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A climbdown that has worked for Laxman

The contrast between Sachin and Laxman could not have been more marked -- both made runs but their style and approach was different. Sachin dropped flair and flamboyance, chose determination and discipline instead. But Laxman was effortless ease, his touch so supreme the ball just found the middle of the bat and sped to the boundary.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2004 00:29 IST

The contrast between Sachin and Laxman could not have been more marked -- both made runs but their style and approach was different.

Sachin dropped flair and flamboyance, chose determination and discipline instead. But Laxman was effortless ease, his touch so supreme the ball just found the middle of the bat and sped to the boundary.

The response of both players to success was also different. Laxman, face aglow with satisfaction, looked confidently ahead and smiled pleasantly as he accepted the congratulations of fans.

While the Aussies wonder about the many sins they've committed to stir this otherwise mild-mannered person, Laxman thinks his stunning second innings (in Tests) was sparked by his decision not to open. Suddenly my luck changed, he says, and I started getting runs consistently.

Which is surprising, something totally against the traditions of Indian cricket where middle order batsmen are pushed up the ladder, and then dropped.

But Laxman, unlike others, climbed down the slippery ladder -- and in a manner of speaking drove against the traffic in a one- way street.

Sachin, as always, revealed no emotion following his monumental double. He simply placed his bat carefully into the kit bag, put pads away and went for a stress-relieving ice bath and shower. What could he be feeling after his knock? Elation, relief?

Very likely, but Sachin does not give a hint of what is happening inside his formidable mind. If he was happy he did not show it, just as there must have been pressure before the innings which too he suppressed.

He is the ultimate control freak, remarked a colleague.

He controls himself as much as bowlers. Asked to explain his stunning form- finding innings, Sachin said he did nothing special. I changed nothing, just kept doing the things that have worked for me all this time.

The Indian team followed Sachin's mantra, they too stuck to their policy of keeping dignified silence.

No loud statements, no demonstration of emotion -- all that came out of the dressing room was steady confidence and positive vibes.

Which shows, again, that this team is different from earlier ones. The current bunch of players is competitive and crafty (chakku) on the field, they know what it takes to win. They are focused on the game and understand that cricket is their passport, the ultimate credit card.

The players live in the present, are hazy about history, they don't carry the burden of past tragedies, don't even know about the disasters that happened the other day. If India failed earlier in Australia, the players are not unduly worried, their concern is to perform now.

Psychologist Sandy Gordan feels the team is well prepared, better trained, better coached, better supported in every way. The boys understand that by developing mental skills they can enhance performance because the key to success in contemporary sport lies in handling stress.

Whatever the Indian team is doing, it is working. In the last six weeks much has changed, nobody will casually rubbish Indian batsmen and make insulting comments. The last four Tests have established two things: Indian batting delivered big. And the Aussies, stripped of their aura, suddenly look vulnerable and naked.

First Published: Jan 05, 2004 00:06 IST