Even if India’s opponents handcuffed Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman, the man would still come out, tap the bat on the pitch, and take his stance. The bowler would soon complete his delivery stride, as the Hyderabadi would have moved on to hammering the crease, bat flapping between the knees, elbow jutting out, before the minimal back lift, synchronized with footwork belonging to a stiff danseur… Pause. Imagine this silhouette for a second, for when the ball lands on the pitch, VVS would have used his carpals, to drive the ball for four, before shaking hands with the fielding captain, garlanding him with the broken handcuffs, as a token of his appreciation for the clumsy experiment.
If one has to measure VVS Laxman’s greatness, it would be prudent not too compare him with anybody. Difficult, given that most of his success has come with a partner too playing an equal part, like two comets coming together to light up the sky. Let’s try to make him the chief guest. We want to focus on his wrists of fury, which even the ever-so-cocky Aussies learnt to respect. So which one of his seventeen Test centuries should we dissect? The man wanted to become a doctor, so pardon the inclusion of the term. Couldn’t help it.
The floor’s open for questions. Let’s not talk about Sydney, or even Adelaide, for his blade deserves more. Did someone just shout 281? Yeah. What took you so long, you dunce? Thanks. We heard that as well. That’s Laxman’s ‘suprabhatam’, a knock that deserves a place in the cricket museum, even if India doesn’t have one. For that is a performance that exemplifies the best chapter in any sport- the one titled comeback. Eden Gardens is VVS Laxman’s place in Indian cricket history.
March 13, 2001. India are following on on day 3, on a sunny day at the Eden Gardens, back to the wall at 232/4, Dravid having joined Laxman at the crease. Two right-handers with no time to figure out what went wrong, but at the right place at the wrong time. Both batsmen go to sleep, with Laxman probably wondering whether to celebrate his second century, with Damocles engraving defeat on his sword in the background.
Excalibur! VVS Laxman’s driving drives the Aussies to despair, as they feel the heat shifting to their side. The gent from the city of the Charminar, is dealing in fours, using his timing to find the gaps, playing away from his body, but playing within himself. Leaning into the flick, pad moving backwards, with the gloves telling the bat to send the ball to mid-wicket. Colossal batting at its very best. 150 comes up with a single, with the wrists moving on top of the ball towards deep point. Shane Warne applauds, while the crowd roars. With the lead swelling, and with both batsmen keeping their heads, Laxman’s heading for bigger things. The front foot moves towards mid-off, bringing up his 200 off Mark Waugh. He would go on to score 281-the highest by an Indian in Tests at that time. Setting up a 384-run buffer for the third musketeer- Harbhajan Singh. India would go on to win the match and the series, for which they would have had to thank Laxman for playing what is arguably, the best knock ever played by an Indian batsman.
He may not have played a World Cup, he may not have been athletic and he may not have had great footwork. For it was probably destined that he played his cricket under the sun, more than what he played under the moon, to earn his place under a star, than a satellite. That cricket is a team sport can sometimes be debated, but for those of you who watched Laxman at the Eden Gardens, his highest Test score is a great example of how an individual performance can bring the team together to enforce a win.
Adios VVS Laxman. You never failed to impress.
Beamer: So VVS decided to take VRS