August 22, 2012

Indian cricket

Quietly Laxman

Kanishkaa Balachandran

In his 16-year career, VVS Laxman managed to attract an eclectic mix of fans, from Jeffrey Archer to the All-Black rugby star, Brad Thorn. The respect Laxman commanded in his profession made him much more than a cricketer whose timing they applauded in all time zones, writes Sandeep Dwivedi in the Indian Express.

The uniqueness of Laxman’s fame is its quiet, but overwhelming, seamlessness. His supporters aren’t the banner-wielding, painted-body type. They don’t need to be. Most times, when the freshly greased wrists were at work, the entire stadium, regardless of the allegiance, nodded collectively in disbelief. NRI fans never had to shout out loud to make a point about Laxman’s greatness in their adopted lands. It was a given, a non-issue that never cropped in any “us vs them” debates. Avid Laxman-watchers, those who have travelled far and wide to follow the 16-year journey, vouch that they haven’t met anyone who happens to be a Laxman-baiter. Not even Sachin Tendulkar has such global consensus.

In the same paper, the former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie recalls how difficult it was bowling to Laxman right from their Under-19 days, and the famous Kolkata Test where Laxman toyed with everything thrown at him.

Laxman was such a nice and humble guy, we actually found it a tad difficult to get under his skin. He never spoke a word and let his bat do the talking always. My personal strategy was to say as little as possible to him, except the odd word or two, because that only made him more determined and focused. You never could unsettle VVS Laxman while he was in the middle.

Laxman proved that you don’t have to behave like a Mike Tyson to deal the killer blow, says Nirmal Shekar in the Hindu.

We often bemoan the lack of killer instinct in Indian sportsmen. Laxman possessed it by the loads, although looking at him you wouldn’t have thought he did. He proved that you don’t have to resort to sledging or spitting at an opponent to succeed.

Laxman's value, Alex Massie gauges in the Spectator, was much beyond the realms of numbers, as it lay in his artistry, like David Gower.

As Cardus (who else?) wrote of Ranji, Laxman distributed his runs as largesse delivered in silk purses. If he could not claim Ranji’s aristocratic lineage, he was still, even in his own time, something of a throwback to an earlier age.

Cricket’s statistics can be tweaked and filtered to make a wholly unnecessary case for Laxman’s greatness. Unnecessary because a batsman of Laxman’s ilk is about more than the accumulation of runs and records. His style is an integral part of his substance. Cardus, again, proposed an examination of greatness that Laxman passes easily. That is, would you, on discovering that Laxman was 20 not out at lunch modify your plans for the afternoon and instead scurry to the cricket to watch the great artist perform in person? Laxman, like David Gower or Adam Gilchrist, waltzes through that examination without even a drop of perspiration. (Such afternoons, of course, are all the finer for existing in stolen time and playing truant from “real life”.)

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Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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