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When the going gets tough, VVS gets tougher

cricket Updated: Nov 08, 2010 23:57 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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His achievements have a disturbing tendency of not drawing the kind of adulation they deserve, his prowess as a batsman is not statistically not as sound as some of his peers in the India team, he has not been conferred the Padma Shree like some of his teammates and his name is unlikely to be heard when the IPL auctions come calling.

It's not known whether these things bother VVS Laxman, who continues to bat India out of trouble, with increasing regularity. People immortalise the 281 of 2001, but after that, he has played the saviour on many occasions, especially in the second innings. None of his teammates can boast of such a record while batting second and there are few in his generation of international cricketers who can match Laxman when it comes to this.

Laxman's true credit lies in the fact that he has been doing this job of covering up for the shortcomings of others right from his first Test. Because it was an innings of just 51, against South Africa here in 1996-97, not many remember it. He has done it with the team staring at disaster, and making the efforts priceless is the fact that India ended up winning on many of those occasions.

Being part of the strongest batting line-up India has ever had, Laxman doesn't average 50 per innings unlike quite a few on that list. He has just 16 Test centuries to show for his efforts, while players of lesser calibre have more than 20.

People keep talking about his lazy elegance and wristy wizardry, but behind those delicate strokes of art lies a heart of steel. The handkerchief around his head hanging out of the helmet, collars raised and the broad face of the bat meeting the ball - Laxman is more of a soldier than artist when the going gets tough.

At 36 and restricted to Test cricket only, Laxman will probably not carry on for much longer. Eager to make most of whatever he gets, he has become prolific with age and has been averaging 78.33 in 13 Tests since 2009. India's elevation to the world's top Test team has a lot to do with this.

Lack of hero-worship doesn't affect him, most demanding of situations can't stop him from producing his best and the tougher the challenge is, the better he gets.

A deeply religious and humble man, Laxman can take pride in the fact he is the embodiment of the Sankat Mochan Temple in this Indian team - his bat destroying the evil when others are caught wanting.