August 22, 2012

Laxman: the alternate word for elegance and grace

A look back at VVS Laxman's Test career analysing various aspects of his batting performance
184

VVS Laxman's 281 helped India come back from the brink against Australia © AFP

I had planned to publish a comprehensive analysis on Test wicket-keepers next week. I am pleased to present this interim article now. The "wicket-keepers" article will appear within the next 10 days.

To define Laxman in numbers is like defining Federer in numbers. How can numbers define the languid grace, elegance, poetry in motion and pure pleasure these two brought to their respective arenas? 17, 281, 96, 292 are ordinary numbers but acquire an aura when associated with these gentlemen. However it is necessary to do a numbers-based analysis, if only to enable us to live through those instances of fantasy we were all privileged to witness.

Let me clearly state this. Unlike Federer, Laxman's numbers are not that great. There are many others who have scored more runs, more hundreds, at much higher averages and faster. However, to say that his contributions to Indian cricket scene, especially the Test scene, are legendary, seems inadequate. There are other writers who can pen much better prose than me and I will leave it to them to do justice. If you have not already done so, please read Murali Kartik's moving and personal tribute to Laxman, in the form of a letter.

Overall summary

Mat Ins  NO  Runs   Avge 100 50 Freq Balls StRt
134 225  34  8781  45.97  17 56 13.2 17788 49.4

Team runs while at crease : 18859 Batsman's % Runs contribution : 46.6% Balls faced while at crease : 17788 Team balls while Laxman was at crease : 36133 % of balls faced while at crease: 49.2% Average balls per innings faced : 81.2 Team-Run-Share: 8781 out of 72578 - 12.1%

Batting in difficult situations most of the times prevented Laxman from having a better scoring rate than around 50. Laxman's conversion rate of 50 to 100 is quite poor: understandable since he batted often with the late order. Not a high balls per innings: again indicative of conditions batted in.

I have since done the work on runs added with late order batsmen also. This cannot be a complete analysis since quite a bit of data is unavailable. We all know when a batsman came in but "when he got out" is the information available only over the past 15-20 years. So for batsmen like Lara and Tendulkar complete data is not available. The other important factor is that I know when the sixth wicket fell. But I would not know what the concerned batsman's score was at taht time. Similarly I would know when the concerned batsman got out. But not what the other batsman's score was. So I have presented below only concrete facts, which are stated below.

These represent only the team runs added from the fall of the sixth wicket to the time the concerned batsman was dismissed. Of course, if he remained not out, there is no problem. I have given below the data for six top current batsmen. It shows clearly that Kallis and Laxman are the leaders. It is possible that Lara might have better figures. But not certain.

Batsman   Num Runs  R/P

Kallis 17 1212 71.3 Laxman 27 1876 69.5 Hussey 14 802 57.3 Dravid 23 1236 53.7 Ponting 16 828 51.8 Sangakkara 13 566 43.5

The Num colum indicates the number of such instances.

I have also uploaded the complete career data file which can be downloaded. This gives the details of these numbers also. To download/view the Career data file, please click/right-click here.

Innings analysis

I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

Inns 1 60 5 2158 39.24 6 8 10.0 Inns 2 74 9 3152 48.49 6 25 12.3 Inns 3 53 9 2376 54.00 4 16 13.2 Inns 4 38 11 1095 40.56 1 7 38.0

Laxman's best innings has been the third one, an average of 54. The mammoth 281 itself has contributed 6-plus runs to the average. The 167 another 4 more. Overall a very good team-second-innings average of 48.9.

Batting position analysis

I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

Bat-Pos 1 13 1 432 36.00 1 2 13.0 Bat-Pos 2 12 0 253 21.08 0 2 12.0 Bat-Pos 3 37 1 1611 44.75 4 8 9.2 Bat-Pos 4 11 1 500 50.00 1 4 11.0 Bat-Pos 5 74 13 2877 47.16 6 17 12.3 Bat-Pos 6 67 12 2760 50.18 5 20 13.4 Bat-Pos 7 9 5 346 86.50 0 3 9.0 Bat-Pos 10 1 0 2 2.00 0 0 Avge Batting Position: 4.59

To average nearly 50 in the difficult middle order positions of 5 and 6 shows the quality of Laxman. Unlike ODIs these positions do not normally offer higher chances of remaining unbeaten.

Result/location analysis

Desc    T   I  N  Runs  Avge 100 50 Freq TRuns   %

Home 57 91 18 3767 51.60 8 24 11.4 31688 11.9 Away 77 134 16 5014 42.49 9 32 14.9 40890 12.3

Won 47 71 10 3410 55.90 7 23 10.1 26319 13.0 Drawn 46 72 18 3380 62.59 8 22 9.0 26557 12.7 Lost 41 82 6 1991 26.20 2 11 41.0 19702 10.1

More runs away, but at a lower average.

Country analysis

I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

Australia 29 54 5 2434 49.67 6 12 9.0 Bangladesh 3 4 1 117 39.00 0 1 England 17 28 3 766 30.64 0 6 New Zealand 10 17 3 818 58.43 2 6 8.5 Pakistan 15 25 7 775 43.06 1 6 25.0 South Africa 19 31 5 976 37.54 1 6 31.0 Sri Lanka 13 22 3 900 47.37 2 8 11.0 West Indies 22 36 6 1715 57.17 4 11 9.0 Zimbabwe 6 8 1 280 40.00 1 0 8.0

A near-50 average against Australia is the highlight of Laxman's career.

Year analysis

T   I No  Runs   Avge 100  50 Freq

1996 2 4 0 77 19.25 0 1 1997 6 9 2 212 30.29 0 2 1998 2 3 0 116 38.67 0 1 1999 6 12 0 221 18.42 0 1 2000 3 5 1 208 52.00 1 0 5.0 2001 10 16 0 869 54.31 1 5 16.0 2002 15 23 4 984 51.79 2 5 11.5 2003 5 10 3 595 85.00 2 3 5.0 2004 12 16 0 513 32.06 1 2 16.0 2005 8 12 1 508 46.18 2 3 6.0 2006 10 18 4 561 40.07 1 4 18.0 2007 8 14 5 496 55.11 1 3 14.0 2008 15 27 4 1086 47.22 2 7 13.5 2009 6 9 2 471 67.29 1 5 9.0 2010 11 18 4 939 67.07 2 7 9.0 2011 12 23 4 773 40.68 1 6 23.0 2012 3 6 0 152 25.33 0 1

The first four years and the last 14 months have been average. Otherwise Laxman has maintained a good run of 12 years.

Career slice analysis

T   I No  Runs   Avge

1- 10 10 16 2 405 28.93 11- 20 10 19 1 461 25.61 21- 30 10 15 0 850 56.67 31- 40 10 15 3 718 59.83 41- 50 10 18 4 1026 73.29 51- 60 10 14 0 326 23.29 61- 70 10 14 2 517 43.08 71- 80 10 19 3 575 35.94 81- 90 10 18 5 780 60.00 91-100 10 17 4 723 55.62 101-110 10 16 4 755 62.92 111-120 10 17 3 767 54.79 121-130 10 19 3 723 45.19 131-140 4 8 0 155 19.38

High 42- 51 1031 18 4 73.64 Low 54- 63 293 14 0 20.93

A string of 10 Tests in which Laxman accumulated above 1000 runs was during the second quartile of Laxman's career.

Peer comparisons

Peer-All-T7 45.97 15301 575547 37.61 1.22
Peer-Ind-T7 45.97  1280  52459 40.98 1.12

Laxman exceeded his contemporaries, across the world, by 22%. When compared to his own more illustrious band of colleagues, the figure drops to 12%.

Now for a selection of 12 of Laxman's best innings. My own selection, may not be complete, possibly biased, certainly subjective and done in a hurry. Also presented in a non-descriptive manner. So, if you have a better suggestion, please feel free to come in with your comments.

A selection of Laxman's best innings

Year MtId  Vs Loc R BP Runs(Balls) In at

1996 1338 Saf H W 6 51 (125) 4/ 82 2000 1481 Aus A L 1 167 (198) 0/ 0 2001 1539 Aus H W 3 66 ( 82) 1/ 18 2001 1569 Saf A D 6 89 (121) 4/ 47 2002 1599 Win A W 6 69* (123) 4/218 2003 1673 Aus A W 6 148 (282) 4/ 85 2006 1823 Saf A W 5 73 (154) 3/ 41 2008 1862 Aus A W 7 79 (156) 5/125 2010 1968 Slk A W 6 103* (149) 4/ 62 2010 1972 Aus H W 7 73* ( 79) 5/ 76 2010 1987 Saf A W 5 96 (171) 3/ 48

LaXman. The X-factor was in Laxman's name. Great in a crisis, under-rated, unsung, always with the Damocles' sword hanging above, totally unselfish purveyor of top-quality batting.

What! There are 100 comments in the first two hours ripping me to shreds. "How dare you miss the greatest innings ever by an Indian batsman". Fine, I will make amends and do a special graphical tribute to that innings.

Graph of VVS Laxman's 281
© Anantha Narayanan

Just to round off the article: Laxman scored 2338 ODI runs, almost all in the pivotal no.3 position. Probably nothing compared to the mountains of runs others have scored. But he never got a fair run despite scoring 6 hundreds in the no.3 position. He was sacrificed on the altar of mobility and utility. Players who could not hold a candle to him in batting were selected because they could run/field better or could roll the arm over for a few overs.

Are we going to see the like of him again? Certainly not in my lifetime. VVS, thank you for all what you have done. Two great Indian batsmen, both gentlemen to the core and wonderful role-models, have left the scene within a period of 6 months. Let me stop here before emotion sets in.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sekhar Ganapathy on December 4, 2012, 14:03 GMT

    Dear Ananth, 4th Dec. 2012 I know Pakistan's Saeed Anwar has also scored 3 ODI hundreds inside a week as VVSdid during his tour of Australia(2003,I think)VVS scored 2 against Aussies and 1 against Zimbabwe,the second touring team, on a Monday,Wednesday and Friday.He was also primarily responsible for touring India's victory in both the test as well as the ODIseries in Pakistan with timely knocks (a century and a high 70),as was pointed out by his skipper Ganguly himself in his post match press conferences. He scored a century and took two brilliant catches(notin the slips as may be imagined but in the outfield!)against the touring NZteam at home.YET HE WAS NOT CONSIDERED FOR 2WORLDCUPS on frivolous charges of being poor runner&fielder! VVS himself stated that even if he did nottake risky singles of each ball,he would ensure one 4&a couple of other runs to ensure a strike rate of ateast run a ball.Only selectors may know how/why DineshMongia(later ICLplayer)was preferred over him!

  • Murray Archer on November 20, 2012, 22:08 GMT

    What a wonderful player VVS has been. Absolutely beautiful to watch bat AND... I can tell you that like most Australians; whenever V India, a feeling arose that we had the upper hand, rejoicing NEVER occurred until Laxman was out.

  • Allan Scott Schoenherr on September 3, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    Just seen this, must have missed it amongst the VVS tributes. It is great to see a statistcal analysis for a batsmen for whom stats did not tell even half of the picture. Thanks for putting this together, just another way to ignore the fact that my favourite Test batsman has retired. I particularly like the 'team runs added from the fall of the sixth wicket to the time the concerned batsman was dismissed' stats. I would be interested to see how Lara's stats hold up, I have a feeling he would in 3rd. [[ As I have explained Lara and Tendulkar do not have complete data. Maybe I should do this for the available data and post. Ananth: ]]

  • Praveen S on September 2, 2012, 17:01 GMT

    @Ananth: Yes, I meant Waugh,as "Junior" is nick name and not Tendulkar's junior! Haha ..looking the way things are going, we shouldn't be surprised if that happened.

    Yes, I agree that complex weighting mechanism wouldn't be understood by many, however, my point was to communicate -- scores in tougher matches should be rated higher.

    Best, Praveen.

  • Alex on September 2, 2012, 14:47 GMT

    @Ananth & @Vikram: Pl pardon this diversion. IMO, Naseer is a megastar despite being a character actor only because of extraneous reasons. His highs are highlighted and not the lows. Character actors like Om Puri, Anupam Kher, and Sanjeev Kumar were his equals/superiors but never achieved the megastar status due to that reason alone. Incidentally, growing up in 70's & 80's, our understanding was that the Hindi movies have produced only 5 great actors up to 1980: Motilal, Ashok Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Dilip Kumar, and Sanjeev Kumar. After 1975, the parallel cinema gave a much needed opening for well-trained theater actors like Karnad, Naseer, Om Puri. [[ Edited. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on September 2, 2012, 14:27 GMT

    @Ananth: Manjrekar asking for a "preservation" of SRT for the SA tour is probably just a euphemism. Keeping SRT on shelf (but mostly off the ground) till then will keep his sponsors happy and will give BCCI the time to build Kohli into a megastar whom they can milk for 12 more years & maybe spot another prodigy.

    @Aniruddha: Fitness was _not_ the major issue that led VVS into retirement. By all means, take seniors to SA but don't confuse them with dinosaurs. Sehwag is now 34: at that age, even Viv & Gilly, who were much fitter than him, had lost their reflexes and become ordinary batsmen. He has been asking for a middle order spot since '06. If he is to continue meaningfully then he should be given that now and a new opener (M Vijay or whoever) should be groomed in.

  • Vinish Garg on September 2, 2012, 11:10 GMT

    I am tempted to add another Balraj Sahni classic: *Pavitra Paapi*. His quiet glance and the intensity of motion while repair the clock made it an all-time great moments for me. A very underrated movie, unfortunately.

  • milpand on September 2, 2012, 6:27 GMT

    1972 JNU Convocation address by Balraj Sahni - http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?266141

    and

    Sandip Ray admires Balraj Sahni as Salim in Garm Hava - http://in.rediff.com/movies/slide-show/slide-show-1-100-years-of-cinema-sandip-ray-lists-his-top-five-films/20120522.htm [[ Yes, I forgot about the all-time "MSSathyu" classic "Garm hawa". How can anyone forget his "Salim Mirza". Incidentally it was very tough to get to see this film because of the release-related problems. Ananth: ]]

  • Aniruddha Gupta on September 2, 2012, 5:40 GMT

    @Anantha - Wonderful reminders of Balraj Sahni. Sanjeev Kumar seems to be so forgotten when we talk of versatility. He was the one complete actor in Indian Cinema. Kamal Hassan - Am a huge fan but stopped watching his movies since he started making science fiction (Appu Raja, etc) - still he is an all time great (more of the Sijavi Ganeshan school) and dare I say pleasantly different from Rajnikant (MGR school of melodrama and over acting). Sanjay Manjrekar - Now that I mentally analyse this - indeed he is a better commentator than a writer (never thought of this before). However regarding preserving Sachin for 2013 SA - I for one totally agree. We need minimum one senior for that tour and with Dravid gone, Sehwag not willing to "grow up" (mentally), Gambhir mentally struggling - it was a choice between Lax and SRT. Fitness being a major issue - SRT surely is the choice. Regarding choice of shots - SRT is probably rusty (no excuse this).. lets wait till the next series.

  • Alex on September 2, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    @Ananth & @shrikanthk: As is VVS' fate, comments on his tribute now discuss other greats :) Fed & Borg had the reflexes & agility to counter great serve-return players. Even Agassi & Edberg were not big servers but defeated great servers in 80's & 90's. A peak form Stich, a truly great a serve & return player, beat Edberg only as narrowly as 4-6,7-6,7-6,7-6 in '91 SF on way to his title. The semis of Wimbledon read:

    '91: Wheaton/Stich/Edberg/Becker '92: McEnroe(!!)/Agassi/Goran/Sampras '93: Courier/Edberg/Becker/Sampras '94: Martin/Goran/Becker/Sampras '95: Agassi/Goran/Becker/Sampras '96: Krajicek/Stoltenberg/Washington/Martin '97: Woodbridge/Stich/Pioline/Sampras '98: Henman/Goran/Krajicek/Sampras '99: Sampras/Henman/Agassi/Rafter

    So, barring '98, all SF had at least one weak server. If Fedex/Borg get into that SF spot (which is a reasonable assumption) then they certainly would find it difficult to win 5 on trot but the main reason for that would be Sampras.

  • Sekhar Ganapathy on December 4, 2012, 14:03 GMT

    Dear Ananth, 4th Dec. 2012 I know Pakistan's Saeed Anwar has also scored 3 ODI hundreds inside a week as VVSdid during his tour of Australia(2003,I think)VVS scored 2 against Aussies and 1 against Zimbabwe,the second touring team, on a Monday,Wednesday and Friday.He was also primarily responsible for touring India's victory in both the test as well as the ODIseries in Pakistan with timely knocks (a century and a high 70),as was pointed out by his skipper Ganguly himself in his post match press conferences. He scored a century and took two brilliant catches(notin the slips as may be imagined but in the outfield!)against the touring NZteam at home.YET HE WAS NOT CONSIDERED FOR 2WORLDCUPS on frivolous charges of being poor runner&fielder! VVS himself stated that even if he did nottake risky singles of each ball,he would ensure one 4&a couple of other runs to ensure a strike rate of ateast run a ball.Only selectors may know how/why DineshMongia(later ICLplayer)was preferred over him!

  • Murray Archer on November 20, 2012, 22:08 GMT

    What a wonderful player VVS has been. Absolutely beautiful to watch bat AND... I can tell you that like most Australians; whenever V India, a feeling arose that we had the upper hand, rejoicing NEVER occurred until Laxman was out.

  • Allan Scott Schoenherr on September 3, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    Just seen this, must have missed it amongst the VVS tributes. It is great to see a statistcal analysis for a batsmen for whom stats did not tell even half of the picture. Thanks for putting this together, just another way to ignore the fact that my favourite Test batsman has retired. I particularly like the 'team runs added from the fall of the sixth wicket to the time the concerned batsman was dismissed' stats. I would be interested to see how Lara's stats hold up, I have a feeling he would in 3rd. [[ As I have explained Lara and Tendulkar do not have complete data. Maybe I should do this for the available data and post. Ananth: ]]

  • Praveen S on September 2, 2012, 17:01 GMT

    @Ananth: Yes, I meant Waugh,as "Junior" is nick name and not Tendulkar's junior! Haha ..looking the way things are going, we shouldn't be surprised if that happened.

    Yes, I agree that complex weighting mechanism wouldn't be understood by many, however, my point was to communicate -- scores in tougher matches should be rated higher.

    Best, Praveen.

  • Alex on September 2, 2012, 14:47 GMT

    @Ananth & @Vikram: Pl pardon this diversion. IMO, Naseer is a megastar despite being a character actor only because of extraneous reasons. His highs are highlighted and not the lows. Character actors like Om Puri, Anupam Kher, and Sanjeev Kumar were his equals/superiors but never achieved the megastar status due to that reason alone. Incidentally, growing up in 70's & 80's, our understanding was that the Hindi movies have produced only 5 great actors up to 1980: Motilal, Ashok Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Dilip Kumar, and Sanjeev Kumar. After 1975, the parallel cinema gave a much needed opening for well-trained theater actors like Karnad, Naseer, Om Puri. [[ Edited. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on September 2, 2012, 14:27 GMT

    @Ananth: Manjrekar asking for a "preservation" of SRT for the SA tour is probably just a euphemism. Keeping SRT on shelf (but mostly off the ground) till then will keep his sponsors happy and will give BCCI the time to build Kohli into a megastar whom they can milk for 12 more years & maybe spot another prodigy.

    @Aniruddha: Fitness was _not_ the major issue that led VVS into retirement. By all means, take seniors to SA but don't confuse them with dinosaurs. Sehwag is now 34: at that age, even Viv & Gilly, who were much fitter than him, had lost their reflexes and become ordinary batsmen. He has been asking for a middle order spot since '06. If he is to continue meaningfully then he should be given that now and a new opener (M Vijay or whoever) should be groomed in.

  • Vinish Garg on September 2, 2012, 11:10 GMT

    I am tempted to add another Balraj Sahni classic: *Pavitra Paapi*. His quiet glance and the intensity of motion while repair the clock made it an all-time great moments for me. A very underrated movie, unfortunately.

  • milpand on September 2, 2012, 6:27 GMT

    1972 JNU Convocation address by Balraj Sahni - http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?266141

    and

    Sandip Ray admires Balraj Sahni as Salim in Garm Hava - http://in.rediff.com/movies/slide-show/slide-show-1-100-years-of-cinema-sandip-ray-lists-his-top-five-films/20120522.htm [[ Yes, I forgot about the all-time "MSSathyu" classic "Garm hawa". How can anyone forget his "Salim Mirza". Incidentally it was very tough to get to see this film because of the release-related problems. Ananth: ]]

  • Aniruddha Gupta on September 2, 2012, 5:40 GMT

    @Anantha - Wonderful reminders of Balraj Sahni. Sanjeev Kumar seems to be so forgotten when we talk of versatility. He was the one complete actor in Indian Cinema. Kamal Hassan - Am a huge fan but stopped watching his movies since he started making science fiction (Appu Raja, etc) - still he is an all time great (more of the Sijavi Ganeshan school) and dare I say pleasantly different from Rajnikant (MGR school of melodrama and over acting). Sanjay Manjrekar - Now that I mentally analyse this - indeed he is a better commentator than a writer (never thought of this before). However regarding preserving Sachin for 2013 SA - I for one totally agree. We need minimum one senior for that tour and with Dravid gone, Sehwag not willing to "grow up" (mentally), Gambhir mentally struggling - it was a choice between Lax and SRT. Fitness being a major issue - SRT surely is the choice. Regarding choice of shots - SRT is probably rusty (no excuse this).. lets wait till the next series.

