VVS Laxman is a man of habit, his warm smile and friendly banter off the field could win him any popularity contest in the cricketing world.
Likewise, his steely version kicks in once he walks out to the middle --- be it the wristy shots, the likes of which raced through the heavy outfield at the Kensington Oval, or the amazing temperament to dig in whenever the team is in the dumps.
Laxman taps the pitch with the bat and speaks to himself during the innings, a routine he says was suggested by a domestic coach to maintain focus. This has helped.
At 36, the Hyderabad batsman needs an elaborate warm up to manage a dodgy back. But what gets the juices flowing is when India's batting spine is under stress.
Laxman's brilliant 85 on a bouncy first day pitch was the latest example of his rescuing skills. An inside edge off the fiery Fidel Edwards fetched him 8,000 Test runs, making him only the fourth Indian to achieve the feat after Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sunil Gavaskar.Routine affair
For the India vice-captain, the innings was par for the course, despite having re-joined the team after six months. His 96 in the second Test in Durban was the cornerstone for the series-levelling win late last year. He had braved severe back trouble to score a century in the final Test in Sri Lanka to help square the previous series.
The mission is on even a decade after his epic 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens sparked a revival and led to a series win for India.
On Tuesday, Laxman took the milestone in his stride but rued missing out on another century. An uppish cut, caught at point, came as he desperately tried to regain the strike against the fiery Edwards. Although few need to be told about the value he brings to the team, he has only 16 centuries against 50 half-centuries and has been dismissed on 80 or more six times and has 10 unbeaten fifties.
"I am happy with the partnership with Suresh Raina," he said. "But we threw away the hard work we had done after lunch. Had we batted on, we would have got to 250-300 which would have been a very good score."
Been there, done that
It is the situation that gets Laxman going. "It gets the best out of me, especially when we are in a terrible situation. But I would like to convert the fifties into 100s. I always regret not converting them. But I was pleased with the way I batted, I was getting back the rhythm."
The disappointment overshadowed his reaching a significant milestone. "Milestones are by-products of what you try and do for your country. So, I am not feeling elated or high at crossing 8,000. I can look back at them after I retire."
His fans will also look at the artistry and significance of those runs than his statistics.