Hyderabad: Aug 20, 2012
Pullela Gopichand paid rich tributes to VVS Laxman as he recollected his long-standing friendship with the stylish Hyderabadi batsmen who announced retirement from international cricket on Saturday.
It was a great coincidence as the two Hyderabadi sportsmen rose to fame at the same time. Gopi won the All England title on March 11, 2001 – the day when the famous Test against Australia commenced at Eden Gardens. Laxman pummelled the Australian bowlers with a memorable 281-run innings as Gopi floored his Chinese opponents on the badminton court.
It was the ace shuttler’s triumph in England that inspired India to attain the impossible feat by beating the invincible Australian team led by Steve Waugh. Sachin Tendulkar, ahead of the second innings gave an inspiring speech and urged his teammates to take inspiration from Gopi’s feat in England.
It was Laxman, Gopi’s childhood friend who provided that inspiration to the Indian team and won the match for his team from a difficult situation.
Gopi reminisced the famous innings. He was quoted by Indian Express as saying, “I reached India and watched Laxman’s brilliant innings that day and the next and read and re-read about what he did to the Australians in newspapers. People started recognising us around the same time.”
“It was a hugely emotional week for Indians, and I was told many times later, that since it happened around the same time, it meant a lot to the nation,” Gopi added.
The badminton player said that though he is a big fan of Tendulkar, he feels Laxman, when in full flow can match Tendulkar in terms of elegance.
“When in flow, I’ve never been able to decide who’s more elegant — Sachin or Laxman, and I’m a big Sachin fan!”Gopi said.
Bedsides the cricketing talent of Laxman, Gopi also admires many other qualities that set the stylish Hyderabadi cricketer apart.
“He’s always remained a decent, soft-spoken man, non-controversial and ever the gentleman. It’s not like Laxman ‘dealt’ with fame and chose to not become flamboyant. It’s just that people realised that’s how he always was,” he said. ”He would do his job, was always dependable and gracious. Many people played for India in that time, but not many lasted. Those who did proved that they were made of a certain strong inner material.”
Gopi also respects Laxman’s match-winning ability for India. “He’s never changed. And if the Indian team’s in trouble, I’ll still search for Laxman to walk out as assurance,” he concluded.