  • Alex on September 2, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    @Ananth & @shrikanthk: As is VVS' fate, comments on his tribute now discuss other greats :) Fed & Borg had the reflexes & agility to counter great serve-return players. Even Agassi & Edberg were not big servers but defeated great servers in 80's & 90's. A peak form Stich, a truly great a serve & return player, beat Edberg only as narrowly as 4-6,7-6,7-6,7-6 in '91 SF on way to his title. The semis of Wimbledon read:

    '91: Wheaton/Stich/Edberg/Becker '92: McEnroe(!!)/Agassi/Goran/Sampras '93: Courier/Edberg/Becker/Sampras '94: Martin/Goran/Becker/Sampras '95: Agassi/Goran/Becker/Sampras '96: Krajicek/Stoltenberg/Washington/Martin '97: Woodbridge/Stich/Pioline/Sampras '98: Henman/Goran/Krajicek/Sampras '99: Sampras/Henman/Agassi/Rafter

    So, barring '98, all SF had at least one weak server. If Fedex/Borg get into that SF spot (which is a reasonable assumption) then they certainly would find it difficult to win 5 on trot but the main reason for that would be Sampras.

  • shrikanthk on September 2, 2012, 4:25 GMT

    "Great servers": If all that was what was needed, Ivanisevic and Krajicek would have snared 6 titles amongst themselves.

    Oh. I never said that. These "great servers" may not go all the way to win the title, but they were good enough to upset higher ranking baseliners in the earlier rounds. I can imagine a Krajicek or an Ivanisevic or a Phillopousis upsetting Borg in the 4th round or QF on a fairly regular basis. [[ You are absolutely correct, Shri. Winning the titles is different to upsetting top players in early rounds which all these players were capable of. Ananth: ]] And yes, you'd notice that baseliners did FAR worse at Wimbledon in the 90s than they do now! Men like Moya, Kuerten struggled. The only exception was Agassi who held his own. Besides him, Wimbledon top 4 was generally dominated by serve-and-volleyers. The likes of Nadal/Djokovic would definitely have found the going tougher in the 90s on grass. We can always debate the extent to which they would've been discomfited. But the fact that they would've found it much harder cannot be denied.

  • Praveen S on September 2, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    Ananth: My comments continued from previous one .... 2) Since it is difficult to say who is the "best" or "greatest" player, especially, when some of them have played together for a large number of tests between them, I was thinking their contributions can be assessed by -- understanding correlations between them when they played together and perhaps building a model of wins/loss explained by all 11 players played in each match (may be a logit model). Do you think it makes sense? I understand there can be huge correlations(if there are, perhaps that gives us some message).

    Lastly, my favourite player is Mark Waugh -- according to me he is THE personification of elegance, style and poetry in motion. Even though,I grew up in Hyderabad, I can't fathom when people say Azhar, VVS are stylish or elegant, especially, when I look at Junior. [[ Of course, to watch Mark Waugh play was one of the pleasures of life. Ananth: ]] Hypothetically, if Tendulkar's last match coincides with Junior's return, I will watch Junior! No offense to anyone. [[ I hope you meant Junior "Waugh" and not Junior "Tendulkar" !!! Ananth: ]]

  • Praveen S on September 2, 2012, 4:02 GMT

    Hi Ananth, Excellent work with the numbers,as always.I have a few comments to make.I am not a big fan of his(neither I am of the big 3 in Indian cricket) although I've always felt that VVS is better than a 45 avg. player,and could have easily been in the "celebrated 50 avg. or above,elite group" that includes,with all due respect,Chanderpaul! And yes,I am from Hyderabad.So, numbers don't tell the whole story -- well,depends on how they are measured. In light of that, the following are some of my thoughts, please correct me if I am not making sense. 1)Weighted avg. should be done instead of regular average,as is done now.Weights should be created by nature of the test match -- going in, all tests are equal, but depending on how the match evolves, apt weight should be assigned, and the calc. of avg. should be done. If it is done that way, for e.g., VVS' avg. would have been above 50, I think. [[ Very subjective. And a complex objective weighting will not be understood by many. All things considered, a batting average, over 100+ Tests is an excellent measure. Ananth: ]] 2)Second thought in my next comment....

  • Aniruddha Gupta on September 2, 2012, 3:50 GMT

    As usual, a wonderful article Anantha. If I have to compare you to one of the modern day Indian cricketing greats - it will be Anil Kumble. Always up for a challenge and full of quality. Wonderful also to see mention of Balraj Sahni and Sanjeev Kumar - again a non cricketing comment pulls me into the discussions (last time it was Rafi sahab and S.D Burman). [[ To see and hear "Ae mere pyare watan" in Kabuliwallah is one of the great pleasures of life. What classics: "Do Bigha Zamin", "Dharti ke Lal", Seema". And in line with my political leanings too. Balraj Sahni and Sanjeev were the stars the other stars admired. And Kamal Hassan later. Probably much more in Tamil than Hindi. Ananth: ]] Mention of Bjorn Borg - now cant get any better. Single article so many legends. Sanjay Manjrekar (SM) - With all due respect to the commentators here, I feel SM is one of the very few who still has the guts to stand up and speak his mind. Rememeber he had previously called SRT the Elephant in the room. Laxman had to go and I thank SM if his article helped in achieving the same. VVS's innner voice came via SM's pen. Thank you. [[ He was, Aniruddha. Not now. He is now very selective. When he comes back to being fair across the board, he will get the respect from me. Why talk about preserving Tendulkar and Zaheer for 2013 SA. Can you guarantee any player his place for an year and half (when you have not guaranteed another equally wonderful player anything more than 2 Tests). In this test the ones who succeeded are the batsmen who took the attack to the other bowlers: Guptill/Taylor/van Wyk/Sehwag/Raina/Dhoni. Kohli was the exception. But then I get the impression he has excellent temperament, a shrewd cricket brain and very good technique. Tendulkar did not read the situation correctly. The youngsters did. And let me say one thing. Manjrekar, as a commentator, is far more forthright than Manjrekar as a writer. Why this double-standards. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on September 2, 2012, 3:11 GMT

    @shrikanthk: Not to mention, if Agassi did well 1988-2005 then Borg would have done at least as well since his physical game, fundamentally, was not that different from Agassi's

    Fair enough. I am not saying Borg would not have done well at all in Wimbledon. All I am saying is that he would have struggled to win 5 Wimbledon titles on the trot!! Not even Federer could've done that in the 90s, with so many great servers around. [[ "Great servers": If all that was what was needed, Ivanisevic and Krajicek would have snared 6 titles amongst themselves. With his big serve, Ivanisevic still lost 3 Wimbledon finals. Even today, the big servers (those 30-aces-a-match players) have not managed to win a single GS in the last 35 GSs. Agreed courts have slowed down but it looks as if a player with a truly wonderful serve can be blunted today, 10 years back and 20 years back. Ananth: ]]

  • srini on September 2, 2012, 2:20 GMT

    Borg being a baseliner at Wimby is a big myth. Borg consistently served and volleyed on first serve and sometimes even on second serve. He was probably not in Mac's class as a volleyer but certainly was as good if not better than Ivanisevic or Rafter who've made 5 wimbledon finals between them. Given Borg's natural talent and cerebral play he'd have certainly succeeded at Wimbledon in the 90s.

    Ananth, Fedex was an excellent S&V at the beginning of his career. Fed's serve is imo his most underrated weapon. He consistently outserves big servers like Tsonga,Roddick (50 aces in 09 final),Raonic et al. You don't beat Pistol Pete at Wim sitting on the baseline. Once the courts started to slow down he superbly adapted his game to suit his times. If the courts had remained as they were in the 90s we'd be saying how similar Federer and Sampras are in their styles.

  • Alex on September 1, 2012, 21:59 GMT

    @shrikanthk: Not to mention, if Agassi did well 1988-2005 then Borg would have done at least as well since his physical game, fundamentally, was not that different from Agassi's. It is true that Agassi did not do well at Wimbledon but, as said earlier, if Edberg could beat Becker for 2 Wimbledon titles then Borg certainly can. Of course, this is a coffee table conversation but, boy, I feel great making a case for my boyhood idol!! [[ Borg: my idol for many years. We had gone to UK in 1976 for a posting and within a few days I had the pleasure of seeing one of the greatest ever matches in Wimbledon: the 1976 semi-final between Borg and Gerulaitis. 5 of the closest sets you could imagine. By 1979 we had left UK and could watch the classic 1980 final, courtesy, DD. And then Edberg took over the idol throne, then Sampras and now Federer, Federer and Federer. One common thing you would see is the on-court-behaviour patterns. I place so much importance to the way they play the matches. With Federer you also get possibly the best all-court game ever exhibited. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on September 1, 2012, 21:47 GMT

    @srikanthk: Borg definitely had the correct physical attributes to make a good use of the new rackets: height, weight, speed, balance, and the legendary footwork. In his era, his physical fitness & mental fortitude were in a league by themselves: in those days, people actually thought McEnroe superior to him because McEnroe never paid attention to these two aspects (& perished quickly, as a result).

    Wilander dominated '87-'88 before blowing his career by falling in love and Edberg, then touted as the next Borg, did very well to win 2 Oz, 2 Wimbledon, and 2 US to go with a decent stay at #1 ranking. Borg was way superior to these two on mental aspects. If Edberg could beat Becker, the hero of Wimbledon, on 2 Wimbledon finals, it safe to presume that Borg would have done the same. To do that, Borg would certainly have to evolve and not play the 70's game (which is what I mean by 70's Borg not being a match for 00's Nadal) but he probably would have done it quite well.

  • shrikanthk on September 1, 2012, 19:11 GMT

    Federer does not also have a game tailor-made for grass at Wimbledon

    Federer has a stronger serve game than Borg. And a stronger net game. [[ My only point is that he does not come to the net as often as the earlier s and v'ers did. His service is poetry in motion. Possibly Sampras's second service was slightly better. Ananth: ]] Also I was referring to Borg in the 90s. Even Federer in the 90s might've found going a little more difficult at Wimbledon.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on September 1, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    In 1982-83, Navratilova won six consecutive GS. It was already very hot even then. In 1988 Graf's GS sweep plus olympics was a raging story. Not sure that it was only Sampras who Aroused public consciousness about grand slams. The great players went after it from as far back as I can remember (1980).

  • shrikanthk on September 1, 2012, 17:40 GMT

    @shrikanthk: It is meaningless to expect a 70's Borg to match up well with a 90's Sampras or 00's Nadal.

    My point was that Borg did not really have a game tailor-made for grass per se. In a different era (say the 90s) he may have struggled to win as many Wimbledon titles as he did with his style of play (even if he were to use graphite racquets). [[ Federer does not also have a game tailor-made for grass at Wimbledon. Ananth: ]] On the other hand, I can imagine a Laver or a Gonzales dominating grass even in the age of 90s power serves, if they were to operate with modern racquets. Borg on the other hand would've found it harder to adapt.

  • Alex on September 1, 2012, 16:56 GMT

    @Wasp: Laver's utterances are often as meaningful as the Don's invariably used to be. So if he says Fedex is all-time #1 then Fedex should be regarded all-time #1. Note that he mentioned Nadal in the same breath in that July 2012 article.

    @shrikanthk: It is meaningless to expect a 70's Borg to match up well with a 90's Sampras or 00's Nadal. The game evolves with time. A 30's Owens is no match for 00's Bolt but is regarded with a similar admiration, as it should be. [[ In Cricket the undisputed "greatest" is an old-timer. So it is easier for us, with our extensive knowledge of the modern game, to accept this. I get the feeling that in Tennis, arguably, the "greatest" is a modern player. So it looks like people have a reluctance to accept this fact. There have been as many changes in Cricket as in tennis. Protection equipment, laws, approach to the game, money in the game etc. An in Tennis, we should expect wooden rackets to play wooden rackets and composite rackets to play composite rackets.That means you would either stick a wooden racket with Nadal or give a composite racket to Borg. I am sure then we have to agree that Borg had the game to match Nadal and vice versa. Ananth: ]] @SRT: Thank You for Memories! [[ Painful innings today. Could easily have been given out lbw in the first few balls. 4 in 41 balls, one streaky four, one good four and is then bowled a la Dravid in Australia. One more failure and even I, who has been supporting Tendulkar's Test presence vociferously, may have second thoughts. And later even Raina has a much better composed innings. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on September 1, 2012, 14:29 GMT

    The standard we have now - # of slams - is a very modern thing. Borg, let alone, Laver, did NOT play their careers with the GS aims that Sampras onward have - thus using this standard to backwards judge players who were coming at things from a very different headspace is unfair to them [[ I am not very sure. As one who has followed Tennis very closely for the past 40-odd years, there might not have been a million dollars prize money there but even in the 1960s, the number of GSs was a big thing. And I was in England when Borg equalled Laver's number and it was the talk of the town. And there were many questions raised on why Borg retired and did not make an attempt to match Emerson. I agree the media presence might not have been there. That way, even in Cricket, many significant past-day happenings were only covered through newspaper reports, not the blow-by-blow coverage which happens today. Ananth: ]] Exactly. McEnroe and Connors for instance don't seem "great" going by GS count. But nevertheless they're all-time greats given their astounding tally of Career titles on tour. Also McEnroe's singles record is that much more special given the amount of time he devoted to "doubles" - with considerable success to boot!

  • Dinesh on September 1, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    Re: Srikanth "Away tests outside Sub-continent. Ashwin already failed this test once in Aus, where his slightly short length on middle stump was totally impotent."

    Srikanth almost all spinners failed in Australia. Murali did, kumble did, Swann did and Bhajji never turned up.And by the time Ashwin played in Australia it was only his 2nd test series. So terming his bowling as impotent so early is also probably not a good thing.

    Yes he was bad real bad but probably far better than what Bhajji could manage.And if we go back Bhajji wasnt getting his wickets in india as well and we persisted with him for over 2-3 years in his bad form.So i think we can give Ashwin 6-8 more tests to blossom given that our Spin Cupboard is as bare as if not more than our Pace Department.

  • Waspsting on September 1, 2012, 11:31 GMT

    Gonzales used to whip Rosewall when the latter first turned pro, then that was reversed.

    Rosewall (as well as Gonzales) used to whip Laver when he first turned pro before the same thing happened.

    wouldn't read too much into the early results - i see it more as a higher standard than what one is used to pushing a player to fulfill more of his potential.

    Sort of how a new cricket test team gets to be whipping boys for a while before they reach equality (or at least, "not a mis-match" standing) with the established teams

  • Waspsting on September 1, 2012, 11:24 GMT

    The standard we have now - # of slams - is a very modern thing. Borg, let alone, Laver, did NOT play their careers with the GS aims that Sampras onward have - thus using this standard to backwards judge players who were coming at things from a very different headspace is unfair to them (and flawed as a measure across time)

    "Laver does have problems with (putting Fed above himself)"

    Last I know, Laver's on board with Fed's top position. do a google searh - "rod laver federer greatest ever"

    re: pro slams - most of those tournaments were 16 players tops, (some smaller with the top players getting byes into the quarters). they're more like today's year end championship than today's slams.

    The all time leader for combined slams is Ken Rosewall with 23.

    What happened between Laver and Gonzales was standard. Top amateur becomes pro, gets whipped for a couple of years, adjusts to the new standard and topples guy who whipped him to become new top dog. (cont)

  • Waspsting on September 1, 2012, 11:01 GMT

    "Why Borg played Oz in only '74 is a mystery"

    @Alex - back then, people didn't value grand slams nearly as much as they do now. It wasn't til Sampras stated that the only important thing was GS' did this standard of "most grand slams" become the basic standard for assessing a player.

    Laver was 1 short of the all time record after '69 (when he won 4-4). he'd play 1 or 2 a year after that - even though he was good enough to win 5-9 of what was basically the Masters series in '70.

    Similarly, Borg retired 1 short after a year in which he'd won 1 and been runner up in 2 slams.

    NO ONE CARED MUCH about owning the most GS titles.

    Connors and McEnroe routinely skipped Aus open, too.

    Aus open was played at awkward time of the year, the pay was much less than other slams. even the format wasn't fixed - some years had 6 rounds, some 7 and some years the first few rounds were best of 3 sets, other years best of 5.

    Another thing to keep in mind when comparing across times (cont)

  • srini on September 1, 2012, 7:34 GMT

    Borg was undefeated in Davis Cup 33-0. The 60s & 70s were a different ball game. Oz Open was played in Dec back then and many players wanted to be at home for Christmas. Many players regularly skipped tourneys back then. In fact many people think Borg quit tennis because from 82 the ATP made 10 tournaments mandatory and Borg didn't want to play that many matches. Reg Nadal I respect the guy. He is a hardcore competitor and has a neversay die attitude but he irks me no end. His interviews always have the same answers and they are hardly genuine. You had to see his behavior against Rosol. Also he is prone to extreme gamesmanship. Regularly takes MTOs (RF FO '11 JMDP Wim '11) when he is trailing and runs like the wind immediately. Fedex's matter of factly talk is considered arrogant. In fact Djoker is a lot genuine than Nadal. Djoker behaves like a d*** when he wins but is a lot humble and respectful when he loses. Nadal is one of the all time greats for sure but his humility is a sham.

  • shrikanthk on September 1, 2012, 3:23 GMT

    Today, the memory of many fans would runs as far back as 80's only but Jack Kramer, a great tennis player himself, rated Laver in only the 2nd echelon

    Coming to think of it, tennis has really changed a LOT more than cricket over the past 70 years, which makes comparisons really tough.

    Also unlike cricket where you've brilliant tools like "averages" which help us gauge players, one has to rely on titles in tennis which can be highly unreliable. For eg: Aus Open was not really a big deal in the tennis world until the 80s/90s.

    Based on critical consensus, we can go with the following top 10 (in chronological order):

    Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzales, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer

    But this is just coffee-table talk. No way we can compare pioneers of the power game like Vines with men like Nadal! I've handled a wooden racquet. And I can tell you tennis with wood is a totally different game.

  • shrikanthk on September 1, 2012, 3:09 GMT

    Sampras was a bit weak on clay and made only one SF at French while Borg had no such weakness

    I am not sure about this. Borg played in the pre-Graphite racquet era when tennis was a very different game.

    In the modern power game with so many big servers around on grass, he may have struggled a bit more at Wimbledon atleast, if not the US Open.

    I just don't see how Borg could've won more than 1-2 Wimbledons in the 90s with the likes of Sampras, Rafter, Ivanisevic, Becker, Phillopousis, Rusedski around. A lot of power out there.

  • shrikanthk on September 1, 2012, 2:59 GMT

    And Ojha i feel is truly underrated.Truth is that Ashwin takes a lot of wickets and people give a lot of hype to those who take wickets and they are worth it but here Ojha has helped ashwin take the wickets with his impeccable line and length and his control

    Let's not get carried away here. We are judging these spinners based on two series against WI and NZ (the two worst teams when it comes to playing spin) on extremely favourable home pitches.

    Both of them are steady finger-spinners yes. But they have two tests to pass. 1. Home tests against stronger opposition like Aus and SA on NORMAL Indian wickets. By normal Indian wickets, I mean good, easy paced batting wickets which turn significantly only from Day 3/Day 4 onwards unlike the low bounce, slow turners they've enjoyed against NZ/WI.

    2. Away tests outside Sub-continent. Ashwin already failed this test once in Aus, where his slightly short length on middle stump was totally impotent.

  • Alex on September 1, 2012, 2:14 GMT

    @Ananth: Kumble's article on VVS is brief & excellent. VVS' batted in 74 innings (33%) at #5 and in 67 innings (30%) at #6. I would much rather that Ganguly batted at #6 all through, leaving VVS at #5 for 67% of his career innings. But Dada was a star and the captain 2001-04. And over 2001-08, like it or not, #3 was Dravid's since Dravid was supreme 2001-06 whereas #4 was/is SRT's regardless of how big a flunk he was/is in. That was the hand that VVS was dealt with. [[ Yes, to the point and every word means something. The way Kumble bowled, each delivery was serious stuff. Ananth: ]] For the most part, VVS was never treated unfairly --- he just was never treated as a pampered star. Somebody has to bat at #6. VVS at #6 was a great insurance policy for India (much like Gilly at #7 was for Oz till 2004). At that position, he played many outstanding innings such as 89 vs SA, 148 vs Oz, and 103* vs SL. [[ I will insist that the treatment of Laxman in ODIs was atrocious. It is nice (and utterly worthless) of Ganguly to now say that Laxman should have gone to SA for the 2003 Wc. But where was he at that time. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 31, 2012, 19:18 GMT

    Ananth: Pl give us the link of your tennis article. My personal favorites are Borg & Sampras. I rooted for Borg as a child. They both seem to have no problems putting Fedex above them (and Borg has no problems putting Nadal above him on clay either) but Laver does have problems with that. Now, is Laver a clear-cut all-time #1? The pro tour existed independently until 1968 and skews all stats. Today, the memory of many fans would runs as far back as 80's only but Jack Kramer, a great tennis player himself, rated Laver in only the 2nd echelon ... his first echelon had Tilden, Vines, Budge, & Gonzales. Gonzales was #1 for 8 years and won a combined 17 GS titles across amateur & pro. In 1964, at age 36, he dominated a 26-year old Laver (8-5 head-head in '64). Laver, of course, has also won a professional grad slam in '67 to go with his amateur grand slam & open grand slam. Nevertheless, your article would be a good reading. [[ That article is way into the future. I have to collect data from many sources. A painful, but worthwhile task. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 31, 2012, 18:30 GMT

    @Ananth Sure I will definitely try & thanks once again. :)

    BTW when I said VVS consistently delivered under pressure, the pressure I mentioned was both: 1. on field pressure (A match or series in balance, a bowling attack on top & India with backs to the wall, a pitch turning square or assisting fast bowlers) 2.Off field pressure: his place in the team being uncertain despite performing well or him being constantly shunted up or down the order.

