Whodunnit? Speculation rages over Laxman exit

Mumbai, Aug. 19 -- Even a day after his announcement, speculation was rife on what triggered VVS Laxman's sudden decision to retire. Without getting into the merits and demerits, the timing has raised questions. Why now? Like always, Laxman kept his emotions in check and chose his words carefully, but there is no arguing that he was pushed into taking the call.

Different theories did the rounds - the role of the selectors, captain MS Dhoni or criticism from former players.

The most explosive was the Dhoni angle. Laxman's statement during the press conference that he was not able to contact his skipper fanned the fire.

Laxman's family, however, dismissed the speculation that he was unhappy with Dhoni's role. "It was a spontaneous reaction to a question, his tone was of jest - that Dhoni, you all know how difficult is to contact? He shares a wonderful relationship with Dhoni. He always speaks highly of him and Dhoni gives him a lot of respect," said uncle Baba Krishna Mohan, who had accompanied Laxman to the media conference on Saturday.

It was a point backed by Laxman's coach, John Manoj. "Of all his captains, Laxman enjoyed playing the most under Dhoni. He was a given a lot of respect by Dhoni and he felt comfortable in the atmosphere," said Manoj.

Mixed signals

According to a senior Board member: "The selectors were giving signals that they were not keen on picking Laxman for the New Zealand series and when Dhoni came to know about it, he emphasised on the need to have a dialogue with the player and get his reaction."

It couldn't be confirmed who opened the discussion with Laxman, Dhoni or the selectors? A source said it was Dhoni who tried to explain the situation to Laxman when he was at the National Cricket Academy. It's not clear whether the message was lost in translation, but the Board member said the skipper's intentions were good.

According to a report, one of the outgoing selectors also had a chat with Laxman before the last selection meeting, during which he was told that they had expected him to retire after the Australia series.

Bad vibes

The discussion, with the selector or Dhoni, didn't go down well with Laxman and something snapped within. In this light, his statement that he wasn't able to contact Dhoni raised eyebrows because while the skipper is not available most of the time, everyone knows about the channels to reach him.

Laxman had set his mind on playing the season but when he saw that he didn't figure in the long-term scheme of things, he felt it was best to move on.

His final call stunned even his family. He had been training like never before for the last four months; playing even club tournaments and travelling with the Hyderabad team for matches in other cities. On Saturday, the scenes at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium were emotional once it was clear that Laxman was not playing even the home game. Those present said that as he walked across the ground to announce his decision, Hyderabad Cricket Association officials Shivlal Yadav, Dr MV Sridhar, V Raju rushed towards him and were seen holding his hands and pleading that he play his final game at his home ground.

A hurt Laxman didn't budge.

Selection bloopers

The VVS Laxman episode once again left the selectors red-faced. Here are a few recent examples of poor selection decisions:

Virender Sehwag

The dashing Delhi opener was rushed into the Test squad for the third Test in England last year, without having fully recovered from his shoulder injury. Sehwag played only two Tests and returned home before the ODI series began.

Zaheer Khan

The Indian pace spearhead was selected for an important tour without his fitness being assessed properly. Zaheer broke down on the first day of the first Test at Lord's which immediately put the Indians on the backfoot for the whole tour.

RP Singh

The left-arm pacer was holidaying in USA and had not played competitive cricket for months when he was selected for the third and fourth Tests in England last year and looked completely out of place.

Rahul Dravid

He had not played ODIs since the 2009 Champions Trophy, but was suddenly summoned for the ODI series in England last year. He announced his retirement almost immediately.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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