Ritesh K Srivastava
I love watching cricket matches only in my casual pastime and with the unending controversy over match-fixing my interest in the sport has waned further. However, I enjoyed Team India’s thrilling victory over the formidable Aussies at Mohali recently.
The twists and turns throughout the match and India’s poor show reminded me of a car driving on a bumpy road and sometimes a boat sailing smoothly in a calm sea. The match ended with the Indian team beating their fierce rivals in an unusual display of courage to fight back. VVS Laxman- the stylish stroke-maker, who made possible what looked “impossible”, once again proved that he is India’s man at the moment.
It’s not that Laxman has become important all of a sudden only after this match. He is a valuable player and has been instrumental in Team India’s victory in crucial matches in past, especially in fourth innings chases.
However, this time by steering his side to a remarkable victory despite all odds, Laxman has proved that he truly is indispensable and of the same stature as Dravid, Ganguly or even Tendulkar in the longer version of the sport.
At Mohali, he came to the crease at a time when all big names had fallen. He kept the strike rotating on his own although wickets tumbled at the other end. With brilliant support from tail-ender Ishant Sharma, Laxman not only battled severe back-pain but also single-handedly enabled his side to register a spectacular one-wicket Test victory over Australia.
When many of us doubted India’s prospect of winning against a team like Australia, it was Laxman, who kept alive our hopes that victory can still be ours even if the scorecard read 124/8 and predicted a different story.
This is probably the magic of Laxman, who makes you believe in the impossible even when the situation is adverse through the sheer artistry of his strokes. With his brilliant and a much-needed knock of 73 not out off 79 balls made at a strike rate of 90-plus, Laxman has left an indelible mark on the history of cricket.
It’s not too long back when he scored majestic 281 runs to script India’s sensational win against Australia at the iconic Eden Garden cricket stadium in Kolkata. His marathon innings established him as India’s ‘Knight in Shining Armour’. However, the irony with this batting wizard has been that despite his achievements and contributions, Laxman still remains the most underrated cricketer of India.
Despite exhibiting great mental toughness at most crucial times and winning numerous matches for India, Laxman has received only few awards/accolades recognising his real worth. In my opinion, Laxman, for his great match-saving effort, rightfully deserved the man-of-the-match award in Mohali, which went to pacer Zaheer Khan. It is also pity to learn that cricket’s bible – Wisden – failed to pick him in the list of all-time Indian XI team.
Albeit, Laxman’s marathon 281 figures in Wisden`s Top 10 all-time Greatest Test Innings. A lot of us think that cricket superstars like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have overshadowed the genius of Laxman in terms of averages and number of centuries, which does not always project a player’s real worth.
Laxman has been able to maintain a fantastic record against Australia, which has emerged as the greatest team in the past two decades. In the past one decade, Team India defeated Australia nine times and Laxman scored runs with an average over 71 in all of them.
Laxman also holds a distinct place among Indian cricketers for his record in the second innings. He’s one of the rare breed of batsmen in Test cricket whose second innings average (50.47) is better than that of the first (45.67).
Although, he fails to evoke fear in his opponents’ minds like Tendulkar or Sehwag, he loves to guide the willow with ease and plays his natural game even under extreme pressure. It is for this sheer elegance that the cliché Very Very Special still makes us smile.