    Anil Kumble has mentioned it also in his tribute to VVS Laxman, in this week's sportstar. Link: http://www.sportstaronnet.com/stories/20120908504801900.htm [[ My only contact with Laxman was when I called Anil Kumble in Delhi to congratulate him on his 10-wkt performance. Laxman was Kumble's room-mate (or was in his room) and he took the phone. Laxman was struggling at that time and had reached 400 Test runs in a dozen Tests. Kumble was already well-established and was at his peak. But Laxman was courtesy personified. He probably also knew that I was working with the Kumble brothers on some serious cricket analysis and simulation. Two erudite gentlemen, the like of whom we may never see. I could not visualize the heights Laxman would reach. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 31, 2012, 14:23 GMT

    @Ananth: Sampras was a bit weak on clay and made only one SF at French while Borg had no such weakness --- he might not have won US but reached its 4 finals. Why Borg played Oz in only '74 is a mystery. Wiki states this: Borg won 41% of GS tournaments he entered (11 of 27) and 89.81% (141–16) of the GS matches he played. His winning % across all surfaces was 82.72 (608-127), and his winning % at Wimbledon was 92.73 (51–4); all are records for an entire career. In those days, Davis cup was a big thing and Borg managed an excellent 37-3 record in it. Borg was probably the toughest champion on mental aspects and yet his retirement happened, effectively, at the end of 1981 at age 25! That and McEnroe's burnout at age 25 robbed tennis of glorious highlights. Botham's burnout in 1982 rivals McEnroe's burnout but nothing in cricket comes close to Borg's shocking retirement. [[ We should not forget that most of these were Borg's choices and should make us appreciate someone who has not missed a single Grand Slam in 13 years. In terms of fitness, this is similar to Kapil and Gilchrist. consecutively. Ananth: ]]

  • Dinesh on August 31, 2012, 14:01 GMT

    Ananth: For your article on tennis.I am ready to be of somehelp whenever possible and whatever the work might be.I am game for it. You can just send me an email which i use to comment.

    Coming to today's test I thoroughly enjoyed Taylor's batting.What a difference an attacking instict can make.I think Guptill got carried away by that.Had he been not out till lunch today might fully have been Newzealand's.It is in this situation that Vettori would have been of immense help to Taylor with him holding one end Up and giving the freedom to Taylor.His absence was felt. And Ojha i feel is truly underrated.Truth is that Ashwin takes a lot of wickets and people give a lot of hype to those who take wickets and they are worth it but here Ojha has helped ashwin take the wickets with his impeccable line and length and his control.His stiffles one end up and forces batsmen to take chances against Ashwin.Though ashwin bowled lot of good balls and there was markable change in his flight as well. [[ These two seem to work well as a pair. But they need to wrap up the last 4 wickets in the first hour else, New Zealand would get a decent score. I know that in 2010 Ausralia scored 478 and lost. But SRT was in imperious form then. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 31, 2012, 11:14 GMT

    @Anantha Thanks for the generous & heartwarming words. I will try my best to keep posting. But as you have seen with me, once I start posting, I have a lot to say & beyond a point, it begins to take a toll. That's why I appreciate you & the regular commentators on this blog for having the energy which I lack & also the balance to be able to post along with their regular daily activities: Work/Family/Studies/Hobbies. But VVS retirement marks the end of a very memorable phase of my life & this blog was a wonderful forum to bring closure to it. It gave me a chance to interact with a lot of my fellow VVS admirers who were all equally saddened by his retirement & also grateful to him for all the wonderful memories of consistently delivering under pressure & yet doing it with elegance & panache while retaining his humility & integrity. I will always fondly remember my experience with this blog & associate it with VVS retirement & the feelings of sadness & gratitude that accompanied it. [[ I understand, Aman. My next article, due on Monday, may not elicit such a passionate set of comments from you. But many readers post whatever they can, whenever they can. Just a couple of relevant ones will be nice. I have also changed my schedule to let the articles have a clear fortnight's shelf stay. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on August 31, 2012, 10:26 GMT

    for "balance", that's what i look for more than counting up titles.

    a great example of this is Fed on clay. If Nadal hadn't been around, Fed would almost certainly be a 6 time French Open champion!!!

    If we take Nadal as the greatest clay courter ever, than theoritically, Fed could be as high as 2nd best on clay - and coupled with top 2 finishes (at least) on the other surfaces, that can easily make him #1 ever.

    Contrast this logical assessment with the general one of noting 1 french title, and slotting Fed well below, say Wilander and Lendl - let alone Borg.

    Off-topic as this is - i hope we can talk about it a bit. i don't understand tennis the same way i do cricket, and am even more keen to hear others take on things in the hopes of learning more [[ I am with you almost all the way. We are coming back to my magnum opus on tennis. Sum up 100+ years of GS titles and apply the current points. No database available. I have to create this from scratch. Would Cricinfo publish the article. Probably No. Okay, I can do it on my site. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on August 31, 2012, 10:19 GMT

    @ananth - if i may?

    "Much as I liked Bjorg and Sampras, their concentration on 2 and 3 GSs make them non-starters"

    I disagee with the PREMISE that this comment seems to me to imply.

    Sampras was woeful on clay, but whatever "tennis" was, he was able to stay world number 1 for 6 years. his VERSATILITY isn't optimum, but his OVERALL QUALITY seems to make up for it largely. More balanced players couldn't have dominated the rankings as he did. [[ Yes, the 14 titles would never take him off, irrespective of his lack of success on clay. Ananth: ]] As for Borg, i think you are weighing title wins too heavily, relative to "good performances".

    Take a (extreme) hypothetical scenario - in 10 years, X wins 1 Wimbledon and is knocked out 9 times in rounds, while Y is runner-up 10 times. Who's better at Wimbledon? [[ If you go by the AtP rankings, the one win would get 2000 pts. The 9 runner-up results would get 10800 points. So there is no contest. One day I will do an across-years accumulation of points. Then Borg will get due credit as would Federer for his 8 finalist positions. Probably what should clinch for Fed must be his streak of 32 QF or more GS tournaments. Imagine the fitness levels required. Incidetally Borg was/is one of my all-time favourites. Ananth: ]] Borg was runner up 4 times at US open (3 times on hard courts), won numerous hard court tournaments in his life, beat the best on that surface regularly.

    IMO, failure to win this or that title is LESS IMPORTANT than proving one's quality on a given surface (cont)

  • Amandeep Singh on August 31, 2012, 10:16 GMT

    @Ananth And I forgot Rafa's record playing for his country: Olympic Gold & Davis Cup wins. BTW You don't like the abbreviation GOAT or the debate about who is GOAT? [[ Only the abbreviation GOAT. It is somewhat like gr8, which I hate more. Ananth: ]] I can see why you get annoyed since everyone keeps debating whether Fedex is GOAT. But they only debate whether he is the GOAT (where GOAT is a convenient abbreviation for a long title) & not whether he is a goat (where goat is a common noun).

  • Waspsting on August 31, 2012, 10:10 GMT

    the problem with comparing tennis players across time, is that that you have to define "tennis" to begin with. Grass tennis is different from hard tennis is different from clay tennis - significantly.

    so i would think of the totality we call "tennis" in terms of what officialdom hands us that make up of tournaments around the year.

    Today, in GS, that's 2 hard-1 grass-1 clay. for the masters, 2 hard-1clay, and the rest of the tournaments are along the latter lines (grass almost non-existent)

    Laver played when grass was much more prevalent - and dominated. but that's completely different "tennis" than whats played today.

    If the ATP restructured the tour so that 75% of tournaments were played on clay, Nadal would automatically become "greatest player ever" (Rosewall might push him, just keeping it simple for now)

    so first thing to answer is "what is 'tennis'"? - before we even think of measuring the greats relative to one another. [[ Today's Tennis scene is dominated by Clay and Hard courts. Grass is present in the form of one GS, one 500-level event and one 250-level event. But it is more balanced than the 1960s scene. Let us not worry too much about the changes. Same as Bradman of the 1930s vs the others. We have to work on the basis that the great players of one generation would have done well in the other generations. Ananth: ]] (cont)

  • Amandeep Singh on August 31, 2012, 10:05 GMT

    @Vikram: I don't completely agree with the previous comment or with the unfair treatment meted out to VVS but let's respectfully agree to disagree in the true spirit of democracy, which unfortunately some of our esteemed Parliamenterians have forgotten :) [[ Aman I hope you do not go off like the will-o'-the-wisp after the closure of this article. Most of us have enjoyed your erudite comments and would want to continue doing so. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 31, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    @Ananth "He’s a more elegant player, he has more options to do on court, he can do everything. He can serve better serve better than me, the forehand he can play more aggressive than me. I think he’s more complete than me in all aspects." - Rafael Nadal on Roger Federer

    I think Rafa is too hard on himself, but this is adorable.

    I googled the above Rafa quote Reveals 2 things: 1. The respect Fedex's elegant game commands not just among tennis lovers but also among his rival whose biggest claims to fame are: Completing a career Grand Slam & Golden Slam, clay court record & ofc his H2H record (esp. in GS) against the incumbent GOAT Fedex (I will reiterate this even though Rafa is my favourite & you are right its Fedex vs Laver for GOAT as of now)

    2. Rafa's humility (He once apologised to Fedex for beating him in 3 successive GS finals FO 08, W 08 & AO 09) & generosity in praise which along with his tenacity make me cheer for him (& alas! lose my royal balcony seat in this blogspace) [[ Let me also say that I have a lot of time for Rafa since he is sincere, wholesome in his appreciation and unlike Djjoko, who I find it difficult to like. Roger and Rafa have great regard for each other. It takes a great player to apprecite another great player's greatnness. And let us get off this GOAT. Unfortunately it gets my goat. Ananth: ]]

  • Vikram on August 31, 2012, 6:49 GMT

    I feel there is a huge feeling of missed opportunity as regards VVS. I, surprisingly, actually feel that circumstances ensured that VVS delivered a lot. He might have scored a few more runs, but apart from 6,996 there is no other total that I remember. I sincerely believe that we should have spent the 140 odd comments celebrating VVS rather than talking about what-if. As for SCG, never his fan as a batsman but as a leader he did take India to the next level - so if that meant that VVS had to be axed a few times, I will take it. For all the greatness of SRT, RD, Kumble and even VVS, I believe that it was SCG's belligerence which made us compete toe-to-toe with the Aussies. And just to repeat, if VVS missed out on some easy runs, good for him - his 50s are now counted as greats by a lot of people. If he had 25 centuries of which 12 had come against this weak opp/home conditions, the beauty and value of these 50s wld have been lost. So, lets celebrate his greatness and forget what-ifs.

  • Dinesh on August 31, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    Ananth: I think you havent booked the tickets for the Match. Even if you did you might have already cancelled them as Martin isnt playing and that is probably the last we will see of the greatest worst batsman of all time.

    Ananth: Just to rub you on the wrong side, i have watched live the Phenom's last two test innings on Indian Soil. A total of 4 legendary Deliveries.

    P.S: I will never get a balcony seat in this Blogspace. Joker all the way \m/ [[ I can assure you that there is a balcony seat with your name on it. You only have to come in and take possession. I am sure you blimked and missed part of the two innings. I saw the deliveries again and again. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 31, 2012, 1:57 GMT

    @Ananth & @Aman: I love Nadal and think he can be a better player than Federer, who has been amazingly productive. But on non-clay surfaces, Fedex leads him 8-6. And slice it dice it whichever way, Nadal has only 1 Oz, 2 Wimbledon, and 1 US (to go with 7 French and 5 GS finals) whereas Fedex has 4 Oz, 1 French, and 5 US (to go with 7 Wimbledon and 7 GS finals). So, the breadth of Fedex' dominance is just too great and his latest Wimbledon win has arguably sealed all debates for now. The game keeps changing but, right now, Fedex' legitimate rivals can only be Sampras, Borg, & Laver. [[ The imbalance for Fed is 4-1-5-7 while for Nadal it is 1-2-1-7. The first one indicates lot more balance. Much as I liked Bjorg and Sampras, their concentration on 2 and 3 GSs make them non-starters. I think it is straightaway a 2-way contest between Fed and Laver. However much I love Fed I cannot but feel that the 6 year period between 1963-68 would have yielded a minimum of 6-9 GS titles for Laver. But adding the 21 Master's titles and 6 year-end master's titles (both still counting), I think Fed just about noses ahead. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 31, 2012, 0:47 GMT

    Ananth: I never accused you of inconsistency. The observation was on BCCI and media.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 22:28 GMT

    And I must add 2 more tributes: Look Up:

    "Laxman always remained an unsung hero Deccan Herald" "Amol Muzumdar recalls his experience of three English summers with Laxman"

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    @Dr. talha: An Indo-Pak XI. Insh'allah, in my life time, it becomes a reality & I see it not just on paper. I won't make this wish openly in these times of acrimony that we live in but somehow in this blog, with VVS lovers, I feel more confident making this wish.

    I just have this feeling (I maybe considered naive) that those who love batting of VVS are like the player that we admire: completely peaceful (except Ojha from Mohali 2010), like an unhurried life & are modest & humble to a fault.

    BTW before I sign off, there are 3 wonderful & insightful tributes to VVS I would like to share. I don't know if Cricinfo allows hyperlinks in comments but please google

    1. "VVS- that artist dude next door" 2. "Rediff.com: VVS, we will miss you" 3. "sidveeblogs: Goodbye VVS" [[ You can put in the links at any time. I check the link once for content, that is all. After all, a smart guy might sell Cialis/Viagra in an article titled VVS. Although smart guys do not need to sell junk over the web. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    @Ananth Thanks for the royal balcony seat. :) But to be honest, in Fedex Vs Nadal, I cheer for the latter. Initially started cheering him as an underdog against Fedex but then I became a permanent fan of Nadal's never-say-die attitude. Having said that, if it comes to choosing the elegant player, forget about me. Even Nadal would go for Fedex. As things stand, there's no doubting the fact that Fedex is GOAT (Lets see whether Djoker/Nadal can surpass him by the time they finish). Nadal/Safin are my sentimental favourites. I just hope that doesn't mean I have to forgo my seat in this blogspace. :) [[ OK, you get moved to the Balcony seat, that is all!!! Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 18:04 GMT

    BTW VVS himself credits captains Kumble & Dhoni as well as coach Gary for making him feel secure in the team. He once said that under earlier captains (He didn't take names but we can easily infer: Both Dravid & Ganguly), he was often insecure about his place in the team despite performing well & that hampered his performances. Look up "Selection committee boosted our confidence: VVS Laxman" for the original article When Kumble was taking over, in the euphoria of T-20 win, there was talk of Yuvraj Singh replacing VVS (He had even been dropped for the BD tour earlier where all our top 5 (Jaffer & Karthik + RD+SRT+SCG) feasted on 100s) but Kumble made it clear in a newspaper column that VVS is a permanent fixture in the batting order & immediately VVS started hitting peak form without which his statistical record would've been comparable to Azhar or even Ganguly, which just won't have reflected his batting pedigree or his immense contributions to the Indian test wins in the past decade. [[ I forgot to mention this earlier. But Zidane and Fedex in your earlier mail. No wonder your mailid is so special. Anyhow you get the Royal Balcony seat in this blogspace if you say nice things about Federer. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 17:47 GMT

    Because it will take so many posts & in the end will be completely futile. His ODI career got over in 2006 & in 2005 & 2006 combined also, he played only 3-4 ODIs which was so unfair given the fact that he had scored 5 centuries from Oct 2003 to March 2004 (in the season just after being dropped for 2003 WC), 3 against Aus, 3 in Aus & 1 in Pak 107 (104) in the final match of a series locked 2-2. India won 3-2 & he was MOM. I will hold myself back & not rant about this now. :D

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 17:32 GMT

    @Vikram: Well written & I mostly agree with what you have written. But as I wrote, he was even pushed below Ganguly when Ganguly himself was captain which to me made no sense & even now I can't figure out any cricketing logic in that decision. He has even been dropped from the test team: Against Zim in 2002 for Sehwag @ Home. (Sehwag hadn't yet began opening), less than an year after Kolkata 2001, by Dravid in 2006 @ home against Eng & in 2007 on BD tour. Please note that VVS was only axed from the test team when the opposition was easy & never for the tougher series where Ganguly & Dravid knew that he was indispensable. And as I mentioned, India did regret this in 2006 England @ Mumbai being bundled out for 100 in a situation tailor made for VVS. Axing VVS from the test team was just the limit of unfairness.

    And as I wrote earlier, I haven't yet gone into how VVS was unceremoniously dumped from ODI team on multiple occasions & I won't

  • Dr. talha on August 30, 2012, 16:58 GMT

    But if a make an Indo-Pak X1 of the last 2 decades i would certainly have both VVS and Inzi in my XI. Probabaly this would be my batting order. Saeed Anwar Virendar Sehwag Rahul Dravid Sachin Tendulkar Inzmam ul haq VVS Laxman Wicketkeeper & 4 bowlers. My apologies to all Mohammad Yousuf fan's. Another great batsman of this era.

  • Dr. talha on August 30, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    @ wapsting.You are right to a certain extent, but i believe that is not always true. Obviously bowlers need a descent total to bowl at. There were occasions in which pak did not had enough total on the board to bowl out the opposition, and Inzi played remarkabely. Like the one Amandeep mentioned, and a few others like against NZL in 1993, at hamilton where pak were 39 for 5 and inzi added 80 with rashid latif to take the lead to 127, (he scored 75 in that inns) then the great 2 Ws bowled out NZL for 90. Similary his inns against windies in 2005 Jamaica. He a scored a terrific hundred, which helped pak set a descent target for a very average bowling attack. Still remember his first hundred in antigua against the likes of Ambrose & Walsh, where he again added 100 with the number 10 batsmen. Pak were struggling at 227 for 8. One of the very few who played Ambrose, walsh & Bishop really well.

  • Vikram on August 30, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    @Amandeep: while I agree that VVS would have scored more, the fact that he scored his runs in such conditions makes him the great batsman who gets revered. If he came at 3, scored 12k runs in his career, but meant that there was no one to shepherd the tail and hence the Indian win record was worse, wouldn't he be grouped with SRT, RD as having scored easy runs. The fact that his 50s mattered so much are a result of him coming at the position he did. Also, there are numerous situations of him coming at 300/3 and not really scoring a lot. So he might not actually have scored a lot more. All I am trying to say is that I don't see a reason why we should feel any sense of missed opportunity or regret about VVS' career. As for Manjrekar, he criticised SRT once and was lambasted pretty bad by SRT's fans in media. Hence he went for the "softer" target this time. Apart from Indian bowling, Indian sports commentator position is really crying out for a few well-balanced and sharp operators. Everyone has an axe to grind. What we need are people with no axes. Ananth

  • Alex on August 30, 2012, 16:03 GMT

    @Tallha & @Wasp: Statsguru of Cricinfo gives the following avg in won matches: Don (130), Mankad (113), Headley (95.8), AF Ray (92.4), Hardstaff Jnr (89.5), Andy Flower (84.5), RT Robinson (84) Walcott (79.5), Denness (78.3), Worrell (74.5). Of course, the sample set of winning matches is much smaller for others (except for the Don) as compared to Inzy's.

    @Ananth: I don't know why you, and many others, are beating around the bush but going by the performances in the last 15 months, there is a very strong case to drop SRT for good from test squad as well: India can win matches in India without him (all they need to do is to create H'bad type pitches) and SRT has amply shown that he no longer has it vs top 4-5 teams abroad. I would rather see a 24-year old average 30 abroad than watch SRT average 35 (& drag his own average down to a 52.XX). If there is one consistent stand in this matter, it has been mine. I have always told that a senior selector should sit down and talk to SRT about his future Test plans. And SRT himself should quit the ODI scene. I still think there are some Tests left in SRT, especially because of the twin departures. But about SA 2013 and what Manjrekar says, it is nonsense. Anyhow this is Laxman's farewell piece and I would like to close all such discussions. Ananth

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 13:45 GMT

    @Gerry_The_Merry, Using the exact same arguments, I would also include VVS for SA 2013 as he contributed massively to our only 2 test wins in SA & he's 18 months younger to Sachin & would've been 39 & not close to 41 in that tour. So his experience would be badly missed in SA but anyways whats the point talking about it because sometimes the injustice meted out to VVS only ends up making me bitter & this isn't the moment to be bitter,

    @Wapsting Another Inzy's masterclass is Port Elizabeth 2007, came in @ 135/6 (his neck was injured) & took Pak to 265 (sharing a 74 run 10th wicket stand with Mohd Asif who contributed 7). He scored 92*, 1 of only 4 50s & the highest score in this low scoring match. (SA had scored 124 in 1st innings & Pak took a priceless 141 run lead). Pak won by 5 wickets & Inzy was MOM.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 13:34 GMT

    But as I said, this isn't the moment to fret about what might have been & what we have missed out on but to celebrate what is because even that is worth a lot of celebration. May be not in pure statistical terms but looking at the whole picture of how VVS contributed to India's success & also delighted the connoisseurs with his breathtakingly elegant & yet gritty batting against the best of bowling attacks, in the most challenging of batting conditions & in the tightest of match situations. There you go. There are very rare breeds (in any sport) for whom we can use the word elegant & gritty together in one sentence (Zidane, Fedex are the few I can think off) & they all are truly VERY VERY SPECIAL (Sorry for the use of Caps but for once I thought they were necessary)

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    @Ananth I completely agree. 10K @ the very least if not more Esp. if you consider the fact that he would have to bat at 6/7 till Ganguly retired on a majority of occasions & certainly on all flat tracks/easy bowling attacks with runs on offer. He was occasionally promoted but that was usually against Aus or other tight matches esp. in 2nd innings, when it was thought that a VVS cameo would quickly turn the tight match in India's favour or help India escape from a precarious backs to the wall situation. So his promotions came when India needed him to perform the miracles that only he could perform or if there was some player injury which resulted in VVS getting a promotion by default rather than by design.

