Hyderabad: VVS Laxman, who won many a match for India with his wristy elegance including an epic 281 against Australia in Kolkata, on Saturday announced his retirement from international cricket with immediate effect, bringing down the curtains on a glorious career spanning 16 years.
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The 37-year-old Laxman, one of the finest batsmen in contemporary cricket, said that he listened to his "inner voice" while taking the decision to bid adieu to the game which he played with "great pride for the country".
"I would like to announce my retirement from international cricket with immediate effect. I think it's right time to move on", an emotional Laxman told a press conference here.
But what came as a surprise was his decision to quit the game with immediate effect despite being picked in the Indian squad for the two-match Test series against New Zealand beginning here from August 23.
He chose not to take the opportunity to bow out of international cricket in front of his home crowd in Hyderabad, for whom he will continue to play Ranji trophy till the end of the year.
"It was a tough decision to take, I have always listened to my inner conscience. The inner voice is a divine voice, I have always done that right through my career. There was a lot of debate in the last four days. I felt this is the right time to move on", he said.
Laxman, who earned the sobriquet 'Very Very Special' for his style and flair, played 134 Tests, amassing 8,781 runs at an average of 45.97. He scored 17 hundreds and 56 half centuries in the longer format of the game.
Laxman, who was not a regular in India's ODI team, played 86 matches for an aggregate of 2338 at an average of 30.76. Unfortunately for him, he could never be a part of India's World Cup campaigns which remains one of his biggest regrets.
"I have always kept my country's success and need ahead of my personal aspirations. And while I would love contributing to the team's success, especially against England and Australia, I think this is the right time to give opportunity to the youngsters in home conditions ahead of international assignments", Laxman said.
"Till last night I was unable to make up my mind, but in the end I listened to my inner voice and arrived at my decision to retire. I informed the chairman of selectors (Krishnamachari Srikkanth) this morning that I would not continue playing for India. I also spoke to many of my team-mates, they were surprised that I was retiring before the series. It was all very emotional, he said.
Laxman said the selectors as well as the BCCI president agreed to his decision reluctantly. "They did accept my decision with great reluctance."
"It was a dream for me to play for India since childhood and I am extremely thankful to the Almighty for giving me the opportunity to serve my country."
"I always felt that through cricket I got an opportunity to serve my country. I was fortunate to play in an era when India played some of its best cricket, home as well as away. I would like to thank everyone who guided me and encouraged me through my career."
Laxman will always be remembered for the magnificent 281 he scored against Australia at the Eden Gardens in March 2001 -- an innings which didn't just change the face of the match but also turned the entire series on its head.
That knock was ranked sixth in Wisden's list of 100 great Test innings in the history of the game. It was just one of the several match-winning knocks that the unassuming batsman played against the mighty Aussies at their peak.
"When I remember that knock, I feel how lucky I was to be part of history. How we changed the result of that match. It is always emotional when I think of that knock", he said.
Asked whether he had taken a hasty decision for which he will regret later, he said "I never regret the decisions I take, because my conscience is clear. I got the privilege to serve the country. I am satisfied with the decision, definitely I will never regret that I took the decision".
"I have heard eminent sportspersons saying that a time comes when one gets a feeling that his/her day has come. I experienced that over the last four or five days. I have always listened to my inner conscience and that is probably the reason I chose cricket over medicine when I was 17," Laxman said.
"I always tried to my best to give everything to the team while mantaining my dignity. There were times I am sure I did not perform well, I disappointed them but I can assure that it was not due to lack of effort," he said.
"I conclude in all humility by praying to the Almighty to take and bless Indian cricket to the highest level in the world in all forms of the game."
"It has been an emotional, fabulous and memorable journey which I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life." Laxman said.
The Hyderabad-stylist had come under scrutiny following his failure in the Test series against England and Australia last year.
Against England he scored just 182 runs for an average of 22.75 and was even worse against Australia, scoring 155 in eight innings at just 19.37 in the eight successive lost Tests that were played against the two sides.
"There have been people who have criticised me but my set of well wishers have been more. I can tell you that it is not easy to please each and every person. Failure and success are part and parcel of a cricketer's life", he explained.
"I was very fortunate to play with collegues who played with a lot of pride, and most of them went on to become legends of the game. The affection, bonding and friendship they shared with me will always be cherished all my life," Laxman said.
Laxman said he has not decided what he will do post retirement.
"My immediate and most important goal would be to share my experiences with the Hyderabad cricketers and if I can do what my seniors did when I was playing for Hyderabad earlier on in my career then I would be very happy."
"I learnt a lot from my seniors while I was growing up and if I can share some of my experiences, if I can help some of these youngsters realise their potential I would be very happy," Laxman said.
"We took a lot of pride in the way we played for the country. We all had one single goal and one single ambition of winning matches consistently for the country, not only in India but also overseas and those efforts have been culminated into us being the No. 1 Test playing nation of the world and I am sure the future players of Indian cricket will take our legacy forward," he said.
On whether he had the support of all his family members on his decision to retire, Laxman said his decision would disappoint many of his well-wishers.
"I agree that I have disappointed a lot of well wishers starting with my family. They must have wanted me to play the last Test at Hyderabad but I apologise for probably not giving them the opportunity to see me (in action) for one last time. I stick to my belief to give opportunity to the youngsters against the inexperienced New Zealand attack", he said.
Laxman thanked all the people who had shaped his career and supported him.
"First and foremost it is my parents who have given me a wonderful upbringing and more importantly, they have allowed me to pursue my passion which is to play cricket for India."
"Then to my maternal uncle who actually spotted talent in me. He was the biggest influence in my life. My wife who has been pillar of strength since my marriage in 2004. She made a lot of sacrifices, she almost singlehandedly brought up my two kids when I used to be travelling for my cricketing assignments," he said.
"My brother, my two childhood friends Rajesh and Parth, my school teachers, my coaches at St Johns Cricket Foundation," Laxman added.
"I would also wholeheartedly like to thank Hyderabad Cricket Association for recognising my talent, and the BCCI for giving me the opportunity to play for the country for 16 years."
"I would also like to thank NCA Bangalore, especially in the last 2 years, all coaches of the teams I have represented in my career, all the selectors, the captains I have played under for inspiring me and most importantly my teammates with whom I played and shared the best moments of my life," he said.
With Laxman's retirement, only Sachin Tendulkar will remain among the golden generation of Indian cricketers after the retirements of Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid -- all former Indian captains.
The elegant right-hander more often than not reserved his best for the world's best side, being most prolific against Australians, scoring 2434 runs against them at an average of 49.67.
He became the second Indian batsman after Tendulkar to score more than 2000 runs against the Aussies.
A team-man to the core, Laxman batted at several positions in the line-up depending on the side's requirements.
He enjoyed batting at No.3 position, where he scored 1611 runs, but also did well at the No.5 and 6 positions where he got a substantial chunk of runs (2877 and 2760 respectively).
First Published: Saturday, August 18, 2012, 16:42