The first time I watched VVS Laxman was in the home series against South Africa in 1996. It was in the Ahmadabad test where both the teams were even after the first innings and India needed a decent enough lead on a crumbling pitch. Laxman batting at number 6 scored an important fifty on debut which helped India to an unlikely victory. That innings showed Laxman’s fantastic temperament which he displayed throughout his career. In spite of the great talent he possessed Laxman struggled to establish himself in the Indian middle order. Part of the issue was the position in the lineup Laxman was batting. Since India struggled for consistent opening combinations through the 90’s Laxman was pushed to open which proved to be his undoing.
Laxman’s talent was evident as he kept piling on the runs at the domestic level. He truly arrived at the international scene with a blistering 167 which he scored against a fantastic Australian attack. An attack which boasted of McGrath, Warne and Lee in their ranks and the fact that the runs came in just 190 odd deliveries showed what Laxman was capable of. Even though that innings should have been a turning point in his career, he struggled at the opening spot which he was clearly not comfortable batting in.
In 2001 when Australia toured India and Laxman finally returned to the middle order and only then did the real legend of VVS Laxman emerged. His innings in Kolkata of 281 while following on is considered as one of the best test innings of all time. The partnership with Rahul Dravid was truly special and for sure paved way for many more such match winning partnerships between the two legends. VVS was an incredible player. A player with magic wrists could play both pace and spin with equal ease. A soft spoken individual and a true team man, Laxman became an integral part of the Indian middle order for a decade.
Laxman’s biggest trait was how he always came to party when his team was in trouble. Most of his best performances in test cricket where when India was in trouble. His 73 n.o chasing 200 odd against Australia in 2010 was one of the best innings played in recent times. He did better that innings in the same year with an unbeaten hundred in the fourth innings against Sri Lanka chasing a 250+ total. He has shared some of his fantastic partnerships with Rahul Dravid who announced his retirement just few months back. It isn’t hard to imagine why these two shared such special rapport as both of them are similar individuals and extremely humble human beings.
VVS Laxman was always fantastic against the Aussies and it was ironic that his last tour to Australia was a disaster. Laxman had many memorable innings against the men from down under. He scored 2434 runs at an incredible average of 49.67 against Australia.
Laxman wasn’t a bad ODI player either, even though his ODI record pales in front of his test achievements. His biggest disappointment was not making it to the 2003 world cup squad. He did come back to the ODI team later the same year and had his best year in the shorter format where he again dominated Australia in the CB series.
It is sad to see both Laxman and Dravid retire within the span of few months. Laxman was one of the main pillars of Indian middle order and one of the chief architects of many of India’s overseas wins. He along with Dravid, Sachin and Sehwag were instrumental in taking India to the top of the test rankings. Laxman will for sure be missed and it will be hard to imagine the Indian test team without him walking in to bat at number 6. Laxman would end his career with 134 test caps, scoring 8781 runs at an average of 45.97 with 16 test hundreds. He played 86 ODI’s scoring 2338 runs at a modest average of 30.71 with 6 hundreds.
Laxman was a special player and was an important cog in the Indian batting wheel. He will for sure be missed and I hope that he continues to succeed in whatever career he decides to take over after his retirement. Laxman will still continue to play first class cricket and I hope that he gets involved in Indian setup in some vicinity.