India news August 17, 2012

Laxman likely to announce retirement on Saturday

VVS Laxman, one of the go-to men of Indian cricket in the last decade and among the most stylish batsmen in recent memory, is likely to bring the curtain down on his international career. He expected to make an announcement in the next 24 hours.

Laxman has told his family and close circle of friends, including his long-time coach, that he was "contemplating" retirement after the two-Test series against New Zealand, which starts in his hometown Hyderabad on August 23.

"He said he was contemplating [it]," one of the Hyderabad Cricket Association officials, who spoke to Laxman, told ESPNcricinfo. Laxman admitted as much in this brief quote to The Hindu earlier today: "A final decision will be taken about the exact details of my plans by this [Friday] evening."

Definitive word was still to come, but it is understood that Laxman was pondering the right moment to exit: whether to retire after the first Test in Hyderabad or to leave it till the end New Zealand series, after the second Test in Bangalore.

The decision may come as a surprise to Laxman fans, because it was only last week the national selectors had picked him for the home series against New Zealand. But according to the official, Laxman had confided that though he was feeling match fit, he was getting affected by the increasing pile of critical remarks against his presence in the side. "He wanted to make sure that no one should feel that youngsters were being deprived of a chance because of him. He said he wanted to go on a high and not hear or read people saying he should go," the official said.

After his former team-mate, captain and friend, Rahul Dravid, retired from international cricket this March, the focus had shifted towards Laxman, who had endured two atrocious summers in different parts of the world - first in England in 2011 followed by another dismal outing in Australia, accumulating a sum of 337 runs in eight Test matches. Though Laxman had scored an unbeaten 176 in Kolkata during the home Test series against West Indies last October, concerns about his future remained strong.

Even as the pressure mounted on him from the outside, with commentators like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Sanjay Manjrekar, to name a few, labeling the selection of Laxman as a backward step, Laxman continued to focus on his game, with lengthy indoor sessions at the NCA in Bangalore after returning from Australia.

Incidentally Laxman made two centuries in a couple of competitive matches he played earlier this month: a 135 for Marredpally Colts Cricket Club in the Hyderabad league cricket in first week of August was followed by a stroke-filled 169 against Karnataka the following week in Mysore, in the Safi Darashah Trophy organised by the Karnataka StateCricket Association. "He was practising really hard and was very positive before the season started," John Manoj, who has coached Laxman from the age of 11 at St John's Cricket Academy in Secunderabad, said.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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