    But he was not promoted in normal situations (which can explain why his record @ no.3 despite the 281 is not that extra-ordinary) & certainly not on flat tracks or against BD/Zim in the 1st innings, with easy runs on offer & no constraints of time also since its 1st innings.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 30, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    Look at Manjrekar's column before the Ist test against NZ. He has taken Laxman's poor stats in England and NZ. He has argued that Tendulkar should play in SA 2013. But he has forgotten to take Tendulkar's (almost equally poor) stats in Eng and Aus. One sided commentary. Tendulkar may yet go to SA, and perhaps do well there too, but this article used a particular argument and made the point smoothly and fallaciously. [[ I have rarely seen an article which set out to achieve something: and it did. Ananth: ]] Now, should Tendulkar go to SA in 2013? SA are now almost as good as England were last year, and their batting has started piling on the same pressure as England did in 2010/11, making their bowling even better. But we dont have enough experience in the batting line-up. I suppose I would include him in the team. No choice.

  • Waspsting on August 30, 2012, 11:29 GMT

    ...its just that his team (esp. the bowling) was such that when he did score big, they usually won.

    As opposed to say, Brian Lara, who might score big but lose (or draw) anyway because his team wasn't up to doing the rest.

    I find the outlines of Laxman performing when his team mates failed - as shown in the comments here - more impressive than Inzie's record in matches won, frankly.

    That said, Inzie is one guy who might rival Laxman in this area. Off hand, i can think of a number of innings in which he scored while others failed around him, and a couple of magnificent match-closing efforts (vs Bangladesh in Multan and that 56* batting with the number 11 against Aus, '95 i think it was)

    Anyway, this article is about celebrating Laxman, not comparing him to others - positively or negatively. But I particularly wanted to throw out this way of looking at "matches won" performances.

    For batsmen, it says more about their team's bowling than it does about them. [[ You are correct. In a way the difference in averages in lost and won Tests may mean something more. It might portray batsmen who contributed ALWAYS. Also wins are normally earned by bowlers. And let me add that Inzamam's 138 against Bangladesh is one under-rated all-time classic. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on August 30, 2012, 11:20 GMT

    Inzamam is indeed, 2nd behind the great Don

    Bradman 130.08 in 30 tests Inzamam 78.16 in 49 Sobers 77.42 in 31 Sangakkarra 76.46 in 42 G. Chappell 70.49 in 38

    (source - Sobers legends of cricket stats analysis piece)

    That noted, and Inzamam being one of my favorite players (in my subjective opinion, a cut above Laxman, and up there with Lara Tendulkar) - i don't think much of these figures because i don't think there's any such thing as a "match winning batsman" (Don excepted).

    The downside of Inzie's wins record is a poor loss record (ave. 28) and none too great in draws (ave. 47 - where many are averaging 60 plus).

    What to deduce?

    I think it just shows Pak bowling was good enough to bowl the opposition out for reasonable totals regularly - so that when the batsman fired (and when Inzie the top player did, the team probably did) - Pak probably won.

    IOW, he scored as you expect a great player to score - its just that his team was such that... (cont)

  • Amandeep Singh on August 30, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    @Gerry_the_Merry The same 4 year cycle isn't going to repeat again. For example, we are touring SA 12 months later. But even I wrote that it is debatable whether he should be extended the same consideration as Dravid (And that debate is futile given that he wasn't extended any such consideration & is now reatired) but if he was that would’ve been an exception to the much more stringent selection rules that applied to VVS throughout his career, starting from his debut & right till he hung his boots. [[ But for this swaord of Damocles, it is safe to say that Laxman would have crossed 10000 runs. Ananth: ]]

  • Dr. talha on August 30, 2012, 6:30 GMT

    Inzamam has one amazing stat in test matches. Must be some sort of a record. He averages 78.16 in the tests that Pak won, while he was playing. This is the best amongst all the gr8 batsmen of the game. Here is the list of others. Sachin 66.03 Ponting 59.46 Lara 61.02 Dravid 65 Kallis 65.97 S Waugh 69.46 Viv 52.43 VVS 55 Only the gr8 Sobers comes close to Inzi. He averages 77.42 in the matches that windies won while he was playing. And remember out of the 25 hundreds that Inzi scored, Pak won on 17 occasions!! [[ I agree, Dr. Will do a check on this. Possibly Inzy is on top, barring Bradman. Why gr8, why not great. Why use the cursed SMS lingo when nice words are available. I get the feeling you got caught in the 1000-character limit. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 29, 2012, 15:01 GMT

    @Ananth: Strauss' retirement caps a 2-week period in which two top-class batsmen retired without any prior indications while KP might have played his last test (unlikely though, given Morris' planned meeting).

    I will always remember Strauss' 158 vs Ind in the 2012 WC. It evoked memories of Gooch's all-time great hundred vs Ind in the '87 WC SF. His final 3 yrs, at physical age 32-35, were rather poor --- 32 tests and 3 100's at avg=32 --- and saw his avg drop from 44 to 41. In this period, the brightest spots as a captain were the 2 Ashes wins and a 4-0 drubbing of India whereas the darkest spots were a brownwash in India & Dubai, the 2010 Pak match-fixing scandal, and the latest KP saga.

    Much like VVS, Strauss has taken the correct decision. Meanwhile, SRT has averaged 35 in his last 12 tests with no hundred and 6 50's. He has never had a worse 12-test period in his career. [[ Alex, no point in talking about Sachin. He is a law unto himself and he has told million times that he would play as long as he is enjoying himself. His intense love for the game has been a great plus for Indian cricket most of the times but causes problems in such situations. I thought Mohinder was the one to bell the cat, in private, on this but he may very well be eased out of the Sc. And if Binny is going to be the chairman, he is not even going to tell the other members, leave alone Sachin. Lest a few members go on the warpath, le me clarify that I, speaking only for myself, am talking about the ODI game. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 29, 2012, 5:00 GMT

    Could not Laxman been shown the same consideration as RD? Perhaps not. The reason is that the Indian calendar is concentrated in a 15 month period in terms of challenges. In close succession, we will have the SA tour, World Cup, England Tour and Australia tour. The rest of the 33 months in a 48 month cycle will include relatively less challenging tours (NZ, WI, SL), plus plenty of home series, with Sri Lanka coming in wherever there are gaps.

    So in essence, we live for 33 months preparing for those 15 months only, and Laxman (and I think also Tendulkar) would be too old for the next such cycle.

  • Dr. talha on August 28, 2012, 4:29 GMT

    Inzi & Laxman both were terrific players. I rate inzi higher because of his skills in ODIs as well. He was a more complete batsman than VVS. [[ Dr.T Most of the comments comparing Laxman and Inzamam were only on the basis of Test matches. The minute we bring in ODIs, Laxman would fall so far back that many more average batsmen would be ahead of him. Certainly Inzamam would be way ahead. Ananth: ]]

  • Dinesh on August 27, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    Ananth: You can plan depending on the toss. If New zealand win toss they will bat so then you can book tickets for ther 3rd and the 4th day when you might certainly watch new zealand bat irrespective of the Toss.I booked tickets for the Hyd test to do my duty in saving test cricket but was surprised to see so many people at the ground. And you can be rest assured that in Banglore people will turn up in thousands and Cheer the Phantom, the Phenom, the one and only Christopher Stewart Martin. [[ With threats of rain looming, family cmmitments and a grandson who seeks attention on week-ends I might have to be satisfied with the television viewing. Ananth: ]]

  • dale on August 27, 2012, 19:12 GMT

    Ananth: Elegance and Grace ..languid grace at that ...are more than apt in describing the prose of VVS Laxman's batting. Laxman belongs in the class of players like Frank Worrell,Zaheer Abbass and Azharuddin. We have other batsmen who were stylish eg Rohan Kanhai but were not really elegant. The fact is that VVS and the others played "tall" and this quality emphasized their elegance. Much the same way we would consider Beckenbauer or Socrates as elegant and graceful soccer players. The period from 2001 to 2011 represents the zenith of Laxman's career which will fit in perfectly with your proposed 10 year peak analysis of players. Finally the fact that we are having this conversation about a player who batted in the company of such an illustrious pair SRT /RD speaks volumes of his own undoubted qualities. Thanks Ananth for such a wonderful tribute!

  • Vikram on August 27, 2012, 11:03 GMT

    @Amandeep: totally agree with you in terms of details. However, I actually was looking at Indian performance in 2000s, when SRT had his rough patch and RD took care of that by doing double the job. And then the others came up to cover when he had a bad patch. As a team, India was a very balanced team for over the last 8 years, especially in the batting department. That is what we need to understand when we look at replacements. It is that balance of first innings vs second innings, bounce vs swing, pace vs spin, away vs home. That is what SA has at the moment, with Smith and Kallis being very good in 2nd innings, with the remaining ones being very good in the 1st. India, given that awesome batting and the great Kumble, ensured that they won or drew. I believe that if Kumble was around, it would have been a 3-0 at best in both the series, because we would have managed to keep the opp. scoring slow and hence no result.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 27, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Couldn’t VVS have been extended the same consideration for 1 patchy year in test cricket (after an awesome 2007-10 where he didn’t just have a great statistical record but also played many crucial match winning & saving innings that contributed immensely to India’s rise to no. 1 & also reign as no.1) as Dravid was for 4 years? It is debatable but if he was that would’ve been an exception to the stringent rules that applied to VVS throughout his career. So, maybe his retirement sums up how he has been unfairly treated by media “experts”, selectors & team mngmts over his career but the good thing is that at least he ended his career on his own terms rather than being a victim of the whims of selectors/team mngmts as he often was during his career.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 27, 2012, 8:41 GMT

    And I forgot Eng tour of 2007 where RD averaged 25, SRT 38 & VVS 51 (So much for VVS being vulnerable in Eng) But I am thankful that RD was given a long rope during this period OTW 2011 England tour would've been an even bigger disaster. Dravid went on to reiterate the cliché “Form is temporary but class is permanent” in 2011 Eng tour & if he had been sacked earlier due to the comments of “experts”, his fans would’ve been denied a final glimpse of his greatness. But I wish VVS was shown the same consideration throughout his career that Dravid was during his patchy form for 4 years. As I said before, the goodwill Dravid earned from 2002-6 & also the fact that SRT, VVS, VS & GG heavily scored meant India kept winning, ensured RD’s poor form was not that much in focus & thankfully no shrill demands were made for his head.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 27, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    @Anantha One clarification before someone accuses me of not acknowledging his contribution to India's test team & its rise to no.1 team, I am not saying that Dravid was a total failure from 2007-2010 or that he should have been sacked. He played some very crucial innings in this period of Indian team's ascent to no. 1. 93 @ Perth & 177 against SL @ Ahmedabad stand out.. But his form declined sharply as compared to his standards of 2002-06 & "experts" won't have been forgiven VVS so many poor series as Dravid was from 2007-10.

    During this period, he averaged 27.6 Vs Aus(23.2 @ home), 20 in SL & SA both.

    OTOH Sachin averaged 76 vs Aus (80 @ home), 44 in SL & 81.5 in SA

    VVS averaged 63 vs Aus (91 @ home), 55 in SL & 39 in SA.

    These are massive gaps in averages in the most competitive & challenging test matches during this period (Aus whether @ home/abroad & tours of SA & SL). In each case, both Sachin & VVS averaged at least twice of RD & in some cases even more than that.

  • Ibrar Ali on August 27, 2012, 7:30 GMT

    VVS is one of those batsmen who has not got enough praise as he should have. And that possibly because his greatness was hidden behind the greatness of players like Sachin and Dravid. Still remember those match saving and match winning innings of him in 3rd or 4th innings.

  • Hari Prahlad on August 27, 2012, 3:19 GMT

    With the departure of Laxman and Dravid, the Indian team is now sans style and substance. Laxman was one of the few who made a cricket fan feel that his money's worth was earned after watching VVS bat. An elegant and languid 50 by Laxman was better than any boring century by somebody else. Forget records, Laxman played for the team and the country. The greatest tribute to VVS would be that tailenders felt comfortable with him at the other end and dug into their reserves to bat better than established batsmen in the side.

  • shrikanthk on August 27, 2012, 2:54 GMT

    Shrikanthk - have you watched Martin Crowe?

    Not a lot in test matches. But I did watch a lot of him in one-dayers particularly in the 1992 World Cup. Also, I've seen footage of his test innings on youtube.

    From what I've read, he was a very correct player. Pleasing to the eye yes. But not really an unorthodox stylist like Laxman or Azhar.

    A "stylist" by definition is someone who has the following characteristics -

    - A strong affinity to defend off the back-foot - A distaste for the front-foot forward defensive stroke (bread and butter for most other batsmen) - A strong proclivity for the cut and the flick through mid-wicket - A tendency to play beside the ball rather than get behind the ball. - A near-absence of the back-and-across trigger movement.

    I don't think orthodox batsmen like Crowe, G.Chappell or Barry Richards meet these criteria. Hence I wouldn't want to classify them as "stylists".

  • Amandeep Singh on August 26, 2012, 19:17 GMT

    Indian team's record from England tour 2007 to England tour 2011 had actually a +ve correlation with form of SRT & VVS (along with VS & GG who too averaged close to 57 although they missed the England tour 2007) but -ve correlation with RD's form as when RD performed brilliantly in Eng 2011, India lost badly but when he had hit a rough patch, India was doing very well & in fact starting its ascent to no. 1 spot in test rankings & staying there for an year. But that isn't to take anything away from RD's performance in Eng 2011 & from 2002-06 which was his peak & he made immense contributions to Indian wins. Thats what great teams are made of. When SG, RD & VVS were finding their feet in test cricket, SRT fought a lone battle in the middle order till 2000. When SRT's form became patchy after almost a decade of consistency, RD made up for it by hitting his peak & when Dravid's form declined, VVS & SRT ensured that we still reached the no.1 spot & our middle order stayed impregnable. [[ Very interesting, Aman. Let me see whether this is reflected in their career summaries. You also could go to the archives and look at the Dravid felicitation article a few months back and compare the two Runs scored in results tables. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 26, 2012, 19:00 GMT

    And as I said before, once Dravid was lucky that India kept winning throughout his slump due to contributions from others, but once VVS hit his slump, others too hit a rough patch & India started losing. Once India loses, heads need to roll, & as has been the story of his career, Laxman's head is the default choice then.

    BTW my stats are from start of England tour 2007 to end of SA tour 2010 where both SRT & VVS both averaged 50% higher than RD & this was the period when India started its ascent to no.1 spot (after the 1-2 loss in SA in 2006), reached it in Dec 2009 & stayed at the peak for an year before being shoved down brutally in 2011 by Eng when RD hit peak form & gave us a final display of his greatness but VVS, SRT, GG & VS suffered loss of form (injuries also for VS & GG) along with Bhajji (who acquitted himself well for 2 years after Kumble's retirement)

  • Dinesh on August 26, 2012, 18:51 GMT

    Ananth:

    As much of a bore sometimes watching Test cricket feels on TV, there is nothing like watching it live in a Stadium. The slow build up of tension, Pressure, and the numerous Near misses, boy is there any sport which is as mesmerizing as test Cricket over such a long period of time(5Days).

    T20 has its feel. you will watch it today.Get enthralled by it for over 4hours at a stretch and then you forget it except a 2007 Final or a Hussey special.

    ODI's have a different feel. They are a combination of T20 and a Test match.You tend to remember them longer and you get a lot of special moments.Odi's wont die esp. in INDIA.

    I happened to go to the Ind vs NZ match on Saturday and Sunday.Boy there was immense fun and felt really happy to see the Stadium 70% full on both days especially on Sunday it was around 80(Some dint come due to rain).I was thoroughly entertained.

    And finally i feel blessed to watch the Phantom bat and get Pair.What a legend.Could see in from a very close range [[ The two Martin innings were classics. 4 balls about which he knew nothing and could have out four times. Somehow he survived two extra balls. That is what makes him so great!!! If I go to Bangalore Test it will be only to see him bat. But then I cannot afford to turn my eyes to see the scoreboard. I might miss his entire innings. And the way New Zealand bats, how can one plan anything around their batting efforts. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 26, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    @Vikram RD had an awesome 2011 when India didn't play too well. OTOH he had an ordinary 2010 but in that year, India's record was excellent as they drew the series abroad in SL & SA & won the series @ home thereby continuing their reign as the no.1 test team which they became @ end of 2009. So, there's a strong correlation with India's peak as a test team from 2007-2010 & VVS and Sachin both hitting peak form (As I have already show, both averaged close to 60) along with consistent contributions from VS & GG. And this was when Dravid had hit a slump (Avg 40 with some fairly ordinary scores against the top teams like Aus, SL & SA abroad) but the fact that others were covering nicely for his slump meant that India kept winning or drawing series & eventually became no. 1 test team in world. Unfortunately, when Dravid got a second wind in 2011, the other 4 who had covering so nicely for him lost form almost together (Injuries to VS & GG didn't help) & India started losing badly.

  • Waspsting on August 26, 2012, 12:37 GMT

    while we're talking stylists, have to throw out probably my favorite guy to watch (though not in the top class as a run scorer)

    Sadogoppan Ramesh. guy's touch was amazing. he was more David Gower than David Gower was.

    For lefties, that seems to be a certain brand of batting - guys who hardly move at all, just tap the ball away as it reaches them. Graeme Pollock I believe was also of this type. Sobers didn't move much either - but he hammered the ball rather than stroke it

    As Shri's defining stylist, i'd throw Mohammed Yousuf in too. more orthodow than those mentioned, but still a back foot player - and pleasing to the eye.

    Gavaskar fits there too - slow scoring aside. His shots looked as good as anybody's - even the easy balance in the stance looked pleasing

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 26, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    Shrikanthk - have you watched Martin Crowe?

  • Vikram on August 26, 2012, 5:31 GMT

    @Gerry_the_Merry, @Shrikanthk - agree with both of you - Martin Crowe was very orthodox, but amongst orthodox batsmen, he was much more stylish than the normal orthodox batsman usually is and by far the best of them. it is surprising to think that a team like NZ which has routinely been amongst the weakest teams has produced one of the best batsmen, the best bowlers and the best captain (Fleming). The Indian team of 2000-2010 was good because the bases were covered. SRT and VS were good in the first inning, GG and VVS were good in teh second, RD was the floater who helped out - similarly, some were good at home, some better overseas. It was balanced, and therefor a team. The losses started not because of VVS' loss of form alone. It coincided with GG and RD being below average, so the second innings was suddenly very poor for us. Obviously, Kumble gone was a huge setback, as it halved the impact of Harbhajan as well and it took away the option of draw, through low run rates.

  • Vikram on August 26, 2012, 5:16 GMT

    @Alex: i didn't say that VVS wasn't questioned, but as a comparison, he never faced the kind of pressure Kumble faced as a one-dimensional non-spin bowler or the Endulkar scenario. RD faced a lot of pressure before the Eng/AU series. Steve Waugh faced a worse time than Mark did. Having said that, I also think that apart from the brilliance of their strokeplay, these players also had a "perceived" weakness that neither they themselves nor any of their lovers in media would bite back on their behalf. So a Manjrekar could write all he could without really getting scared of any harsh criticism coming their way. While usually I am ok with a captain deciding his team plan of who to have or not, in this case we don't even know if MSD wants to be the captain for the next 5 yrs and the selectors were anyways leaving, so this msg of VVS being selected for just 2 tests is strangely timed.

  • Alex on August 26, 2012, 4:25 GMT

    @Ananth & @srini: VVS will forever be known for the 281 but his first innings 59 was astonishing; as it is, he was given out incorrectly on 59. He had come in at 88/5 and departed as the last man out on 171, while others managed barely 2,3,4,3,7* at the other end. I love to watch footage that shows his face during this innings: he was totally zoned in and pumped up.

  • shrikanthk on August 26, 2012, 3:07 GMT

    But Martin Crowe - he was something else. Among the stylists, he probably stands the tallest

    Maybe. But I object to calling Martin Crowe a "stylist". Great batsman yes. But a stylist? I think he was a very orthodox technician from what I've heard

    Let us not use the word "stylist" in a loose sense. In this context "style" is not about being pleasing to the eye. It's about having an unorthodox back-foot oriented defence, a tendency to hang back and play late rather than move forward to the pitch of the ball with bat and pad close together

    Men like Crowe, Greg Chappell and Barry Richards were NOT stylists in this sense. They were very orthodox textbook players, who didn't hang back to defend the way Waugh, Laxman, Azhar or Martyn did

    The Ranji school is a fundamentally unorthodox school of batsmanship. Players in this school tend to be brilliant on quick wickets where the ball comes on, but not so hot on slower, spongy wickets where the ball moves a bit or stops a little.

