April 17, 2002

Promising start to Caribbean tour

Staff Reporter

VVS Laxman seems to thrive where critics least expect him to. At the Bourda Oval in Guyana, coming in after the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar, Laxman played a gem of an innings along with Eden Gardens crony Rahul Dravid, taking his side to a position of safety and, in the long run, participating in a partnership that would help India draw the Test.

Laxman's temperament sees sparkling cameos flow from his blade, but rarely does he take it further to push the opposition onto the back foot. Guyana was different. Cutting out several strokes that could bring about his downfall, an under-pressure Laxman spent quality time in the middle. He primarily grafted, but the wristy artistry was there for all to see, the timing and placement good enough to beat the field repeatedly.

He looked even better on the morning of the fourth day. With a notable absence of nervousness, tension and half-measures, Laxman took the bowling on, playing some exquisite cuts in winding his way to 69 (113 balls, 11 fours). But the Hyderabadi stylist once again fell to his bete noire, wafting outside the off-stump and presenting Chris Gayle at first slip with a comfortable catch.

If Laxman, however, can come up with more of the same in the Tests to follow, India will have a very realistic chance of winning their first Test series outside the sub-continent in 16 years.