Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day January 14, 2012

Laxman's most un-Laxman innings

Against an Australia team that have got their plans for him right, at the fag end of his career, perhaps VVS Laxman's duck in Perth was a logical result. But the essence of Laxman is that he has always defied logic

I don't know if this is the last time I have seen VVS Laxman bat. He has never surprised me so, that much I can say. I have never seen him so passive at the crease.

Today was about as an un-Laxman-like innings you will get from a body double from Serbia. I have seen Laxman in form worse than this, but infinitely more strong-willed. In Sri Lanka in 2008, when all of India's middle order failed against Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, Laxman did too, but not passively. He wasn't reading which way Mendis was turning the ball, but at one point he made up his mind that he was going to whip everything to the leg side. He scored 56, 21, 39, 13, 25 and 61 not out. There was a lot to like about that effort.

In Australia he has been hanging back in the crease, uncertain outside off. They have plugged his boundary areas, they haven't given him boundary balls, and Laxman hasn't shown the inclination to do much about it. It has mostly been poke, push, nudge. That's what happened today. Eventually he nicked, pushing tamely outside off. It just felt wrong. That's not what Laxman does. I can't remember a worse innings from Laxman, especially because the state of the match was crying out for a typical Laxman firefighting effort.

I am not sure when in my mind Laxman became the man who would always play the most important innings at the most important times. It was not when he scored 281. It happened sometime later, during one of his forgotten masterpieces. Sometimes he would be saving his career, sometimes a follow-on, sometimes pulling off incredible chases in crippling pain, but he would do it. Nor have I ever found an explanation for how he did what he did when everything suggested he couldn't do it. He did it in every country except for England. The direr the situation, the riper it was for Laxman.

Situations hardly get direr than they have for India during the English and Australian summers. In the English summer, he looked good at least. You could see he was trying to do things. He scored two half-centuries, one of them an attractive boundary feast at Trent Bridge. He got out either pulling or cleaned up by really good deliveries, not hanging out his wash to dry.

Then he came back to India, and scored another cool fourth-innings half-century to help India win a match against West Indies that they had fallen behind in. There was no reason to believe Laxman was done just yet. They spoke about his fitness earlier too, but he would keep scoring runs. I don't remember him dropping a catch over the last three years either. He did in Sydney, but Sachin Tendulkar cleaned up behind him.

And he was, after all, coming to a country and playing an opposition he has always relished. The true bounce, the aggressive bowling, the appreciative crowds; there wouldn't be any grinding here, nor utterly defensive fields. He wouldn't be batting No. 6 either, stranded with the tail. For some reason, though, Laxman hasn't been Laxman on this tour.

Before this Test, many wise voices, logical voices, called for Laxman's axing, so that young blood wasn't held back much longer. The voices said Virat Kohli should be given a longer run, and Rohit Sharma should be introduced in Laxman's place. That even if India continued their six-match losing streak, they should do so with youngsters who won't get such testing situations for the next two years. There was merit and logic to that suggestion, but when has Laxman's batting followed logic? How was what you ask when Laxman batted. Not how he did it, but how could he do it. For he defied all logic.

At 5.03pm today, though, Laxman finished a logical duck. He was not getting scoring opportunities, and he was not going out of his way to create any. There was no respite from Australia's quartet either. What happened was no surprise. Australia have got Laxman doing this all series. He did it again. Maybe the critics, some of them trial-and-error merchants, were finally right.

Maybe this is the last time I have seen Laxman bat in a Test. Maybe my last memory of Laxman will be a limp push outside off, helpless against disciplined bowling. And then a quiet, disbelieving look back. And then the long walk back. Maybe it will not. Who can tell with Laxman and with sport? This innings was Laxman's most passive and its eventual conclusion most logical. That's why it doesn't feel right.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on January 15, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    VVS is not the only player who has been failed in this series but instead of sachin all our batsmen failed.ya,why laxman failed? because he is also human form also haunts him as for every one.k,he has got flop in his last 10 tests then give him 10 test break use the opportunity to train the youngster giving him a long chance if the young gun performs well and good than VVS keep giving chances till and untill the guy or ome other fails(goes) out of form then at that time consider the first class performance of laxman if it has been improved with form give VVS the chance or else again an youngster who is better at that point than VVS should be given the,i think this is the way to deal with our valuable seniors.and at-last if VVS average in firstclass goes below 50 better its the time for him to go.