  • Nikhil on August 26, 2012, 0:03 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Excellent Compilation!. I also've more interesting stats. Laxman's top innings & match results.

    Starting with that 51 v/s SA at Ahmedabad win. 178 v/s Aus at Sydney- Draw, 148 v/s Aus @ Syd- Win, 104 v/s WI@ Mohali- Draw, 74 & 69 v/s WI @ POS- Win, 96 v/s SA@ Durban- Win, 79 v/s AUS @ Perth- Win, 91 v/s NZ @ Ahmedabad - 2010- Draw, 72 v/s Pak@ Mohali- Win, Please let me know, if you recollect any such more, because, if you take out these, the away wins for India are practically zero:) [[ Most of these are covered in my list also. Ananth: ]]

  • Ram on August 25, 2012, 19:06 GMT

    Isn't a bit strange that a 100 is seen as some kind of bench mark score? But when Laxman and Dravid play out 50s, they are often of a high value. Laxman, because it is made lower down the order under crucial conditions, and Dravid, because Dravid consumes a lot of deliveries and builds multiple partnerships whenever he scores big. Both of them deserve to be called greats, not just very good or at the "door". [[ A 100 is a good milestone but loses its significance as such when too much is made of reaching the same. A 5-wkt haul is, if anything, more difficult, but has not caught the fancy of media and followers. Laxman missed quite a few 100s because he batted in the late order. His conversion rate is the lowest amongst top batsmen but does not mean anything. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 25, 2012, 13:40 GMT

    I would agree that VVS was a couple of notches higher than Inzamam, especially since he had an excellent all round record in trying circumstances against every opposition (the 2004 batting riot lifts his averages against Australia relative to against other teams, but i thought he was equally good against most top teams under pressure).

    But Martin Crowe - he was something else. Among the stylists, he probably stands the tallest. Higher than VVS, Mark Waugh, and the rest. He faced the West Indies at their peak, and came out trumps. A magnificent leader as well. If he had been injury free and played for a more regular team like England he would have racked up the numbers effortlessly.

  • shrikanthk on August 25, 2012, 8:53 GMT

    2. I don't understand your objections to Inzy: his record vs Oz & SA is surprisingly poor (avg=32 either home or away) but he was fantastic otherwise. God knows what went on inside Inzy's mind but it seems he never realized how great a batsman he really was

    Alex: Aus, SA and Pak were the three really good test sides of the 90s. English renaissance had not begun yet in the 90s. India, well, was India. Not really a top test attack unless it's a slow turner. Inzy didn't really distinguish himself all that well against the best attacks outside Pak especially.

    I find it difficult to rate him ahead of Laxman. Very fine player though. No denying that.

  • abhishek on August 25, 2012, 7:22 GMT

    Hi Ananth, can you post some data on Laxman's batting with tail enders compared to his peers? [[ It is already there in the article. Ananth: ]]

  • Ramesh Kumar on August 25, 2012, 6:34 GMT

    Ananth,

    I believe, VVS has taken the decision in anger. With internet blogs, even fans like us are extremely harsh on players and we expect the near impossible on professional & personal front from players which we ourselves would never be able to meet in our lives.Without the knowing the full data, we are extremely judgemental. Preparing the future players in home tests or preparing for world cup 2015 are a bit of stretch. We need to get the best 11 in the field. Since our selection policy or process is flawed, we normally take it off on players. VVS situation will not be the last. [[ Possibly true. Justified also. Looks like this will continue with Amarnath being eased out of the Sc and Binny, of all people, being the Chairman. One uselss selector follows another. Unless otherwise Kapil or Ganguly or Kumble take over as SC Chairman this will continue. Ananth: ]]

  • Ramesh Kumar on August 25, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    Wow..Your article has brought some gems from readers.

    Shrikanthk..I had mentioned it earlier in another topic, you should become cricket historian, if you are not already one. A real cricket romantic, refreshing change from commercial world. On tall players ‘s ability to reach the pitch of the ball---you need nimbleness to reach the pitch of the ball and shorter players generally are good at it. Azhar used to do it very well though he was tall. VVS somehow will time it well by coming out half forward. I don’t think anybody can easily emulate it. GRV, though short, many times had taken the ball on the rise instead of coming full forward. That made GRV look beautiful (similar to McEnroe in tennis), but increased the chances of getting out, unlike SMG. In “Sunny days”, SMG writes about GRV’s square cut of Holding bouncers in Port of spain. Must be beautiful to watch

  • Amandeep Singh on August 25, 2012, 5:50 GMT

    @shrikanthk Vaughan certainly disappointed with annoying regularity in the last 4 years of his test career. But he wasn't a 1 series wonder. He scored the bulk his runs in 5-6 series from 2002-2004. However, even after that he would come up with occasional bursts of brilliance which I really savour now for their breathtaking elegance. Some of his memorable innings include 166 in 2005 Ashes against Mcgrath & Warne, MOM in 2004 Champions trophy semis helping Eng chase 270 against the all conquering Aussies by scoring a quick 86 and 124 @ Trent Bridge 2007 (Where Zaheer swung India to a win)

  • Amandeep Singh on August 25, 2012, 5:47 GMT

    A last shot @ Eng & Aus was what motivated VVS to train so hard over the last 4 months @ NCA & that's why the selectors deserve criticism for not communicating to VVS so that he could prepare for the 2012 season accordingly. Anyways I hope he will channelise his frustrations against the selectors towards the ranji Trophy now. Isn't it refreshing that in this era with most players (warne, Murali, Dravid, Gilchrist & even Lara played ICL & T20 cricket in Zim in 2010) continuing to play in IPL post retirement from international cricket, VVS has chosen to try & achieve his unfulfilled dream of winning Ranji trophy.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 25, 2012, 5:28 GMT

    2007-2010 records Player Matches Runs Avg SR VVS 40 3025 58.2 50.7 Sachin 40 3770 61.8 54.8 Dravid 41 2697 40.25 41.8

    The problem was that VVS lost form & India started losing together (Although I don't think that's a coincidence. India's success from 2001 onwards had a strong correlation with VVS's form). And ofc with India losing 8 tests in a row, heads had to roll & Laxman's head has always been the most convenient pick throughout his career in situations like these. @Anantha: Even though Raina failed in this test, the opportunity given to him wasn't wasted. Now India may go with Badrinath in 2nd test. That's why VVS was right in retiring with immediate effect once he knew that he wasn't certain to be part of the team for the upcoming tougher series because that gave India 2 tests rather than 1 to not just finalise their top 6 but also decide their correct order. Before India's innings no one was sure whether Pujara should come in @ 3/5/6 but now hes cemented the no.3 slot.

  • Alex on August 25, 2012, 5:20 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Fry's concept is very much adopted even today, IMO, since the "back & forward" shuffle seems to have its roots in it.

    2. As for the first school, maybe Hooper & Hick belong in it. Incidentally, does Martin Crowe fall in the first school? He wasn't very wristy but was graceful with virtually no weaknesses at all. He wasn't as good as VVS vs spinners perhaps but was possibly even better vs everything else.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 25, 2012, 5:14 GMT

    @Alex That was the best part about Indian batting post 5 years. It wasn't as if players didn't go out of form. But if someone was struggling, the others would step up. Dravid's peak covered SRT's slump & finally when Dravid hit a slump from 2007-2010, the amazing form of Sachin & Laxman ensured that India kept winning & in fact that's why Dravid could continue in the team despite having a no. of poor series without "experts" calling for his sacking/retirement although these calls came for VVS much more frequently than for any other player in the Fab 4. With VVS, memory was always short & 1-2 failures would lead to questions on his utility in the team, his fitness etc. Some of the series where Dravid struggled are Sri Lanka tour (Avg 24) & Australia-England in India (Run of 6 innings with 32 runs) in 2008, Sri Lanka tour 2010 (Avg 19), SA tour 2010 (Avg 20) etc. But because his retirement wasn't asked, he could give us a last display of his greatness in the awesome 2011 he had.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 25, 2012, 4:57 GMT

    @Anantha I think VVS became used to such comments by so called "experts" questioning his place in the team, through the course of his career. I don't think their worthless comments would've made him walk away. What I think is that once VVS got to know that he wan't certain for the England & Australia tests, he decided that playing an extra test @ home may give him his dream farewell but may rob India the chance to play 2 tests against an inexperienced NZ attack with what would be their batting order in the upcoming bigger challenges like Eng & Aus. And as can be seen by performance of Pujara, he was right. So in the interest of team India, which he always held supreme throughout his career, he chose to forgo his dream farewell & also robbed us of the chance to see him in action in tests one final time. I just hope they are broadcasting the Ranji Trophy live on ESPN-STAR this year. I am loudly cheering for Hydbd & not for my own teams Delhi/Punjab. :) [[ Laxman would have taken the place of Rana, not Pujara. But you are right. The informal call/implication that he was selected only for the 2 Tests and his subsequent place would not be guaranteed was enough to let him take the honourable way out. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 25, 2012, 4:53 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Surely no one who saw Azhar struggle vs WI will abel him a great batsman: he copied Zaheer on this count as well :) He had major problems with pace and bounce --- even the fabled 100 in SA ('96) was stamped with a soldier's frantic final hour stunts and not with a master's measured artistry.

    2. I don't understand your objections to Inzy: his record vs Oz & SA is surprisingly poor (avg=32 either home or away) but he was fantastic otherwise. God knows what went on inside Inzy's mind but it seems he never realized how great a batsman he really was. To me, a sumptuous knock from Inzy/VVS always carried the aroma of a Chekov long story, read cozily in bed after a full homemade meal on a Saturday afternoon with the prospect of an evening among friends very much in the air.

  • shrikanthk on August 25, 2012, 4:31 GMT

    But you excluded one of my favourite batting stylists & captains of all time: Micheal Vaughan.

    Amandeep: Vaughan belongs to that "English school" of stylists I talked about. Not really the traditional "Play back or Drive" school to which Laxman belongs.

    Vaughan to be honest wasn't quite as good as Laxman or Waugh or Azhar. He had one brilliant series in '02-03 down under. Otherwise he disappointed more often than not. Sometimes I wondered if there was any issue with his eyesight. He used to get out quite inexplicably.

  • Alex on August 25, 2012, 4:25 GMT

    @Ananth: India's fortunes turned 180 degrees 2000 after the scandals and whitewashes. Ganguly's leadership produced immediate results with the fab 4 forming the middle order backbone. Over 2000-2008, they played in 63 matches (@104 innings) together. These matches featured SRT's long slump and RD's peak 5 years. RD was the best Indian batsman in this 8-year long phase. Stats:

    Player Runs Avg SR 100's 50's RD 5417 58 44 15 24 SRT 5217 54 55 14 25 VVS 4499 54 51 8 27 Dada 3450 37 53 5 18 [[ The period selected was long enough to cover these patches of poor form: of both SRT and Laxman for an year and half. Ananth: ]] That is 42 100's & 94 50's in @104 innings. Playing at #5 or #6 robbed VVS of some 100's but, otherwise, he is on par with SRT and just a bit behind RD. Sehwag played in 42 such matches scoring 3825 run at avg=55 @SR=79 with 11 100's & 11 50's.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 25, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    @shrikanthk: Nice comment But you excluded one of my favourite batting stylists & captains of all time: Micheal Vaughan. That is why I found his vaseline comments disappointing last year. I had always held him in such high regard but he was commenting on the integrity of VVS, who has had a "spot"-less career. It was sad to see one of my all time favourites having a go at another one. And both were such elegant & effortless batsmen to boot & always were @ their best against Australia & also in Australia. I considered them to be members of the same club & then Vaughan had a go @ VVS. Probably he was trying to give his commentary career a leg up by grabbing the headlines through volatile comments as were some of our Indian "Pundits" in 2012 after the squad announcement for India NZ series, Sanjay Manjerekar being the most prominent of those attention seekers. [[ On the dot, Aman. When a low key comment is all what is needed commentators barge in with unnecessary aggressive comments just to be seen and heard on the million channels. And at times it works, as it did with VVS, who probably should have understood the intentions behind such utterances and gone on with whatever his intentions were, a week before the squad announcement. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on August 25, 2012, 3:21 GMT

    Among the great back-foot stylists of the past 25 years, we have four representatives - Laxman, Mark Waugh, Azhar and Martyn.

    I think the early Mark Waugh (who was a pretty good player of short-ball) was the most complete batsman among these four players. He was easily the best square-cutter of the past 25 years and more willing to come forward if necessary than the other three (who hung back a lot more).

    However Waugh lost his confidence against the short ball with age. That's where Laxman scores over him.

    Martyn was a curious case. Unlike a lot of other back-foot stylists, he was mainly an off-side player who was not quite as dominant on the on-side.

    Azhar was the most destructive of the four. A man who could be dynamite on his day.

    So there you go. Technique - Mark Waugh Aggression - Azhar Consistency - Martyn Big match temperament - Laxman.

    Overall package - I think Laxman is the best of the lot.

  • shrikanthk on August 25, 2012, 3:10 GMT

    Alex: Yeah. Inzy and Zaheer were bad misses on my part. However I wouldn't quite rate Inzy clearly ahead of Laxman. Laxman I think was a better batsman under pressure. Also a slightly better player of spin

    It's interesting that so many tall players have graced the "Ranji" school of batsmanship - where "Play back or Drive" is the mantra

    Because this mantra is closely linked to the "Fallacy of Reach" - a concept articulated by CB Fry. The idea that it is very difficult to defend off the front foot by getting to the pitch of most deliveries. Hence the preference to hang back and play off the backfoot. Ideally I would expect short batsmen to follow this mantra because their "Reach" is more limited

    Tall batsmen can ignore Ranji's advice and use their reach to get close to the ball. Eg: Kevin Pietersen - who is in many ways Anti-Ranji in his batting philosophy. Still we've had so many tall batsmen, despite their "reach", preferring back-foot play for defence! Eg: Laxman, Inzy, Mark Waugh.

  • Alex on August 24, 2012, 20:41 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Include Zaheer & Inzy in the first school. In it, I put only Inzy ahead of VVS. In many ways, Azhar was a carbon copy of Zaheer. The style of these 4 requires a certain minimum height: a 5'5" or 5'8" tall batsman does not have the reach to execute it well. For example, they never needed to sit down & slog spinners like SRT/SMG did.

    2. VVS's % of boundary runs in innings of 40+ scores was well over 52% during 2001-05 phase. It decreased to 36% 2006-onward but the SR did not get affected since he made up for it by picking up more 1's and 2's.

    3. At the crucial #5 or #6 posn, VVS is all-time #3 behind Waugh (9919 runs @54), Chander (7912 @57). VVS has 5637 @49. He is followed by AB (5627 @52), Clarke (5422 @57), & Azhar (5340 @45). Notable batsmen: Sobers (4509 @56), Lloyd (5163 @47), Walters (4003 @48), ABD (3940 @56), Bell (3067 @56), Viv (3110 @46), Cowdrey (2790 @47), Hussey (2790 @54), Zaheer (2300 @50), SRT (2297 @53), Walcott (2033 @62).

  • Ravi on August 24, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    Hi Ananth, To me watching Laxman bat brought out different emotions to watching SRT, RD or SC. Every time he hit a outside off ball to square leg without making it look ugly I was awestruck. 'How does he do that' was all that came to mind." And he played the cover drive so very late- had oodles of time at hand to caress the ball past extra cover. Notwithstanding his own achievements, VVS was also a massive enabler for others to play freely, eg SRTs 241 at Sydney, and umpteen instances of empowering the tail. Only twice have I seen SRT's brilliant innings over-shadowed in runs, class, purity and brilliance- once by Azhar in SAf 1996, and the other by VVS in Sydney 2004. A poet with bat/ magic wand in hand. Very very special indeed. So long Laxman. [[ In years to come, Pujara and Kohli would fill the huge boots vacated by giants ai no.3 and no.4. What about no.5. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on August 24, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    Where does Laxman rank in the pantheon of batting stylists to have graced the game.

    I think there are two kinds of stylists....

    Ranji's followers (who epitomized back-foot play) : This includes Ranji himself, Duleep, Azhar, Laxman, Mark Waugh and Martyn.

    And then you've the stylists who belong to the "English" school: Where style is not so much about playing off the back-foot or being wristy, but it's mainly about economy of movement and a stately grace at the crease : This school includes Hammond, Cowdrey, Graveney, Gower, Worrell, Ganguly and Ian Bell among moderns.

    It's important to distinguish between these two schools. Laxman clearly belongs to the first school. And I'd say he's probably the finest of the lot in that school, barring Ranji (who was the founder of the school). I would definitely rate Laxman ahead of M.Waugh and Martyn. Mainly because of his terrific command over the short ball. He was a brilliant puller - something that cannot be said about Waugh, Martyn or Azhar [[ Very nicely analyzed. One common factor running through is that most of these batsmen have not reached a career average of 50. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on August 24, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    are you from Denmark by any chance?

    That makes me curious :) Where are you from, Waspsting? [[ The wasp has to sting on its own. Another person cannot do it. Ananth: ]] Regarding VVS' legacy -

    I think there were three phases to his career. 1996-2000 : When he opened in tests often and struggled for fluency and consistency.

    2000-2004 : When he was a very dominant pure strokeplayer of some genius regardless of whether he batted at No 3 or No 6.

    2005-2012 : When he ripened into a classic by becoming a fine, reliable accumulator in late middle-order. He was no longer as dominant. But still a pleasing back-foot stylist who accumulated runs with minimal effort by playing late and from the crease mostly.

    Laxman belongs to that great line of batsmen whose Godfather is none other than Ranjitsinhji. "Play back or Drive" is the maxim followed by this lot. This tradition includes Ranji, Duleep, Azhar, Mark Waugh, Vishy and Laxman - the usual suspects.

    But it also includes less-stylish players who also followed Ranji's maxim - Don Bradman and McCabe for eg.

  • Alex on August 24, 2012, 12:54 GMT

    @Ananth: I was looking for something that reveals batsman's ability to read the line of the ball, defensive technique, and hand-eye coordination. Frequency of bowled/lbw is a good measure.

    The reason I feel avg in such dismissals might give _more_ info is because a "caught" dismissal is more due to a mistake in trying to score off the ball. This logic might have some sensibility because VVS got bowled/lbw in nearly 33% innings whereas that % is 46(!!) for Boycott (avg=34) & 42 for Viv (avg=48). Boycott, of course, would prefer not scoring runs at all to getting out ... so his high % of lbw/bowled dismissals is easily understood. [[ Again i repeat that the point of dismissal is more important. Ananth: ]]

  • sudhir on August 24, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    Hi Ananth: a very elegant and stylish tribute to the most elegant and stylish batsman of his generation.He was the biggest match winner India has produced along with Kumble and deserves every little praise that we are giving.Sad that we guys tend to read such articles only when they retire(in case of unsung heroes).This has given us a great platform to express what we feel abt this great man and we have seen Amandeep use it to the fullest:). I would always remember the hundred he made in sri lanka on the final day with randiv the heir apparent to murali bouncing the ball and SRT was fighting like anything at the other end..this guy made batting look so simple and scored a very attractive hundred. Great memories of the man and proud to say that I belong to the same place where lakshman also hails from [[ Vangipurapu or Hyderabad. The former will make you more exclusive. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 24, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    Ananth, Steve Waugh had massive reserves of courage, and generally did not thrash weak attacks. Once in a while he may have chosen to do so (like centuries against India in 1999). However, in his last few years (2002 onwards) he started failing. His powers noticeably waned, and it is in that context that we have to see those last two centuries. By themselves, I would agree, they are not a sin. But this article is about celebrating Laxman, so let me just say that it is appropriate that these two great batsmen batted gloriously in 2001 in India, especially in the Calcutta test. [[ Let me raise a toast (of a nice cup of tea) for that. Those were the days. But Test cricket still lives beautifully as evidenced last week. Ananth: ]]

  • Shafiq on August 24, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    Good tribute to a very very special player..... world cricket will miss him....we all need role models like him and dravid. (Shafiq from pakistan) [[ Someone compared Laxman to Zaheer Abbas. A very apt omparison between two batsmen who personified style and substance. Zaheer probably did not have to resue Pakistan as often as Laxman did. The other batsman I think of salim Malik. Ananth: ]]

  • Ranga on August 24, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    One more interesting (if not exciting) experience is that once during a Ranji Trophy match in Chennai, Laxman was playing in front of a sparse crowd. A section of the crowd was abusing Laxman with highly vulgar language very loudly, which was echoing across to the other end). But Laxman was hardly bothered by those (in fact I am sure he knew the local language, for he smiled at the crowd and continued to play). I was left more awestruck at this monk-like approach, more than his strokeplay. We see so many players of today showing signs at the crowd and getting into trouble due to being hypersensitive, but this guy was just too relaxed and never seemed to bother. Maybe that shows why he was able to come up trumps during crises (particularly against the sledging Aussies) coz he knew to filter those sounds!! Again, this is not related to article, but it was interesting to see all that!! [[ Nice to see personal interactions coming through. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhijeet on August 24, 2012, 7:22 GMT

    I think VVS Laxman capability to shephard the tail is seriously over-rated. If at all anything, he comes from Steve Waugh and Chanderpaul school who did not shephard the tail at all. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying its a bad thing nor am I saying VVS was not a great player. VVS should have been playing for India right now instead of Raina. I am merely saying that humans have their biases and it is easy to incorrectly conclude the process by looking only at the result. General consensus is VVS shepharded the tail perfectly against Australia in Mohali 2010 and got India the victory. The truth however is opposite. Ishant Sharma, (Batsman#10) played a whopping 92 balls out of 130 in that partnership. Even the last man Ojha played 10 balls out of 20. So much for shepharding the tail. Same thing can be said about 'matchwinning' 96 in Durban 2010 with Zaheer's help. I would love to see a table with percentage of balls played while batting with the tail and be proven wrong on this. [[ I do not disagree with you on this. But managing the late order batsmen is not just taking a single in the 5th and 6th balls. That would work when 10 runs are needed. What is needed is constant interaction, counselling and emcoragement. I would any day take the SRW/C'Paul/Laxman approach. You may lose the odd Test. However it makes the late order batsmen think that it is not a one-man job and they have to buckle down. When you cast your mind over the Mohali match, Laxman tried to shield Ishant during the first 10-15 minutes. But he knew that the task was a long one and Ishant had to do his bit. And Ishant reminds me of Gillespie, the greatest late order batsman who ever held a bat. So Laxman decided to concentrate on the job at hand: and it worked. The other point is that the presence of calm and collected Laxman at the other end would spur the late order bat to play similarly. Finally let us all also agree that Laxman was not going to take sharp and short singles in the 5th/6th balls a la Dhoni!!! Ananth: ]]

  • Ranga on August 24, 2012, 7:12 GMT

    Coming back to cricket, the 281 is still green in my minds. I remember having to scam (it was during our semester exams) and I studied in a strict boarding hostel (which was pretty strict even at Post Grad levels). And I remember having to scam outside to one of our lecturer's house in the pretext of clering my doubts (I was a Chemistry Post Grad and this guy was a marketing prof). And then I remember how crazily we guys used to be superstitious. Guess he was 109* at the end of some day's play (got to check the cricinfo scorecard) and myself and my friend used to take a particular route towards the hall where they had a giant TV. In fact I remember on 3rd day, we rememberd that we had fought with a classmate enroute to the hall and realized Laxman scores if we had a fight and hence picked up a needless quarrel with the same guy before we watched history being made! I know its a crazy post but I think if Laxman hadnt made any other run post 281, the world might have still forgiven him!

