We all are familiar with famous ‘Fab Four’ of India: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag - each a legend in his own right. Tendulkar’s wicket is most coveted by bowlers, Dravid is a headache for opposing captain and Sehwag is a nightmare for the bowlers. Laxman, on the other hand, is neither destructive like Sehwag nor consistent like Dravid or Tendulkar. So what makes Laxman a marvel?
When the chips are down, Laxman is the man India look up to. He will outlive every one when a battle goes right down to the wire. At Mohali against the Aussies in October, he battled back spasm to guide India to a thrilling one-wicket win when it was almost curtains for India.
He plotted and executed India ‘impossible’ 216-run run-chase to perfection, even as he kept losing all his experienced colleagues to poor shot selection and umpiring errors.
Laxman rescued India from 124 for eight. He added 81 runs (off 131 balls) for the ninth wicket with Ishant Sharma and remained unbeaten on 73 when India sensationally reached the target.
Laxman has scripted many such epics. He has been especially severe on the Aussies, against whom he is scored 2000 runs – only the second Indian batsman after Tendulkar to reach the milestone. His 2001 Kolkata innings is now part of cricket’s great folklores while his match-winning 300-plus partnership with Rahul Dravid at Adelaide in 2003-04 was a feast for the purists.
On the last tour to Sri Lanka, he scored a 5th day century to win the match and help India come on level terms in the series.
Laxman again was the man, along with Zaheer Khan, who enabled India to beat South Africa at Durban and level the series in style after a crushing innings defeat at Centurion. He was the top scorer in both innings. He made a crucial 91 in the second innings in a match where no one else scored more than 39. The South Africa spirits sagged the way Laxman handled Dale Steyn and Co.
Laxman has been India’s best batsman in the second innings, especially in victories where he scores at more than 67 per innings with a record eleven 50-plus scores and two 2 centuries.
A wristy batsman in the mould of Zaheer Abbas and Mohammad Azharuddin, Laxman has the brilliance to hit the same ball on either side of the wicket with equal ease. His method, especially when the chips are down is to keep the score moving rather than grinding out in the center like Michael Atherton or Sunil Gavaskar. In this way he out-scores others and the target is reached without asking too much from the other batsmen.
People ask who will hold the Indian batting together when the likes of Tendulkar or Dravid retire. I ask: Who will win the matches for India when silky the Laxman bows out of the game?!
(Aziz-ul-Qadir, from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, is a physician by profession, who suffers from incurable disease called cricket! A nomad in the world of literature, especially poetry, his passion is to live, love, discuss, watch, listen, read and write cricket)