You can go to the farthest corners of the world, and if people there know anything about cricket they speak with unconditional affection and respect about VVS Laxman. Sure, Sachin Tendulkar is the universal currency that Indian cricket banks on, but Laxman occupies a special place. He has hurt the best of attacks but fans of those countries still love him.
On a windy Thursday evening, the Auckland Eastern Districts Cricket Association (AEDCA) did their bit to recognise one of world cricket's most loved sons for having played in more than 100 Test matches.
The reason for the Auckland felicitation is the presence of one of Laxman's earliest coaches, V Manohar, himself a former opener, selector and coach with the Hyderabad State Ranji team.
Laxman was typically charming, speaking to a gathering of local under-17 cricketers, a touring Andhra junior team, officials from AEDCA and several Indian fans. Laxman's manner of speaking and simple behaviour won him admiration from all as he said a few words after receiving a memento from the local under-17 skipper.
“It was a great honour when I played my first Test, and it felt even better when I represented my country for the hundredth time," said Laxman.
“I am extremely thankful to AEDCA for this gesture because it is the first time I have been felicitated outside India for playing 100 Tests.”
Speaking to the young cricketers, Laxman said, "This is a great opportunity for both sets of players to understand how different teams play their cricket. Everyone of you must aspire to play for your country, because there is no greater honour and matter of pride than that."
Laxman is one of those cricketers who have always acknowledged those who helped him become who he is.
“I went to the St. John's Cricket Academy in Hyderabad when I was ten years old, and Manohar sir was my childhood coach,” he remarked. “He has played a very influential role in the way my career has shaped up. My academy felicitated me on playing 100 Tests, and in turn, I expressed my gratitude by presenting each of my coaches with a memento.
“Only Manohar sir wasn't there. I find it a little ironical and strange that I am meeting him here in Auckland,” he said as he handed over a token of appreciation to Manohar, who moved to Auckland seven years back.
Former New Zealand off-spinner Dipak Patel, who was the master of ceremonies, did his bit.
“Sachin Tendulkar is perhaps the greatest batsman ever. At times, you have played as well as, if not better than, him," he said to Laxman. "I can't pay you a bigger compliment."