  • Ranga on August 24, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    Nice work Ananth. I wouldnt call it a hasty work, coz a work on Laxman and his likes (which means, on "Laxman alone"), wouldnt be made as an article. It is only a teaser to bring out various facets on this great man. The article would evolve with the myriad possibilities discussed by us readers . . . Myself and Laxman share the same spiritual guru and I had the fortune of having met some of the Indian & intl players during a charity match in 1997. Laxman wasnt a regular in the team back then. He used to be a very humble person and very soft spoken. And I used to see him till 2002 very regularly there, but all the while, he was the same (as he was when he was not yet a regular in Indian flannels). For that matter, even Ganguly used to be a very well behaved gentleman outside (for all his image as an aggressor on the field). I remember Ganguly was the first to break the ice during the charity match(he was already a star, compared to VVS, who was still toddling his way to the team).

  • Amandeep Singh on August 24, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    Yes Anantha I agree with you that what you did was correct. I was just trying to inject some humour into my posts & I hope I didn't offend you. I apologise if I did.

    @Gerry_the_Merry, the 4th innings half century in 1st test of the home series against WI was fairly useful & he did carry the team home in a tricky 4th innings chase which was the best he could do. And even the 31 in Mumbai wasn't as good a knock as Kohli's but it came at a useful time. While chasing 242, with team at 113/4, he took India to 165/4 & also allowed Kohli to settle. Just like the breezy 32 in 4th innings @ Adelaide, this swung the momentum India's way. And that 176* was his farewell gift to the Eden although it was not one of his significant/memorable innings. BTW did you know that he himself told Dhoni to declare because he thought that on such a pitch, getting 20 wickets would be a challenge. Tells you about his selflessness.

  • Alex on August 24, 2012, 5:17 GMT

    @Ananth: VVS scored his first 100 in 17th test & 32nd innings and 3 yrs after his debut (at that point, his avg was 22 and thereafter, he averaged 49.4). Among the 6000+ runs club, he is 2nd on that count with Alec Stewart at #3 (14 test, 26 innings) ... no prizes for guessing who is #1 on that list :)

    1. VVS' eyesight & defensive hand-eye coordination were probably not first-rate. If we look at dismissals that are LBW or bowled, he averages only 28 on those. Among the 1970 onwards batsmen, notable figures: Chappell & Lloyd (51), Mahela (50), Viv & Abbas (48), SMG (45), Lara & Miandad (43), Crowe & KP (42), SRT-Waugh-Kallis-Sehwag-Dravid (39), Ganguly & Gower (34), AB & Greenidge (33). I guess, KP could have texted this weakness! [[ Does the average of runs scored at a selected type of dismissal have any relevance. A batsman can be lbw at 10 or 100. Probably more relevant is the number of times a batsman was out lbw/bowled at a low score, say sub-10. Ananth: ]]

    2. In completed innings, VVS' avg is only 35, same as Waugh's. Corresponding avg: Lara (50), Sehwag (49), Sanga-Hayden (48), Ponting-RD-KP (46), Viv-SRT-Chappell (45), SMG (44), Kallis-Miandad (42), Ganguly (38).

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 24, 2012, 3:43 GMT

    Amandeep, completely agree. The second innings 544 hammering broke Laxman down, and with him the team. I did not follow the home series against West Indies, but I remember that in Mumbai, in the only test where we were challenged, Laxman failed to take us home, leaving it to Kohli. Hence once his spine of steel broke, he became an ordinary batsman, and cashed in, in Kolkata, with 176. I was not surprised he failed in Australia, so great was the pressure.

    Steve Waugh, who had a similar penchant for donning battle colors as soon as a crisis threatened, also lost it completely towards the end, and was clocking up centuries by the bucketfuls against Bangladesh. [[ You are slightly unfair to Steve. Agreed his last two test 100s were against Bng, but that is all. He played 2 Tests against Bng and scored two 100s. It is unfair to expect that he should fail because they were the weaker opponents. I agree Cairns and Darwin are a fair distance from SCG/MCG but a player can only play the cards dealt. And Australia won, which they could have, without the brace. Ananth: ]] But only the great memories will stay in me - the 19 boudaries in his first century during 281, the 89 in 121 balls in Port Elizabeth and the rest.

  • Ananth on August 24, 2012, 3:17 GMT

    Couple of readers wanted the runs added with the late-order batsmen. It is a very tricky piece of analysis for reasons partly explained already. Still I did it immediately and posted the table. There is no comment on that table or methodology. I get the feeling there is a lot of superficial reading and generalized comments. Readers should go through the tables and come out with the exceptions and their own sub-analyses. Maybe not as in-depth as Amandeep has done. But something simpler. What happened during 2004? Why is the no.3 somewhat low despite the 281? And on the peer comparisons. And the fact that Laxman has played many more away Tests than home. And so on. I was quite disappointed on the previous article also. There are some readers who think ODIs are infra-dig and would not comment on the same. Fine, accepted. Barring some comments on Agarkar and Ponting, there were very few else. Almost no one commented on Bishop's amazing drop, the way Watson's and Dilshan's careers have bloomed. The difference in graph pattern of Dilshan, de Villiers and Watson. Maybe what is there in future for these three and Kohli. What Walsh had done. What the lone warrior, Md.Rafique has achieved. The peculiar nature of Yuvraj's wickets graph. And the many additional insights from the huge table posted. One reason why I have deliberately taken a fortnight between articles is so that readers can take their time and come out with their own commentary. That has always been a great strength of this blogspace. Let us not lose that.

  • Meety on August 24, 2012, 2:59 GMT

    Ahh VVS. I was not instantly a VVS fan, but as an Ozzy, I was converted the INSTANT, I watched that 100+ against Oz on his first tour. I had to be at an important family event & wanted Oz to rap the match up quickly like they did in those days. VVS had other ideas, & I couldn't move away from the TV! Got into some strife with the missus over that! Magic stuff. Thanks for posting the link to Kartik's letter, that last line was brilliant! [[ Laxman would indeed treasure your tribute. The Aussies love the fighters and are open and fulsome in their praise. Ananth: ]]

  • milpand on August 23, 2012, 21:22 GMT

    'Alternate with' as in 'Day alternated with night' is used to mean succeed one another by taking turns. 'Alternate between' as in 'The weather alternated between blue sky with sun and dark sky with rain' is used to indicate repeated change between two conditions. It means 'every other' when used in sentences like 'rubbish is collected on alternate days'.

    In the title it was used to mean 'a substitute' which is widely used and commonly understood. [[ But Pranav had a point. It was debated in some of the relevant websites. Ananth: ]]

  • milpand on August 23, 2012, 21:11 GMT

    Alternate substitutes for the original whereas Alternative provides a choice viz. alternative medicine, alternative fuel.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 18:56 GMT

    And Thanks Anantha for ensuring that the probability of randomly guessing my country of residence increased only from 1/197 to 1/196 (Randomly guessing is impt because after reading my name, I don't think people will guess my country to be South Sudan, Estonia or Bolivia.) I am sorry I gave the game away & even ended up revealing my city of residence but I don't think I have the personality for anyone to start stalking me. :D [[ You must accept that I was very fair to you in that I only said "No". That is all!!! Now please read the Late-order table and comment. Ananth ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 18:16 GMT

    Continued However, as I wrote before, these posts are my humble tribute to the man who has brought so much joy to me over the years. They were also nostalgic because I have spent nights arguing with my hostel mates about the utility of VVS Laxman to the Indian team, through similar analysis (both exhaustive & exhausting) during my college years often @ the cost of my attendance & performance in exams.

    This included his utility to ODI team but I won't go there because if I do, be prepared for another deluge of posts. :P However Laxman's ODI career was over in 2006 & although injustice meted out to him still rankles me, I won't reopen old wounds that are still not healed completely.

    This is time to celebrate Laxman's career rather than complain about what might have been. Because even what is, is worth savouring & saluting.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 18:10 GMT

    Continued @Waspsting Thanks a lot mate & no I am not from Denmark. Born & brought up in Delhi. I have not even been as far as Dehradun forget going to Denmark. :P I have read this blog regularly since its inception. Been busy for the last 18 months & therefore haven't kept pace with it. Forgive me but this post was surely a one off & I don't have the energy to write such long posts that I do tend to write once I begin on matters that are close to my heart. Kudos to Anantha & the regular commenters on this blog who do have that energy which I lack. However, as I wrote before, these posts are my humble tribute to the man who has brought so much joy to me over the years. [[ I tracked you to Delhi but did not want to mention it. I normally track only when there is a specific need: yours because of WS's question and earlier Mr.Fahad Ali. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 18:02 GMT

    Continued But this isn't to discredit those who have amassed 10K+ runs. Their monumental effort needs to be saluted. My only point (and everyone recognises it here even though it is a Stats Blog. Probably those who actually understand Stats are also able to appreciate their limitations.) is that stats aren't the ball & the end all. The value these players brought to the team can't be measured on the basis of a cursory glance @ STATS. And post by sganesh & the remarks of Anantha summed that up nicely. And OFC throughout my posts, I haven't even talked of the elegant strokeplay of VVS but I guess there are many others who will do adequate justice to it.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 17:47 GMT

    Continued I was hoping that VVS would get his 1st 100 in SA that day which he so richly deserved @ Durban but all this is part of cricket & life. Some things are just not meant to be.

    Laxman didnt throw his wicket away @ Durban on 96. He was with no. 11 against a rampant Steyn with a new ball. Going for broke was the sensible option both in team's interest & his own. The ball was there to hit. he didn't connect but as I said such is life.

    Failing to make hay when the sun is shining is something Laxman is surely guilty of. But it must be remembered that coming in at no.5/6/7 meant that when sun was shining, he rarely got the opportunity of making hay. But yes on the few occasions when he did get that opportunity once in a while, he didn't capitalise as much as he could have.

    This actually enhances the aura of VVS in my eyes. He hardly ever made cheap runs. Hence to me his 8700+ test runs are worth their weight in gold.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 17:34 GMT

    Continued 235/3 became 247/6 & India were then looking to not concede a lead rather than try & put SA in the mat. Harbhajan & Zak along with Sachin's magnificent 100 did ensure that we scored 364 & not 264 & hence managed to escape with a draw. But 1 more hour of Laxman then would've meant we would certainly have taken a lead close to 100 as then Pujara & Dhoni won't have been exposed to a fresh Steyn running in with a new ball & they too would've contributed probably more handsomely than Harbhajan & Zak as both had played well on that tour. But against Steyn @ his peak, they certainly weren't as good as Laxman would've been. VVS had a tremendous record against Steyn (in Ind & SA both) even though he has played him in his mid 30s. Who can forget Laxman's last 6 in international arena. A flat batted pull off Steyn on the Durban wicket where no one in the Indian team went past even 35. Look at highlights of Laxman's 38 @ Durban on youtube & you will find it. Trust me it is worth a watch

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 17:25 GMT

    Continued This just goes to indicate the key role Laxman played in helping India achieve its no.1 ranking & then defend it from 2007-2010 that as soon as he lost form, India lost its no.1 ranking.

    I must also second you about the Cape Town test. Anantha has disagreed with you that Laxman's dismissal didn't have much bearing on the fate of the match but I don't.

    One mustn't forget that SA had been all out for 362 in 1st innings. VVS Laxman was in great form from previous test. He came in & hammered 3 boundaries in 19 balls & Sachin & Laxman were looking imperious on a tough wicket, with India @ 235/3. If the new ball due in 3 balls could be played out by these 2, they would have SA on the mat as both were scoring very fluently. However, Sachin straight drive off Harris caught VVS short & then Steyn came & looked even more dangerous than he usually he is. He made the ball talk that day & the how Sachin managed to combat Steyn @ his peak on that day is stuff legends are made of.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 16:57 GMT

    @Gerry_the_Merry That 100 partnership b/w Dravid & Laxman @ Trent Bridge was probably the last Good innings of Laxman abroad & both of them did really well to not just survive but even score off every possible opportunity. Not only was it VVS's last good innings abroad, it was also the last time India looked capable of winning a test match in England with England 221 all out & India @ 100/1. The stage was set for VVS to do what he had done so often throughout his career & in the prev year but he edged behind. None of us knew @ that stage, given how well he was batting, that it was the last time he & India would be looking competitive in that ill fated series. However, he was 37 & some point age does catch up with you. May be the way England pounded India's hapless bowlers for 500+ in the 2nd innings @ Trent Bridge affected the morale of Laxman & Team India. BTW it is impt to notice that as soon as VVS started struggling, the fight also went out of team India & the no.1 status was lost. [[ All these home series are fine. But what will happen when we tour. England probably has shot its bolt. But Australia is on the way up and South Africa, with top class pace bowlers in reserve, are going to be very tough. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 23, 2012, 16:25 GMT

    @Vikram: GRV was often criticized for India's losses and had to retire as the main culprit in the '82 drubbing in Pak. His final 3 yrs were spent with critics harping on his failures, attributing his selection to the presence of his brother-in-law (SMG), etc. Same thing happened to Mark Waugh. Likewise, VVS was routinely blamed for India's losses: until 2008, he often played with a sword hanging on his head and has had to retire as a result of the two white-washes.

  • Pranav Joshi on August 23, 2012, 16:04 GMT

    @Ananth

    Surely the word "alternate" in the title should be replaced by "alternative?" [[ I agree. But look at the following extracts. Nevertheless, “alternate” has become a recognized synonym for “substitute,” and it is widely used as such. For example, in the judicial system, we hear about “alternate jurors”—who could be called “alternative jurors,” as they are available to take the place of any juror who doesn’t work out. But “alternate juror” has become the accepted term, so if juror No. 8 is removed because of illness or misconduct or whatever, then an alternate is impaneled. It appears that alternative as an adjective is disappearing. Let me ask Milind to comment on this. Ananth: ]] Also, I looked at the scorecard today and it looked so unfamiliar to me (No VVS, no Dravid). The only time this happened before was in the 2010 Nagpur test against SA which India lost by an innings (Despite centuries from Sehwag and Tendulkar, innings 1st & 2nd). Thanks to Pujara, we achieved a respectable score. SRT looked out of sorts and confused. Everyone around him looked like amateurs. What do we have on our hands now. [[ Pujara is, today, no less than Dravid was around 1998. That is a plus. Ultimately I think Kolhli is the guy who would replace SRT (you guys around there, this is only one-to-one replacement in the team: nothing more). We are yet to get a 45+ left-hander to replace Ganguly. Then the big question mark of VVS, to shepherd the tail. Ananth: ]]

  • Vaibhav Sharma on August 23, 2012, 15:40 GMT

    Nice article again. But for me no numbers,stats or ne index can take away the class and elegance of laxman ( though they are reinforcing his class here). A single boundary of Laxman was worth more than 10 boundaries of most of the batsmen.It was a pleasure watching him bat and I do not think that he can be replaced so easily. [[ Vaibhav Since there are at least 5 comments on these lines, let me respond. At no point have I put down Laxman because of lesser numbers. I have only stated facts and in fact offered my own explanation whereever possible. If you read the article carefully you will see me expressing your own sentiments a few times. No problems, anyhow. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on August 23, 2012, 15:05 GMT

    "Very nice to see that all-time great batsman, McCabe, brought into the discussion. He was the "Laxman" to Bradman (SRT)"

    Ananth, anytime anybody accuses you of being anti-SRT, just copy and paste the above!

    @Amandeep - nice stuff, and welcome to the board. hope to see you post more often. are you from Denmark by any chance? [[ I am sure Aman would not mind my saying, with the info available with me, "No". That does not give away anything but excludes one country from the 197 (or whatever) countries at the last count. Ananth: ]]

  • sganesh on August 23, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    Ananth,

    Laxman's job was to bat at No. 5 / 6 , he did that role beyond all of our expectations in this job for the last 10+ years . In this period I think that he was the Best No. 5/ 6 in the world. On seeing his contribution in winning causes , he will definitely rank as one of the best No.6 of all time . ( A few other names do come up). Just as Openers need to be compared to other openers and fast bowlers against fast bowlers , thus Laxman should be compared especially statistically with other No 5 / 6 only .

    This however does not perclude all of us to salute , praise , be awestruck, admire and marvel at the beauty and tenacity that Laxman bought to the game. In this role , he is like Vishwanath, Aravinda De Silva , Stan McCabe and many more such heros who live more in hearts than in record books. [[ Very nice to see that all-time great batsman, McCabe, brought into the discussion. He was the "Laxman" to Bradman (SRT). Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 23, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    Amandeep, agree with almost every word you have written, except that his failures in England came at a time when he was in excellent form in England itself. The first innings evening in Trent Bridge was nerve wracking, with every ball looking like taking a wicket, and I still cant believe that Lax and Dravid survived. Laxman played very well in that innings, but in the end, edged behind. In other two of the first three innings, he lofted the ball behind square in unconvincing hooks.

    Otherwise he did not really fail in England even in his previous two tours.

    The problem with his stats is that he failed to make hay when the sun was shining (except 140 against Zimbabwe). In Durban, at 96, anyone else would have carefully played to his 100, and stylishly declared unbeaten. However Laxman made room to cut Steyn and quite obviously threw his wicket away. So he carried his disregard of averages too far.

    So in an aevrage/aggregate obsessed nation, praise of Laxman is generally frowned upon

  • C. Babu on August 23, 2012, 11:38 GMT

    I can say "NO REPLACEMENT/MATCH CAN BE MADE IN NEAR FUTURE TO THAT CLASS, THE ARTTISTIC PLAY, TEMPER AND SIMPLICITY OF VVS".

    VVS LIVES IN EVERY HEART OF CRICKET LOVERS FOR EVER EVER AND EVER.

    HE IS THE DARLING OF ARTISTIC PLAY. [[ Why the "capital-shouting". Surely Laxman, the person he is, would have been happy with a normal comment. But I understand your sentiments. Ananth: ]]

  • Pankaj Joshi on August 23, 2012, 11:35 GMT

    Brilliance combined with effort is breathtaking. Thank you Amandeep. Clear analysis as to why long innings from our man were always at a premium other than in a crisis. Only rarity was in Windies 2011 when no one else was there to grab the 400-500 runs offer. For the record, VVS, Vengsarkar and Kapil remain among the top 30-40 Test averages at Lords, in a list of 176 batting at positions 1-8.