  • Samar_Singh on January 15, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    VVS poor article ... waste of time ... what does the author wants to say ? Laxman is a good player but by means a great player ... Forget the 2001 Calcutta knock ... u have had enough interest from that inning ... Enough of three old guns ... the barrels are going rusty ... No point playing for personal milestones ... The team should come first .. Sack Dhoni from test team .. he was never a good test player ... Ishant deserves no place in any form of the game ...The problem is with Indian batting not Ashwins bowling , so what the logic bringing Binay kumar ... there are enough players in the bench who deserves more opportunity ... time to look over and reform the team ... 13 months of such performance is too much .. Do these big guns even ever had time to play first class crickets ... They have enough time for IPL but want rest during ODIs ... What comes first ? Money or Nation ...

  • dummy4fb on January 15, 2012, 10:06 GMT

    The Kingpin is Dhoni as well as he's not perfectly suitable for Test Cricket, as Test Cricket needs a class & one should have every stroke in his repetua which Dhoni lacks always.

    He's better player & captain in both shorter forms ODI/T20, keep em for just shorter format and drop em from test and a dramatic change in team & surprise captain selection is needed.

  • dummy4fb on January 15, 2012, 10:04 GMT

    the major cause of Indian defeat was lack of planning and team effort. everyone is blaming Indian batsman here in my opinion bowlers haven't played their part. Indian bowlers didn't bowl as a unit and that allowed aussies to make huge scores. Though i am a fan of Pakistan but i think at times indian batsman are under too much pressure as everyone expect them to win matches for India and not the bowlers. Having said that players like laxman, tendulkar, dravid r no doubt greats of the game but if they r not getting runs they should make way for youngsters as to me there is a promising young breed already in line.

  • musicevangelist on January 15, 2012, 10:01 GMT

    SRT has the highest average in this tour of all the Indian batsmen. Zaheer has the lowest bowling average on this tour of all the Indian bowlers. I would keep these players, Ashwin, Kohli and maybe Vinay Kumar as he has only played one test. Get the youngsters in there. Blood them against a decent bowling attack.

    I am a neutral supporter in this tour but I want to see some fight from the players. Australia lost a test to NZ who fought and scrapped for every run and wicket. India need to do the same.

  • cosair on January 15, 2012, 9:48 GMT

    The Indian selectors need to look at India's future in Test cricket. If they persist in the ageing heroes, how will the up and coming players represent India. After the Perth Test it is evident that the following players need to go; Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhoni. Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhoni should continue playing one dayers and 20/20. India should prepare pitches in India which are similar to Australian, West Indies, S African and English pitches to enable players be accustomed to conditions abroad. India needs a bowling coach in the likes of Wasim Akram and perhaps Tendulkar should to coaching as a contribution to Indian cricket. Finally a team selection should be based strictly on merit and not some other criteria.

  • hnlns on January 15, 2012, 9:44 GMT

    I think he needs to be told in clear terms that Adelaide will be his swan song test, regardless of whether he scores a couple more ducks or a career best 282. His fielding is abysmal as is his running between wickets. Time for him to say good bye rather than getting sacked summarily. Among the 4 big misfiring guns, his case is the weakest, Dravid is periliously close to him.

  • dummy4fb on January 15, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    Well, since we have the series wrapped up in Oz's favor(well done Aus),we can clearly see that there are gaping holes in our "Wall"and there is nothing "Very Very Special"about this line up.One slip up in England one can understand,but repeated mistakes should be dealt with in a severe manner.You can never salvage pride by winning the 4th test of a series where you have not seen Day 5.India dont tour to any testing surface for 2 years.Give all the players a chance to play in Oz.Rohit Sharma,Pragyan Ojha,Mithun&Rahane.What's the worst that can happen?Lose a test in 2 days?So be it, but give these guys a run.And when the team returns i hope we would see the last of Dravid and Laxman in a home series.Just so that they can leave the game in some sort of form rather than end careers having their defenses violated by Aussie bowlers!

  • mamboman on January 15, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    Oh I love the way the Indians go for each other's throats every time their over hyped little tin gods come crashing to earth! What I do find insulting and indicative of the crisis of culture in Indian cricket is that no one simply acknowledges the work Australia have done to win this series. Get over it, India - you aren't good enough. Planning, work, sacrifice and not some media driven expectation that you will win will get you back some measure of self esteem. Oh and get over this obsession with the utterly fake 100th Hundred BS. no one takes it seriously!

  • royramesh on January 15, 2012, 8:51 GMT


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