The man with a sunny smile & steely inside | india | Hindustan Times
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The man with a sunny smile & steely inside

india Updated: Aug 21, 2012 23:51 IST
Amrit Mathur
VVS Laxman

As VVS Laxman takes off his pads and puts away his spikes, my lasting memory of him is not how he fetched a ball from outside off to mid-wicket or classy stroke-play or sheer elegance.

Still fresh in my mind is an evening in Lahore when a photographer requested Indian players to pose for 'offbeat' pictures. VVS, ever the willing volunteer, put his hand up immediately not knowing what was in store for him.

The 'offbeat' picture required him to sit on a horse in full cricket gear, including helmet, striking a pose like a warrior, the bat in his right hand raised like a sword.

The shoot was done in the driveway of the busy Pearl Continental Hotel and the situation became ridiculous as the horse got jumpy, disturbed by the blaring horns of cars. But Laxman was unfazed by the chaos. Instead, he found it amusing and smiled through the torture.

Laxman wore a sunny smile at the crease too but that covered a steely inside, which helped him battle severe odds. Laxman’s batting at number 6 was always correct and cultured; he was an artist who manufactured strokes of supreme grace and charm.

Incapable of playing a crude shot, Laxman was never rushed and such was his serenity, it looked he did not hit the ball, only guided it away to the boundary politely as if not wanting to offend the bowler he was punishing.

What will we remember Laxman for? Surely for several high-quality innings, for giving dignity to the Indian middle-order and for his honourable conduct on the cricket field.

In 16 years of international cricket, Laxman did not sledge, did no drama and did not hurt anyone except the bowlers.

Which is why he enjoys enormous goodwill among colleagues as well as with players he competed with.

Early in his career, he made a brave choice of not opening the innings and dropping down the order, a decision that defied the Indian tradition of players moving up to avoid the clutter lower down.

Laxman chose to travel against the traffic in a one-way street and even his sudden retirement while continuing to play Ranji for Hyderabad shows he is one of a kind — one of India's all-time greats.

John Howard, former prime minister of Australia, once put Laxman's batting in perspective. We respect Sachin, he said, but Laxman is the guy we all love.