In the professional world, when it’s time to sack people, the management first targets the ‘weak links’. They are the ones who don’t speak much, the ones who come on time, do their work and leave. The ones, who are extremely committed towards their work, but have a body language which at times works against them. The ones who don’t speak much about what they actually go through and never hold grudges against anybody. They are good in their work, but then again all these qualities categorises them under ‘weak links’.
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Something similar has happened with a class player like Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman. The right-hander has decided to hang up his boots not because he is a 37-year-old, but because of reports which have said that by still playing in Test matches, he is blocking way for youngsters.
Some of these youngsters are so ‘talented’, that the tail-enders have scored more than them of late. The others are finding it difficult to deal with the short balls after having played more than 150 ODIs and almost 15 Tests. Then we have a skipper under whose captaincy we witnessed the most humiliating losses in two away series in 2011-12. None of the Indian captains managed to escape from the wrath of the selectors after such losses.
But MS Dhoni was retained as the Test skipper following team’s horrendous performances in England and Australia. Dhoni, who never looked like a World Class skipper in England, Australia didn’t too much with the bat. He might have lost his midas touch, but the selectors didn’t lose faith in India’s World Cup winning skipper as he continues to lead the side in Tests.
But VVS Laxman’s case is a different one. He has never spoken much about his performances and like always, he has now retired without much fanfare. No one excelled in England and Australia, but Laxman has possibly been asked to vacate some space for the youngsters.
Ahead of Adelaide Test, the fourth and final one between India and Australia in the series Down Under, several Indian cricketers questioned Laxman’s place in the squad, something which is one of the reasons which has hurt the 37-year-old to take raise curtains to his 16-year-old career. Laxman scored just 155 runs from 8 innings in Australia after which critics criticised his form. It’s sad to see a great cricketer retire in this fashion.
In a career which has seen plenty of ups and downs, numbers don’t do justice to Laxman’s achievements. He has just 17 centuries to his name in spite of having played 134 Tests. The Hyderabadi also scored 6 centuries in ODIs. From all the great innings of his career, his 281 against the Aussies in Kolkata that helped India win a match from a hopeless situation has to be one of the best innings played by an Indian cricketer in Tests.
Laxman could be one of those players who were born in a wrong era. In a team which had the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, it was extremely difficult to make an impact. But Laxman has lived through challenges all throughout his career. He not only proved his individual brilliance but would be remembered as one of the most stylish batsmen to have played the game. He gained the respect from the Aussies for whom he was the tormentor in chief.
Laxman scored six Test centuries against the Aussies and four out of his six ODI tons have also come against the Kangaroos. His back foot punches and ability to charge down, drive a ball inside out pitched outside leg-stump through covers for a boundary is something which is inimitable.
The cricketing fraternity will miss Laxman, his silken shots and it is yet to be seen who can fill his shoes as a disaster management expert. Batting with tail-enders in the fourth innings is no cakewalk. But the man of Laxman’s calibre often found himself in such situations and slowly, steadily he saved, won several matches for India.
Throughout his career, it was a treat to watch him bat. And as many cricket fans might agree, the right-hander’s retirement is the end of a ‘Very Very Special’ era.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)