  • shekhar on August 23, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    Dear Ananth and Guys, great posts...liked a lot of them, the real tribute to VVS, played the game like a true gentleman and left the field like one. Won and saved many many matches with the tail. Delighted all of us in the turn around phase of Indian cricket. So many Captains owe their success to this guy... what a champion, a very sad exit due to MS Dhoni and the selectors. I hope BCCI honors him, hope the sports ministry honors this guy, cricket, afterall is a team sport. Last of the wrist artists. [[ Unsung heroes stay in the minds of true followers: the bean-counters tend to forget them soon. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 9:34 GMT

    Continued BTW I must apologise for writing such a long post but I believe very few people (least of all VVS himself) jump in to defend him against hasty judgments based on a cursory glance at statistical records. And with VVS retired, I thought I owed it to him for all the pure joy he has given me & all of us for so many years. He is an inspirational cricketer but an even more inspirational human being who has gradually learnt to live with the undue criticism by some “Experts” or the harsh treatment meted out to him throughout his career by selectors & team management. (2003 WC is the most glaring example) He took it all in his stride (no doubt his devout nature helped him) & did what he did best whenever he got the opportunity. He tapped the crease, took his guard & no matter what the score or match situation or who the opposition was, all of India breathed a little easy. There was still some hope in the match. There was still VVS @ the crease Thank you! [[ Thank you, Amandeep. I have rarely seen such an in-depth comment on a single aspect of a batsman's career. I extracted the individual innings from the Career file and can substantiate what you say. Laxman's failures against England are more at home. 28, 75, 12, 0, 0*, 24, 26, 0 and 15. No need to do anything more. One fifty in 9 innings. Away, he has been better. 5 fifties in 19 innings, including two in the ill-fated 2011 series. Possibly if he had accumulated 6-700 runs in those 6 home Tests he could very well have finished with a healthy 40 average against England. Once again, many thanks, Aman. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    Continued And that was the beginning of the end as after those 5 innings, Laxman would play just 7 more tests & fail even where he has always performed: Down under. So, credit to English bowling attack of 2011 but Laxman's age & the fact that he was nearing the end of his career must also be given consideration rather than jumping to a hasty conclusion that VVS Laxman never did well in English conditions. His stellar record for Lancs (in 1st class & even in List A & T20 matches in 2007 & 2009) is another case in point. He is held in high esteem by the fans of that county both for his cricketing skills & for his conduct when he played there.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 23, 2012, 9:19 GMT

    Interesting comment on Cricinfo " hopefully Dhoni will give Pujara an extended run so that he can cement his place at #3". Well, well. How long is Dhoni going to be in the hot seat for? Unfortunately, there are no really promising replacements as keeper batsman, but as captain I strongly feel that we have lost the opportunity to take our team forward by keeping him. Now on what basis can be be removed? If he continues as captain, who will pay for 8-0 loss? [[ No doubt Dhoni must carry the prime responsibility for the 0-8 debacle. But what is he to do if his top batsmen, barring one hor one series, decided to take a vacation from form together. And his bowlers never utlized the favourable conditions. Suddenly Strauss does not become a poor captain because he lost 0-2 at home. If KP had started yapping 10 days earlier the result would have been 0-3. Almost the same team, same bowlers and batsmen. I agree South Africa are wholly different to India. But I would only ascribe a third of the blame to the captain/selectors. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    Continued His average in England despite the lack of opportunities was a fairly healthy 44 but 5 poor innings later that became 35. And for 2011 tour, I can't complain about lack of opportunities with top order firing. The English attack was excellent. The top order didn't fire @ all. Only Dravid stood tall among the ruins & no words are enough to praise his virtuoso performance on that tour.

    Coming back to where I started almost 2 hours ago, VVS Laxman's average against England is poorer in India (22) rather than away to England (35) although both aren't up to the mark. But stats don't tell the complete exhaustive (& exhausting!) story which I have narrated above.

    The only time Laxman was vulnerable against the English bowling attack of 2011 (which won Ashes in Aus) was in his last 5 innings there as a 37 year old against an attack at the peak of its powers which had won the Ashes in Australia just 6 months prior to the series.

  • Sameer Kumar on August 23, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    With all due respects to what you do so wonderfully well I think for those who really play, Stats and records mean so very little. I am sure no kid takes up the game for either 'records or monetary benefits' and that is pretty much how it is with all of us who enjoyed playing the game as a kid. I particularly say this here as I believe VVS was probably the only guy (or at least one of the rare ones), who kept it that way despite playing 16 years at the highest level. He was constantly dropped for no good reason as he never had the legion of 'fanatical fans' or any political clout, he was moved around constantly in the batting order and probably rarely ever got recognition he deserved. [[ I still don't know what is your point. I am with you all the way. I have only tried to highlight those numbers which show Laxman in good light. Ananth: ]] Yet VVS simply batted, played the game he loved and played it when asked to. Simply put he loved to play and played to win. And in a world constantly becoming more and more mechanized and commercial, he was "The last Amateur in the age of Professionals".

  • Vikram on August 23, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    There have been a few comments about how VVS could have scored more if he had come higher up the order. I actually believe that batting where he did helped him focus/concentrate. He has done his best when he was under pressure whereas easy matches/situations have seen him throw away his wicket for an elegant but hardly useful 20-30 runs. Also, his contribution has been so much more important, and therefore elevated his value, because of his ability to pull the team through tough situations usually coming late down the order. Without that, he would just have been an elegant batsman. One last thing, the 6 matches against Zim were against a good quality attack, so no one should say it was case of him not feasting. BD yes, but def not Zim. Of his 280 runs against Zim, 140 came in one innings when they actually had a poor attack. He is a great batsman, he doesn't need artificial boosters to show he was great.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 8:51 GMT

    Continued He also came to England in excellent form having won India some really tight matches or helping the team escape probable defeats. The stage was set for him to finally set his record in England straight. He started OK. 2 50s in 1st 3 innings but threw away starts with a couple of loose shots. But I thought that he was warming up to deliver big & provide an encore of the miracles he had performed in the 12 previous months but Alas! Something went wrong. I think God was sending a message that no matter how good VVS is, even he can't consistently perform miracles because miracles by definition are meant to be unexpected. While Laxman had spoilt us in the previous year so much that we got into the habit of expecting miracles everytime he walked into bat.

    England's bowling attack was mindblowing & finally the age or fatigue factor caught up with him & the man we thought could walk on water, started stumbling & tottering even on level ground. [[ Thank you, Amandeep. I have rarely seen such an in-depth comment on a single aspect of a batsman's career. I extracted the individual innings from the Career file and can substantiate what you say. Laxman's failures against England are more at home. 28, 75, 12, 0, 0*, 24, 26, 0 and 15. No need to do anything more. One fifty in 9 innings. Away, he has been better. 5 fifties in 19 innings, including two in the ill-fated 2011 series. Possibly if he had accumulated 6-700 runs in those 6 home Tests he could very well have finished with a healthy 40 average against England. Once again, many thanks, Aman. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    Continued Sometime he would perish in the quest for these quick runs & won't even manage to score that. But his role was invaluable. He could help salvage a draw out of a certain defeat (Remember India Vs NZ 2010 when he came with India 3 down for 2 runs & then 15/5 & 65/6 & took India to safety @ 228/7 before perishing, for 91 off a priceless 253 balls, to a wrong LBW decision) or tilt the balance in favour of India with priceless 50s which are so many that I just don't have the energy to mention them all. I summarise what I have said above that in 1st 2 tours to England, he averaged 40 & 50 & made the most of whatever little opportunities that he came his way at no. 6 or 7. So it can't be said that he was unable to score against the English bowlers.

    Now 2011 followed a different pattern. In 2011, Laxman (aged 37 by now) got 8 innings. He batted either at no. 5 or 1 down: his favourite position. For the 1st time he got this opportunity in England.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    Continued In conditions tough for batting as was the case in Lords 2002 & 2007, he got to bat early (100 odd for 4 or 5 down, with bowlers having smelt blood) & not with an eye on declaration but the drawback was that the conditions were favouring bowlers which meant that even if he had weathered the storm & settled in, he would be running out of partners & worry about scoring quick runs in tough conditions which meant that not only he had to play in tough conditions but also to play outside his comfort zone. And he did it magnificently throughout his career. In the 96 in Durban I wrote previously, He was the 10th out trying to give room & cut an in form Steyn on a spicy Durban pitch for a boundary & edging behind. Sometimes, he would be left stranded.

    OTOH in good batting conditions, the top 5 would make hay, boost their averages while Laxman would come in close to declaration & would at most be have enough time to score a breezy 50 while those above him scored 100/150/200+

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 8:11 GMT

    Continued With a cursory glance at scores, 39 off 90 seems another wasted start but in context of the game & indeed the series, it was an impt innings. India then went to Trent Bridge with series level & Zak then worked his magic. From 2nd test onwards, our batsmen became more accustomed & Laxman came at 342/4 (below Ganguly) & scored a 54 while batting with lower order again. India won the match with 7 wickets, which meant Laxman didn't get to bat in 2nd innings. In 3rd test too he scored 51 & 46NO before India declared. So again he averaged 51 which given the circumstances was the best he could manage.

    It is impt to draw attention to the fact that by having to bat at no. 6 (below Ganguly), VVS made immense contributions to the team cause but did his statistical record no favours. But the consummate team man he is, we never heard him complain about this. And I don't think this selfless contribution of his has been given the appreciation that it deserves.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    Continued In 2nd innings, he came @ 140/4 & thankfully Agarkar decided to get his name on the Lord's honour board & Laxman got the opportunity to score the 50 he was denied in the 1st innings & together they managed to reduce India's margin of defeat to 170 runs. After that, out top order started came into its own which was fantastic. At Trent Bridge, Dravid, Tendulkar & Ganguly both scored more than 90 in the 2nd innings. VVS Laxman came into bat with only 35 overs remaining to bat out in last session. At Headingley, all 3 of them scored big centuries & VVS Laxman came @ 584/3 & India declared soon. In 4th test, all 3 of them got 50s & Laxman came to bat @ 284/3. Again he did fritter away a couple of starts but still managed to average 40.

    Then came 2007 tour. India started the 1st test badly as was characterstic of that team & were looking to escape defeat. On final day, VVS Laxman scored 39 off 90 & batted out 30 overs & with Dhoni holding firm, India finished 9 down.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 7:46 GMT

    Continued Now Laxman's record in England. Laxman toured England thrice in his career. I would analyse the 1st 2 tours: 2002 (1-1) & 2007 (1-0) together & the 2011 disaster separately. In the 1st 2 tours, Indian batting did very well & since Laxman was coming at 6 or even 7 (again below ganguly), his innings would get restricted to 40s or 50s & that kept his average down OTW he wasn't troubled much by the bowling. But whenever India collapsed, he was always there to perform the rescue act or to at least delay the defeat & make it more respectable. In his 1st test in England @ Lord's in 2002 (India won't lose another test for another 9 years in Eng), he was the topscorer for India in the entire match with 117 runs (43NO + 74). In 1st innings, he came at no.7 (India @ 168/5) but ran out of partners. He finished with a brisk 43* off 68 balls & India was all out @ 221. Another good innings nipped in the bud.

  • HP on August 23, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    Good Article But Amandeep Singh's comments are more powerful. Laxman will be missed. India's 0-8 lost in Eng & Aus is showing how much Laxman contributed in India's victory. Now under the unfit & unethical leadership of Dhoni India is heading to a great danger.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    Continued In his 1st test innings against Eng in India at Chennai, he came in to bat at 370/5 hardly a position from where he could score 150. OfC he did get some opportunities to make big runs & missed out on them but those opportunities were less frequently available to VVS & the cost of him missing out on them was much more.

    And horror of horrors, he was even dropped for 2 tests against England by Dravid & Chappell in 2006 for guess who? Yuvraj Singh. And didn't India miss him in 3rd test. Needing to bat out 90 overs on a final day turner with 9 wickets in hand, India collapsed to 100 all out to the bamboozling spin of again Guess who? Shaun Udal with Warnesque figures of 4/14 & even Warne couldn't master Indian tracks. BTW this was Udal's 4th test ever & he would never play for England again. Before this test, his test bowling avg was 92 but because of this, he could retire peacefully with a healthier avg 43 & will tell his grandchildren that he bowled India out in India for 100

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    Continued The problem was that mostly India scored big against Eng at home & as was Laxman's misfortune, he was forced to come at no. 6 even below Ganguly which I don't think was logically correct. With a nightwatchman, he has even come at no. 7 So he would end up running out of partners or come in when India was looking to declare. His innings at Ahemadabad in 2001 is a case in point. He came in with India at 93/4. He had a partnership with Sachin of 118 & then of 37 for 6th wicket. The India collapsed from 248/5 to 274/9. Then Laxman just had to go for broke & he was the last man out at 291. He made 75 but he easily could've scored a 100 & gone on to score many more. No one remembers this innings. If someones just look at Laxman's run of scores against Eng, he will remark that Laxman got starts but never capitalised on them. So he must have a weakness against English bowling who never allowed him to score big but this isn't the case.

  • Amandeep Singh on August 23, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    Thanks Ananth for following up so promptly on my comment.

    I also want to add that if there was any chink in Laxman's armour, it was high quality swing because when it came to tackling bounce & spin, he was a class apart. His record in Aus, WI & SA along with his numerous brilliant innings on rank turners in India (& don't forget his record in SL) attest to that. In Aus, SA & SL: Sachin & Laxman have been much more consistent than Dravid (whose record in SA & SL was abysmal given his otherwise high standards)

    Yes, England was the only bogey team for him but here too instead of making sweeping generalisations, we should be a little more discerning which I can be since I have followed VVS very closely.

    1stly let us look at his record against Eng in India. He averages a paltry 22.25 in India. He has played just 8 innings spread over 3 tours of Eng to India. That tells a story. 8 innings in 3 tours.

  • Karthik on August 23, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    Ananth- Thanks for this article...my eyes moist & blur for every innings of HIS that i remember! BLISSFULL Joy!

    Sachin is a legend, among many other legends in history; Lara is a class-act among many class-acts; Ponting is an accumulator, among many accumulators. But, to me, there is only one VERY VERY SPECIAL man ever to have made cricket-watcher a poet and lyricist...Hail Laxman!!!

  • srini on August 23, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    One of VVS's underrated innings is his 74* (or was it out) against WI in T&T. You know India's first win in the Caribbean in 26 years, the match SRT either scored his 29th or 30th 100. SCG scored 75 I think. It was the partnership that basically won the game for India. He came at 55/4 I believe and added 150 with SCG and India lost their remaining wickets for 4 runs and we won by 30-40 odd runs.

    Also forgotten is his 59 in the first innings at Eden. He was scoring so easily when other batsmen were bamboozled in the 1st inn. That confident innings made Lax come in at no 3 in the 2nd inn and the rest as they say his history.

    VVS, Azza, MEWaugh, DWGower are probably the 4 most elegant players in my lifetime. Probably the only 4 players I'd ever watch block 400 balls in a row!!! [[ What is amazing is that all the innings coming in are sub-100 innings. Truly defines the over-emphasis we place on 100 as a major cut-off point of significance. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on August 23, 2012, 5:50 GMT

    Amandeep/Rajesh/Raghav: I have since done the work on runs added with late order batsmen also. This cannot be a complete analysis since quite a bit of data is unavailable. We all know when a batsman came in but "when he got out" is the information available only over the past 15-20 years. So for batsmen like Lara and Tendulkar complete data is not available. The other important factor is that I know when the sixth wicket fell. But I would not know what the concerned batsman's score was at that time. Similarly I would know when the concerned batsman got out. But not what the other batsman's score was. So I have presented below only concrete facts, which are stated below. These represent only the team runs added from the fall of the sixth wicket to the time the concerned batsman was dismissed. Of course, if he remained not out, there is no problem. I have given below the data for six top current batsmen. It shows clearly that Kallis and Laxman are the leaders. It is possible that Lara might have better figures. But not certain.

    Batsman   Num Runs  R/P
    Kallis     17 1212 71.3
    Laxman     27 1876 69.5
    Hussey     14  802 57.3
    Dravid     23 1236 53.7
    Ponting    16  828 51.8
    Sangakkara 13  566 43.5
    The Num colum indicates the number of such instances.
    I have also uploaded the complete career data file which can be downloaded. This gives the details of these numbers also. To download/view the Career data file, please click/right-click here Ananth

  • Vikram on August 23, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    On this blog, it is important to analyse everything from a perspective of numbers. Having said that, as Ananth, rightly said players like GRV and VVS can't really be measured by numbers. Some of GRV's knocks are considered extraordinary, while VVS has seminal knocks to his credit. We never said wow! to his shot, but "how did h do that". SRT's shots are better timed or better placed than others, VVS' shots can't be replicated. The only thing I would say is that players like GRV or VVS were never blamed for a loss. To that extent (for Hindi movie followers), he is like the Naseeruddin Shah of the industry, no one remembers his flops but his hits are legendary. [[ Balraj Sahni, Sanjeev Kumar ??? Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 23, 2012, 5:18 GMT

    @Ananth & @Deepak: VVS was NO in 34 innings: 8 100's & 12 50's at RPI=62. This RPI is almost the same as Dravid's (SRT's is 93!!) which suggests that VVS could have been a better #3 than RD, except in England, of course. The breakdown:

    5 1st inn, RPI=120, 3 100's, 1 50. 9 2nd inn, RPI=64, 2 100's, 4 50's. 9 3rd inn, RPI=72, 2 50's, 5 100's. 24 4th inn, RPI=35, 1 100, 2 50's. [[ Yes, VVS and England are eternally linked as VVS and Australia, in the other direction. Ananth: ]] @Ananth: A good metric is a batsman's avg in innings of N+ runs. If we set N=20, then in the 1990+ era, VVS ranks 12th on #runs scored with nearly 8200 runs at avg=76. This avg is only middle-rung in the 5000+ run club which is led by Waugh (93), followed by Kallis (92) & SRT (91). This list has Sanga at 88, Bell & Lara at 86(!!), Ponting/Gilly/Inzy at 82, Mahela & RD at 81, Clarke at 80, Sehwag at 79, KP & ABD at 77, Ganguly at 67, etc. Note that Waugh's batting posn was the same at VVS' and their # innings & not outs is almost the same (I got interesting results for different values of N).

  • Ravi on August 23, 2012, 3:32 GMT

    Among the Cricketers I can remember, VVS is the rare breed whose 50s are worth 200 and more in terms of value. There are many 50-99 scores which have turned matches in India's way. Not to mention 281 Changed Indian Cricket for a Decade to come. And it looks like he never took easy runs to make up for numbers. The opposition and match context were very important to him. [[ One reason you will see 9/10 fifties in my selection. Ananth: ]] We will not see another 2 Great Cricketers and Human Beings like VVS and RD.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on August 23, 2012, 3:28 GMT

    By a very narrow thread do fortunes of the top 4 sides in Test cricket hang today. I remember that in Cape Town 2010, in the early stages of Tendulkar's 146, Laxman joined him, and within 30 minutes they had the Safs looking completely helpless on a good batting pitch, with both batsmen in great form. Then a straight drive from Tendulkar got touched by the bowler, and Laxman was run out. India's grip on the match loosened from that point. After 2 years, we are in a sorry state, while SAF have moved from strength to strength. [[ India still got the lead. Surely you are not saying that India would have gone on to score 500+. Let us not forget that harbhajan scored 40 and Zaheer 23 in this innings. Finally we ran into the other wall, Kallis. Ananth: ]] While I still admire Laxman as much as I ever did, his performances in England came as a major disappointment (Aus was a write-off by the second test itself). The Indian team was crushed by England, but while Dravid fought on, Laxman seemed completely to give up. [[ Give him the benefit of doubt. Unfortunately an extended loss of form overseas. However, back in india, he was fine against the Windies. He could have comfortably got the 200 odd runs to reach 9000 and then quit. Ananth: ]] But in the end, for his titanic deeds against Australia, and generally thriving under pressure, he will be remembered as a great batsman. Perhaps Kohli will carry that baton from here on.

  • Navin Agarwal on August 23, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    Sharda Ugra writes: "Sixteen years after all is an entire generation - in 16 years, toddlers turn into teenagers, teenagers into the thirty-somethings, yuppies into the weary middle-aged. Sixteen years can be life-changing. Like that partnership in Kolkata. They did it, remember? Turned 'bat the whole day' from idiom to reality. "

    Remember what you were doing then, way back in 1996 or in 2001 or in 2003.

    I do remember each of those days.Watching Khamoshi-The Musical during Dravid's Debut but keeping track of scores. Doing some work in Bank during Laxman's 51 on debut. Was in office during 376 run partnership and watchinh cricket in between, stood and appluaded after the day's play. And was at a picnic during Adeilade partnership but checking scores through SMS. Remember it was the same day USA got hold of Saddam, so Dravid did not got his due credit again. [[ Lovely writing by Sharda and recap by you, Naveen. Ananth: ]]

  • Pranav Joshi on August 22, 2012, 21:59 GMT

    VVS Laxman was certainly among India's top 5 batsmen ever. However, to call him "great" is to stretch the truth. I think the word "great" is used way too often these days. IMO there are only 3 great batsmen in the exiting generation - Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting. Kallis and Dravid are at the door. The rest are "very good". [[ No problems at all. Ananth: ]] However, I have an observation. It is usually two kinds of batsmen who make major impacts on team fortunes during the course of a test match. The first are the Sehwag type - ones who score much faster than is normal and wrest the advantage. The second are Dravid/ VVS type - who score less than 50% of partnership runs, take more strike (Dravid in the middle order and VVS with the tail) and help the score move. [[ In summary, I would say the trinity stands there, by itself. Then come two classicists: Vishwanath and Laxman. Then come the others. Ananth: ]]

    This is perhaps why players like SRT fail to make a similar impact. SRT's genius helps him measure up the game perfectly, control/shift his pace, and score with ease. But it also means he plays his own game while teammates find ways through mortality.

  • Vinay on August 22, 2012, 21:20 GMT

    I had the privilage of watching him in nets 10-12 years ago. Him and another hyderabad operner were practising on side nets and watched him block a half dozen balls from a net bowler. I remember the bowler was swinging both ways but had a little extra nip and bounce with his in-swingers. Laxman got beaten from one of those inswingers and made some adjustments at the crease (which i should have remembered). From a naked eye, i couldn't tell any difference but i saw the smile wiped off the bowler and heard him complaining about the ball not swinging any more and blaming everything for the beating he is getting.

