the cynosure of all eyes in the first Test and the Hyderabadi stylist will continue to be the main attraction of the series.

There's no official confirmation yet, but the player admitted to a newspaper that he was discussing retirement plans with his parents, family members, coaches and friends. "A final decision will be taken about the exact details of my plans by this evening," Laxman said on Friday.

A veteran of 134 Tests, Laxman's exit will leave a vacuum in the India batting line-up, but it's a decision which was expected after a below-par series in England and Australia.

The thought of retirement has been tormenting the player ever since he returned low scores in the first three Tests in Australia in 2011-12. In fact, there was criticism about his inclusion in the XI of the fourth Test at Adelaide as many felt it was the right opportunity to blood a youngster.

The batsman himself was reluctant to continue after the low but stopped from calling it a day at the insistence of well-wishers.

With an average of 22.75 against England and 19.37 against Australia, he was not an automatic choice for the home series but respecting his stature, the selectors fell shy of wielding the axe.

However, the last few games will not take away the sheen off a luminous career, which was studded with match-winning innings against oppositions in different conditions.

Man for the crisis
A master of playing under pressure, he perfected the art of shepherding the tail and was the hero in most famous India wins in the last decade. Whether it was negotiating a vicious turning track or the bouncing ball, Laxman adapted his game easily.

Ever since that epic 281 in 2001 at Eden, Laxman was a foe the opposition bowlers feared the most. More match-winning feats followed with a sparkling 148 at Adelaide (2003-04 series vs Australia)), 103 not out at P Sara Oval (2010 series vs Sri Lanka), 73 not out at Mohali (2010 vs Australia) and 58 not out at the Kotla (2011 vs West Indies). The last four knocks came in the 4th innings chase, making him a man for the crisis.

When contacted on Friday evening, Laxman's former India teammate and Hyderabad Cricket Association vice-president, Venkatapathy Raju, said people were assuming that he would retire because he was playing at home. "He's done enough to be allowed to make that call. He's been part of a brilliant era and like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, he should be left alone," said Raju.

Who after Laxman? With Dravid also retired, it will leave a void in the India middle-order.

"I have nothing against the youngsters, but they have to prove themselves. These guys have carried the burden for so long on their shoulders and it won't be easy to replace them. It's not only about playing at home, but about showing your mettle abroad. This is where Laxman's contribution stood out.