It was an emotional day for the Hyderabad cricket fraternity. The pride and joy of their city had called it a day after a glorious career and they couldn't come to terms with the fact that he had done it on the eve of the home Test.
"I was very, very surprised by his decision; we tried our best to convince him but he had made up his mind…we have to respect the decision," said Laxman's former India teammate and currently the vice-president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association, Venkatapathy Raju. "In his 16-year career, he has seen many ups and downs. He has always played under pressure and must have thought enough is enough. He must have finally felt that justice was not being done," said Raju, referring to the criticism by experts over Laxman's selection for the New Zealand series.
"Once the team is announced, one shouldn't be criticised. The selectors are there to do a job. You can criticise after a series," said Raju.
Even though the Hyderabadis rue the missed opportunity of giving their hero a fitting farewell, they look back at Laxman's numerous innings fondly. His innings of 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001 will forever remain etched in the memory of the cricket buffs.
Ironically, it was Raju's last Test for India.
"Our coach, John Wright, had given a diktat that everyone had to come out and watch the game and not sit inside the dressing room. We thank him that we saw every ball of that classic played by Laxman, and his partnership with Rahul Dravid,' recalled Raju. "I had been selected in the team after a long time and was ready to pack my bags early as it was a case of just one wicket for Australia. But, Laxman and Dravid defied all odds. The Kolkata crowd is very passionate and gets upset easily, but in that innings, even though we were following on, every run was cheered lustily."
"After the victory, the celebrations were wild. We had to take a flight immediately and the Australians were already there at the airport. But we delayed the flight by two hours as we celebrated in the hotel."
Laxman's career will be remembered for the innings he played under pressure in trying conditions. Raju felt Laxman's contribution could have been bigger had he been assured a fixed batting spot. "All his career he was floating from the opener to the No 7 slot. He never had a fixed spot like Dravid or Tendulkar.
"We would have liked him to sign off on the ground, but he had his own reasons. I am a touch sad but it's time to celebrate a glorious career," said Laxman's former Ranji captain and secretary of HCA, MV Sridhar.
Apart from divine timing, the other striking quality about Laxman's game was the monk-like calmness he displayed under intense pressure. Sridhar attributed it to his commitment. "His commitment was exemplary."