With limited-over games keeping the Indian cricketers busy after the Test series in South Africa which got over on January 6, someone like VVS Laxman has been consigned to the background despite making a few appearances in the Indian Premier League for Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
But with India set to return to Test cricket with the series in the West Indies and travelling to England after that, Laxman will be back under the spotlight. The batsman, who played match-winning innings against Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa last year, is keen to get rid of the rust and get going.
The following are excerpts from a chat with HT from Hyderabad.
Having not played much after the Test series in South Africa in January, how are you preparing yourself for the tours of the West Indies and England?
Playing in the West Indies has always been challenging and I don’t think it’s going to be any different this time. And England is doing really well at the moment. They won the Ashes and have a first class record in recent times. It’s going to be a big challenge for me and the team.
Is this the best England side that you will face?
I don’t want to compare it with any other England team but it can be said that they have a fine combination going at the moment. Their batsmen are scoring runs, fast bowlers are taking wickets and they also have a quality spinner in Graeme Swann. Most importantly, they are doing well as a unit.
What’s your take on the present West Indies side?
They are short on experience. When I played there for the first time, in 1997, they had strong fast bowling attack of Curtley Ambrose, Franklyn Rose and Ian Bishop. Even compared to the team we played in 2006, the current lot is inexperienced. Having said that, there is no denying that there is a fair amount of talent in this team as well. So we can’t take them lightly and personally, my aim is to play an important role for the country and help the team realise its ambition.
Is it true that your son (Sarvajeet, four-and-a-half) was surprised to see the Indian players in tears after they won the World Cup?
Yes, we were watching the final on TV and saw everybody getting emotional. Even I got a bit emotional too. My son knows my India teammates and he asked me why were Sachin uncle and Dhoni uncle crying. I tried to explain to him the significance of the moment and that it was a very important moment for all of us, including myself, even though I was not part of the team.
Does not playing in a single World Cup still hurt?
It’s been some time that I have been playing Test cricket only but not playing in the World Cup ever definitely hurts. It’s one of the biggest regrets of my career and will remain one. Having said that, I have learnt to deal with it.
You are the vice-captain for the Test series in the West Indies. How is this added responsibility going to affect you?
It’s not exactly a new role for me since I was the vice-captain in the Test series in South Africa in 2006-7. So this role wouldn’t make any difference in the way I approach my game. And as far as responsibility is concerned, I have always taken responsibility. Being a senior, it’s important to interact with the youngsters and pass on the knowledge that I have. Another important aspect is to help them learn how to handle success and failure. It’s not something that I have not done in the past, so my technical and mental preparation will not change.
Given that the Indian team is going through a period of transition, does that role of the seniors become more crucial?
Transition or no transition, the seniors generally have a crucial role to play. And it’s not restricted to international cricket only. I gained a lot from interacting with my seniors in Hyderabad and Lancashire . Obviously, a lot depends of how receptive you are. If you are receptive enough, you will always gain by interacting with seniors.
How is your back problem?
Fortunately, I got a break after the series in South Africa. I spent about five-six weeks at the NCA (in Bangalore) and worked really hard with Ashish Kaushik (physiotherapist) and Sudarshan (physical trainer). I am feeling good now and concentrating on sharpening my skills at the moment.
Those who have seen you lead in domestic cricket, observe that you are the best captain not to have led India? Does captaincy comes naturally to you?
That’s something only others can answer. I’m lucky to lead the sides that I have and there are no regrets that I never led India. I am fortunate to have played for India and to have contributed to its success.
Despite being a player of such ability, you are still four short of 20 Test tons. Are conscious about it?
It’s one record I wish I could set right. It happened because of some reasons like for a long time I was batting at No. 6 and ended up playing with the tail-enders. But having said that, I am happy as long as I win the respect of my peers. And century or no century, as long as the runs I score help the team win, I am happy.
How is life going to be in the post-Gary Kirsten era?
For sure Gary will be missed. He had a huge influence on the team and was a great human being. His work ethics were exemplary. Duncan Fletcher is an experienced coach and I am looking forward to working with him.