    Funny thing was (I can't finish anything without embarrassing myself)me and my friend were attempting to replicate the sweet sound coming from the middle of his bat using our tongues. [[ Don't worry. Personal anecdotes mean a lot. Suddenly I am making that lovely sound myself!!! Ananth: ]]

  • Ayush on August 22, 2012, 21:13 GMT

    Laxman was indeed a great batsman, and like you said, his elegance cannot be put forth in numbers alone. However, since the subject here is numbers, I'll say that despite the fact that he batted at 5 or 6 in the batting order, and considering how enormously talented he was, Laxman should have averaged higher. The fault was not in talent, or indeed in temperament (anybody who has seen the nerve-shredding 4th innings chase against Australia can testify to that), but in lapses of contribution early on in the innings, and in the 20s and 30s. A rock for the Indian batting order, an enforcer as well as a shield. But purely by numbers, could've done better. Indian cricket will be poorer without him. [[ All what you say is true. However one does not measure Vishwanath's contribution in numbers. Laxman's is like taht. Ananth: ]]

  • Raghav Bihani on August 22, 2012, 20:45 GMT

    For once I have found your article not upto your own standards. Its probably because VVS is not about the numbers. When scoring runs is like writing poetry; you do not count the words. [[ I have already pointed out the time factor. I sent the article on Tuesday morning and it was published only on Wednesday evening. If I had known I would have taken these additional two days for myself. Anyhow no problems. If there is something to be done, I will do it and add to the article now.. Ananth: ]] The maximum 100s, runs, avg were never meant for VVS. Its all about the matches won by him when all others had failed. Its all about the way he scored his runs. I have been priviledged to watch his 281 live and have never seen anything like that ever since.

  • Rajesh Enjamoori on August 22, 2012, 19:46 GMT

    Congrats to Laxman for great career. Hope we will see him playing first class cricket for many years to come. First time I read an article by Ananth sir without getting new insights. There is no Ananthonian analysis or graph. In fact, all charts are available on cricinfo even for those lacking technical knowledge. [[ Do you have in Cricinfo the following. Number of runs scored/balls faced while at crease. Peer comparisons Career slice analysis Hundreds ratio for each segment and so on. Ananth: ]] [281 thing is good but everyone knows it; peer comparison is hard for me but easily perceivable]. Article could have been better if it concentrated more on Very Very Special of Laxman like the percentage of career runs with nos. 7-11 batsmen. [[ As I have already pointed out to Aman, will be done and table added. Ananth: ]]Could have compared with all no. 5/6 batsmen >3000 runs. For each 50+ score of a batsman how many wickets fell at other end (shows how much pressure the batsman was under). Laxman had 73 50+ scores and 249 partnerships making 3.4 wickets per each of his 50+ scores. This could have been compared with peers. [[ Each of these analysis would have required programs and time. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 22, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    Continued.. In fact, no one from India/SA in the Durban test of 2010, managed to cross 40 while Laxman scored 96. No one in the match on either side crossed 57 runs for the entire match while Laxman aggregated 134.

    This innings helped India draw their 2st ever test series in SA & also to defend their no.1 ranking which was lost as soon as Laxman lost his form.

    Needless to say that this innings was chosen by Cricinfo as the best test innings of 2010, given the pitch, the high quality bowling attack & the high stakes involved in the series.

    To me Laxman's contribution to in SA is in a way even more vital than his role in Aus. In Aus, Sehwag, Sachin, Dravid (Although apart from the legendary 233 + 72 @ Adelaide, his record in Aus is patchy) & even Ganguly scored runs while in SA, in the tests we have won, Laxman has been a lone ranger. Dravid, Ganguly & Sehwag have very ordinary records in SA although Sachin has done well (Avg 46.44) but not in the 2 matches we have won there. [[ Yes, there were not those big innings against SA. But, as you have rightly pointed out, there were many important innings starting with the 51 on his debut Test to the 96. Ananth: ]]

  • Amandeep Singh on August 22, 2012, 19:18 GMT

    I think we must not get misled by his statistical record against SA. IMHO, his record in SA is a huge credit to him & in fact sums up his value to Indian cricket & also how sometimes we lose sight of his greatness since we aren't farsighted enough to look beyond numbers.

    An average of 40.42 in SA with no 100s may seem just a fairly OK record (although Dravid averages only 29.71) But look at the facts, India has won just 2 tests ever in SA. In both he is by far the highest scorer for India in 2nd innings, 1st & 2nd innings combined & also the whole test match, coming in with match in the balance at 3/41 & 3/48 & taking India to 225+. In 2006, for India, 2nd highest score in 2nd innings is 37 & in the match is 51 & 2nd highest aggregate score is 76 (51+25). Laxman scored 28 + 73 = 101 In 2010, 2nd highest score in 2nd innings is 32 (one third of Laxman) & in the match is 38 (Laxman himself in 1st innings) & 2nd highest aggregate score is 57 (25+32). Laxman scored 38 + 96 = 134. [[ In my hurry I also forgot to upload the innings-by-innings summary of VVS. That indicates now often he came in situations like 3/4 for fewer than 100. Will do it later today. Ananth: ]]

  • Mohsin Waqar Ali on August 22, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    He was a treat to watch,"Very Very Special" indeed. I didn't saw the 167 or the 281,but i did watched many of his later innings,like the ones against SL and AUS in 2010. Just like Inzamam was for Pakistan,VVS was "The man of Crisis". I would never get why he was made to open when Ganguly was part of the team.I mean Ganguly played 90% of his ODI career as an opener. [[ Ganguly''s ODI opening career was later. Ananth: ]]

  • Deepak on August 22, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    Anant, Thanks very much for the article. You've done a meticulous job compiling all the data. It reminded me of every special innings that Laxman played when India were down and badly needed. In the recent past (2007-2011), the number of times he has played such innings were countless. How can we so easily forget those innings that saved or won us matches? Undoubtedly, VVS played a huge role in India's road to Test Rank 1 and it was his failure that resulted in 0-8 loss and slipping down in Test ranking. Had VVS played his special knocks in Eng and Aus, the margin of loss would not have been so huge. You have rightly mentioned that he batted mostly in the lower middle order. If you look at the number of runs he has scored with the tail-enders (which is missing in the analysis), I think the numbers will speak of themselves. I remember Laxman was unbeaten till the end of the innings much more times than RD or even the great SRT. It is hard to find a perfect replacement for him. [[ That work required a special program and I could not fit it into the timeframe available. Will do that and post the numbers. Ananth: ]]

  • Moideen Museem on August 22, 2012, 17:39 GMT

    Magic at times is such a fluent art that we lose track of time. I am not a magic fan nor do i feel awed by those acts of magicians for i am more of a realist who believe it is better to make merry with the skills people can understand rather than with the ones that make them duffers. Having said that I end my statement on this word called Magic.

    Now, let me talk to you about something that many people (with a willow and cork brain) associate with magic. Strangely, magic is more of a dergatory compliment for this something. I would say it is more of Sheer Bliss.

    VVS Laxman. Yes, i am late. He said good bye more than 48 hours ago and now here i am scribbling a tribute to him. I apologize for ever since i heard your retirement i was drooling over three masterclass theater forms that etched a 281 (in 2001), 148 (in 2003) and a 73 (in 2010) in three very magical cricket scorecards.

    How in the world do you hit 44 boundaries in one innings, which lasted more than 10 hours, 70 overs and al [[ Very nicely put. The magician deserves these words of appreciation. Ananth: ]]

  • Pankaj Joshi on August 22, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    Hi Ananth, An article in which your own style finds precedence over substance. That, when substance is so substantial. Else no problems with style. Graph is indeed lyrical. Only missing is Superman logo stopping the train. [[ I agree with what you say. Probably because this is the article with the lowest possible time invested in. I took only a day while my normal requirement is easily upto a week. Included was a special program for the graph. Anyhow I knew that there are good readers who would provide the substance. It would have come out yesterday but for the absence of the key people at Cricinfo. Ananth: ]] In article: Laxman's debut innings has been noted, its just among those where India could so easily have messed up in the third innings. Two against Safrica (Joburg 2006 and Durban 2010), one against Australia (Perth though in fairness all had murder on their mind), one more prob against Windies, perhaps the Eden mentioned. The amount of support he could muster from tailenders, either he put them at ease or they were not on talking terms with other batsmen. Really hard to say. The fact that he was always optional. Says a lot that Kumble was the captain who made him most relaxed. Ganguly was fighting for same batting slot (whenever India wanted extra bowlers). Dhoni too later - how possible to have two crisis men in a team, one in his own right, one in his own mind...

  • Fahad Ali on August 22, 2012, 14:57 GMT

    I find this a very biased article. 'To average nearly 50 in the difficult late middle order positions of 5 and 6 shows the quality of Laxman.' [[ Mr.Ali I used late middle order since there were many innings in which Laxman ran out of partners and had to shepherd the tali-enders. I will change to middle order. Ananth: ]] For one, number 5 is not 'late middle order', and secondly, number 5 is as close to an easy position to bat in as there exists. I can't be bothered for more, but it's clear that emotion has overtaken rational logic when writing this article. VVS played stylishly to an extent - fine. That doesn't make him one of India's greats. [[ I do not understand your objection. Your own Inzmam and Saeed Anwar did not reach an average of 50 (I can assure you, I am saying this not by your name). Does it make them lesser players. Or Aravinda de Silva, Neil Harvey, Kanhai. Lloyd, May. It is not just the average or runs but the value of runs and the situations. I do not think you have a clear idea of this subject. The number of times Laxman has played rescuing innings in the second innings is enough to ensure his greatness. I would rather be irrational and admire Laxman than be rational and find fault for the sake of finding fault. Ananth: ]]

  • Pawan Mathur on August 22, 2012, 14:29 GMT

    The cricinfo profile of Laxman reads that he can match and even at times better Tendulkar for strokeplay - a huge compliment. It is very pleasing to see somebody mentioning Laxman's debut innings at Ahmedabad. It was an important innings in the context of the match. [[ Yes, what struck me about the 51 was the context. South Africa ahead by 20 odd runs after two low innings. Laxman comes in at 82 for 4 and takes the innings to 190, assisted by a priceless 30 by Kumble. Then Srinath had his great day and SA are all out for 105. Ananth: ]] The issue of double speak of some ex-cricketer on Laxman has been aptly discussed in your previous blog comment. It is very surprising, even anguishing to see that two stalwarts of Indian cricket have been forced to retire in the aftermath of 0-8 result but there are no signs of any kind of pressure on the captain to quit. People have a right to disagree with me on this but I feel that the huge commercial lobby (including Srinivisan's pet baby CSK) that has invested its money on Dhoni has played a part in this directly or indirectly. I can not comprehend the lame excuse of blocking the place of youngster. 3 years have gone and there is no such player found who is a capable replacement for Ganguly.God save indian cricket

  • Alex on August 22, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    @Ananth: This tribute will not elicit too many comments unlike Dravid's since VVS never recd a vociferous support the way SRT/RD/Ganguly did. I will remember 124* vs NZ, 178 in Sydney, 69 vs Oz in Mumbai, (85, 87) vs WI, and the 89 vs SA in '01 that took Ind from 47/4 to 199/9. [[ Does not really matter. generally there are not as many comments as earlier days. Ananth: ]] Every batsman has a prototype and a predecessor; that is true for even Chris Martin. Who was VVS's predecessor? His style was oriental. Azhar had much of that languid grace but not the steel & the technique. In his generation, Inzy comes the closest and among the former greats, maybe Zaheer Abbas comes the closest.

    Will we see the like of him again? A VVS special was not just a thing of beauty but a matter inlaid with steel and decorated with platinum & diamond. That requires difficult conditions, top bowling attacks, and at least 3 sessions to unfold. So, as the game moves away from the format that features these 3 factors, the chances look slim.

  • milpand on August 22, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    Of all the customised charts I have seen here, VVS281 is the best! [[ I did it in an hour. Probably could have made it more innovative if I had more time. Ananth: ]]

  • Navin Agarwal on August 22, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    There was one more significant inning at Eden Garden in 2002. He and Tendulkar saved the match for India and Tendulkar scored his first ton at Eden. I had privilege of watching that innings from the stands. Both Laxman and Tendulkar saved India from a certain defeat. [[ Yes, against West Indies. Laxman came in at 87 for 4, still in arrears by about 60, and added over 200 with Tendulkar. Ananth: ]]

  • Nitin Gautam on August 22, 2012, 13:42 GMT

    Nice Ode to one of the most stylish & easily IMO among the top 5 batsman India produced.

    leave aside his fir 15-16 tests where he was made to open & his "hard to believe" dismal performance against BD,Zim..his record is as gud as other modern Indian Giants. [[ Nitin, Laxman played one test after the 167 and was then DROPPED, to get Kaif in and Dravid opened. Then Das came in and finally Laxman came back, as an opener. Ananth: ]] However as often as anything, he was not an assured starter in test matches like Ponting & his vulnerability against genuine swing & pace is a big weakness probably that is why his record in Eng,SA is not as good as in Win/Aus/SL.

    Nevertheless, a sight to behold when on song & literally & figuratively 2nd Innings by India would never be the same without him.

    Among his best of the innings I would also place 69 against Aus on a minefield in Nagpur which ponting described as nowhere close to test standards.

  • charith on August 22, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    It was a privilege to watch laxman bat. Even ananth would have to agree numbers is not everything . [[ Ananth agrees!!! Ananth: ]] luxman's stats reminds me aravinda ,Both were very talented batsmen who were able to produce their best performances when it mattered most. VVS thank you & best of luck

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  • charith on August 22, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    It was a privilege to watch laxman bat. Even ananth would have to agree numbers is not everything . [[ Ananth agrees!!! Ananth: ]] luxman's stats reminds me aravinda ,Both were very talented batsmen who were able to produce their best performances when it mattered most. VVS thank you & best of luck

  • Nitin Gautam on August 22, 2012, 13:42 GMT

    Nice Ode to one of the most stylish & easily IMO among the top 5 batsman India produced.

    leave aside his fir 15-16 tests where he was made to open & his "hard to believe" dismal performance against BD,Zim..his record is as gud as other modern Indian Giants. [[ Nitin, Laxman played one test after the 167 and was then DROPPED, to get Kaif in and Dravid opened. Then Das came in and finally Laxman came back, as an opener. Ananth: ]] However as often as anything, he was not an assured starter in test matches like Ponting & his vulnerability against genuine swing & pace is a big weakness probably that is why his record in Eng,SA is not as good as in Win/Aus/SL.

    Nevertheless, a sight to behold when on song & literally & figuratively 2nd Innings by India would never be the same without him.

    Among his best of the innings I would also place 69 against Aus on a minefield in Nagpur which ponting described as nowhere close to test standards.

  • Navin Agarwal on August 22, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    There was one more significant inning at Eden Garden in 2002. He and Tendulkar saved the match for India and Tendulkar scored his first ton at Eden. I had privilege of watching that innings from the stands. Both Laxman and Tendulkar saved India from a certain defeat. [[ Yes, against West Indies. Laxman came in at 87 for 4, still in arrears by about 60, and added over 200 with Tendulkar. Ananth: ]]

  • milpand on August 22, 2012, 14:06 GMT

    Of all the customised charts I have seen here, VVS281 is the best! [[ I did it in an hour. Probably could have made it more innovative if I had more time. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on August 22, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    @Ananth: This tribute will not elicit too many comments unlike Dravid's since VVS never recd a vociferous support the way SRT/RD/Ganguly did. I will remember 124* vs NZ, 178 in Sydney, 69 vs Oz in Mumbai, (85, 87) vs WI, and the 89 vs SA in '01 that took Ind from 47/4 to 199/9. [[ Does not really matter. generally there are not as many comments as earlier days. Ananth: ]] Every batsman has a prototype and a predecessor; that is true for even Chris Martin. Who was VVS's predecessor? His style was oriental. Azhar had much of that languid grace but not the steel & the technique. In his generation, Inzy comes the closest and among the former greats, maybe Zaheer Abbas comes the closest.

    Will we see the like of him again? A VVS special was not just a thing of beauty but a matter inlaid with steel and decorated with platinum & diamond. That requires difficult conditions, top bowling attacks, and at least 3 sessions to unfold. So, as the game moves away from the format that features these 3 factors, the chances look slim.

  • Pawan Mathur on August 22, 2012, 14:29 GMT

    The cricinfo profile of Laxman reads that he can match and even at times better Tendulkar for strokeplay - a huge compliment. It is very pleasing to see somebody mentioning Laxman's debut innings at Ahmedabad. It was an important innings in the context of the match. [[ Yes, what struck me about the 51 was the context. South Africa ahead by 20 odd runs after two low innings. Laxman comes in at 82 for 4 and takes the innings to 190, assisted by a priceless 30 by Kumble. Then Srinath had his great day and SA are all out for 105. Ananth: ]] The issue of double speak of some ex-cricketer on Laxman has been aptly discussed in your previous blog comment. It is very surprising, even anguishing to see that two stalwarts of Indian cricket have been forced to retire in the aftermath of 0-8 result but there are no signs of any kind of pressure on the captain to quit. People have a right to disagree with me on this but I feel that the huge commercial lobby (including Srinivisan's pet baby CSK) that has invested its money on Dhoni has played a part in this directly or indirectly. I can not comprehend the lame excuse of blocking the place of youngster. 3 years have gone and there is no such player found who is a capable replacement for Ganguly.God save indian cricket

  • Fahad Ali on August 22, 2012, 14:57 GMT

    I find this a very biased article. 'To average nearly 50 in the difficult late middle order positions of 5 and 6 shows the quality of Laxman.' [[ Mr.Ali I used late middle order since there were many innings in which Laxman ran out of partners and had to shepherd the tali-enders. I will change to middle order. Ananth: ]] For one, number 5 is not 'late middle order', and secondly, number 5 is as close to an easy position to bat in as there exists. I can't be bothered for more, but it's clear that emotion has overtaken rational logic when writing this article. VVS played stylishly to an extent - fine. That doesn't make him one of India's greats. [[ I do not understand your objection. Your own Inzmam and Saeed Anwar did not reach an average of 50 (I can assure you, I am saying this not by your name). Does it make them lesser players. Or Aravinda de Silva, Neil Harvey, Kanhai. Lloyd, May. It is not just the average or runs but the value of runs and the situations. I do not think you have a clear idea of this subject. The number of times Laxman has played rescuing innings in the second innings is enough to ensure his greatness. I would rather be irrational and admire Laxman than be rational and find fault for the sake of finding fault. Ananth: ]]

  • Pankaj Joshi on August 22, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    Hi Ananth, An article in which your own style finds precedence over substance. That, when substance is so substantial. Else no problems with style. Graph is indeed lyrical. Only missing is Superman logo stopping the train. [[ I agree with what you say. Probably because this is the article with the lowest possible time invested in. I took only a day while my normal requirement is easily upto a week. Included was a special program for the graph. Anyhow I knew that there are good readers who would provide the substance. It would have come out yesterday but for the absence of the key people at Cricinfo. Ananth: ]] In article: Laxman's debut innings has been noted, its just among those where India could so easily have messed up in the third innings. Two against Safrica (Joburg 2006 and Durban 2010), one against Australia (Perth though in fairness all had murder on their mind), one more prob against Windies, perhaps the Eden mentioned. The amount of support he could muster from tailenders, either he put them at ease or they were not on talking terms with other batsmen. Really hard to say. The fact that he was always optional. Says a lot that Kumble was the captain who made him most relaxed. Ganguly was fighting for same batting slot (whenever India wanted extra bowlers). Dhoni too later - how possible to have two crisis men in a team, one in his own right, one in his own mind...

  • Moideen Museem on August 22, 2012, 17:39 GMT

    Magic at times is such a fluent art that we lose track of time. I am not a magic fan nor do i feel awed by those acts of magicians for i am more of a realist who believe it is better to make merry with the skills people can understand rather than with the ones that make them duffers. Having said that I end my statement on this word called Magic.

    Now, let me talk to you about something that many people (with a willow and cork brain) associate with magic. Strangely, magic is more of a dergatory compliment for this something. I would say it is more of Sheer Bliss.

    VVS Laxman. Yes, i am late. He said good bye more than 48 hours ago and now here i am scribbling a tribute to him. I apologize for ever since i heard your retirement i was drooling over three masterclass theater forms that etched a 281 (in 2001), 148 (in 2003) and a 73 (in 2010) in three very magical cricket scorecards.

    How in the world do you hit 44 boundaries in one innings, which lasted more than 10 hours, 70 overs and al [[ Very nicely put. The magician deserves these words of appreciation. Ananth: ]]

  • Deepak on August 22, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    Anant, Thanks very much for the article. You've done a meticulous job compiling all the data. It reminded me of every special innings that Laxman played when India were down and badly needed. In the recent past (2007-2011), the number of times he has played such innings were countless. How can we so easily forget those innings that saved or won us matches? Undoubtedly, VVS played a huge role in India's road to Test Rank 1 and it was his failure that resulted in 0-8 loss and slipping down in Test ranking. Had VVS played his special knocks in Eng and Aus, the margin of loss would not have been so huge. You have rightly mentioned that he batted mostly in the lower middle order. If you look at the number of runs he has scored with the tail-enders (which is missing in the analysis), I think the numbers will speak of themselves. I remember Laxman was unbeaten till the end of the innings much more times than RD or even the great SRT. It is hard to find a perfect replacement for him. [[ That work required a special program and I could not fit it into the timeframe available. Will do that and post the numbers. Ananth: ]]