VVS Laxman: India's 'Very Very Special'

Laxman played in an era of batting superstars, but upstaged even the best when on song.



New Delhi:
Vangipurappu Venkata Sai (VVS) Laxman, who announced his retirement from international cricket on Saturday, will always be known as India's turn-to man during a crisis.

The middle-order batsman had both style and substance with an uncanny knack of finding gaps in the field where none appeared to exist, much to the frustration of rival bowlers and fielders.

Laxman, whose parents are doctors, had to make a choice between a medical career and playing cricket before he eventually opted for the willow and made his mark as one of India's finest cricketers.

Australia suffered the most from Laxman's punishing blade as the Indian scored 2,434 runs in 29 Tests against them at 49.67, which is above his current overall average of 45.97 in 134 matches.

Laxman, who made his international debut in 1996, scored 8,781 runs with 17 centuries in his controversy-free career.

He is India's fourth-highest scorer in Tests after Sachin Tendulkar (15,470 runs), Rahul Dravid (13,265) and Sunil Gavaskar (10,122).

Laxman played in an era of batting superstars, but upstaged even the best when on song.

The Hyderabad batsman, who turns 38 on November 1, found his place in the Indian side under threat when he managed just 155 runs in four Tests against Australia earlier this year, averaging 19.37.

His career-best knock of 281 came when Steve Waugh's Australians were poised to win the second Test in Kolkata in 2001, only to rub their eyes in disbelief when India did the unthinkable.

India followed on 274 runs in arrears, but Laxman and Rahul Dravid (180) turned the match on its head with a 376-run stand, which helped their team win the match and end Australia's 16-Test-winning streak.

He was involved in three more mammoth stands against Australia - 353 with Sachin Tendulkar in 2004 in Sydney, 303 with Dravid in Adelaide in the same series and 278 with Gautam Gambhir at New Delhi in 2008.

Nicknamed "Very Very Special" after his initials "VVS", Laxman played numerous special innings, including 148 against at Adelaide in 2003, an unbeaten 124 at Napier in 2009 and 96 at Durban in 2010.

One of his last memorable knocks in a crisis came in 2010 against Australia in Mohali when he defied back pain to mastermind his team's one-wicket win from the jaws of defeat with an unbeaten 73 in the opening Test.

India were facing defeat at 124-8 chasing a 216-run target, but Laxman put on 81 valuable runs for the ninth wicket with tail-ender Ishant Sharma before completing the job with last-man Pragyan Ojha.

Laxman, who made his Test debut in 1996 against South Africa, was often criticised for not converting solid starts into big knocks.

He took more than three years to score his maiden Test century, a robust 167 against Australia at Sydney in 2000 that made the cricketing world sit up and take notice of this special talent.

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