The Aussies revere Sachin Tendulkar for very valid reasons. He has tormented them for years on end. There is one more in the Indian ranks who commands almost similar respect and attention. For very, very valid reasons. His name: V.V.S. Laxman.
Like four of his teammates, this is most probably his last tour of Australia and if scoring runs at important junctures is anything to go by, Laxman has been spot-on, just like he had during that glorious summer Down Under four years ago.
Strictly in terms of runs, Laxman’s best contribution in this series came in the second Test in Sydney, where he scored a century batting at No. 3. In terms of importance, his most valuable knocks have come batting at No. 6 — in Perth and here.
The chips were down on both occasions when he came out to bat in these games. Desperate to put something substantial on the board in the second innings, India were five down for not much in the third Test when Laxman’s remarkable rally with the tail pushed his team’s lead above 400.
The situation was better but only slightly so here on Day 1, when he joined Tendulkar and helped add 126 for the fifth wicket at a time when the team was badly looking for a partnership in order to drive home the advantage of batting first.
Like it has happened with him so many times in his career, the role played by Laxman keeps getting relegated to the background. It was the same in Perth where the bowlers got the lion’s share of the credit and no different here with his effort being overshadowed by Tendulkar’s first century in Don Bradman country.
Sublime and wristy like no one else among his contemporaries, Laxman was a study in contrasts after the second Test. There were times when he tried to force the ball to the right of the umpire from outside off but on almost every occasion after those attempts, he was seen shadowing a straighter shot.
It showed that he was curbing his natural game and trying to protect his wicket because his team needed that. With unwavering focus, he concentrated on playing as straight as possible although the wizard in him won at times and sent the ball piercing through the leg-side cordon following an inimitable flick of the wrists.
To his immense credit, Laxman overcame his natural flamboyance and concentrated on grafting for his team’s sake. There might be bigger scores for others and accordingly, bigger accolades as well. But the steadfastness and grace with which Laxman went about his job in this series should never be forgotten.