November 11, 2010

'Nothing beats playing at home'

Fourteen years into his career, VVS Laxman is finally set to play his first Test in Hyderabad

As kids we all grow up with dreams such as scoring a century or destroying the opposition with the ball. An essential part of these dreams is the venue.

My first experience of playing in an international ground was at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. It was an Under-16 match but it was a phenomenal experience. To play in a ground which you see only on television, where Test matches are held, was plain exciting.

But nothing beats playing in the place where you grew up. You might ask, what is so special about playing at home? For me it is the familiarity.

Having said that, after having played at all the venues in India for more than a decade, many of them multiple times, the feeling is relative. Still, playing in a place where I was born and brought up, playing in front of my well-wishers, my mentor, my family, friends - to play in front of these people who encouraged me and were instrumental in me becoming what I am today is a very special feeling. I hadn't experienced that feeling all these years and so I was a little hurt, but now I can't complain.

The first time I watched a big match live in Hyderabad was in 1981, between South Zone and Keith Fletcher's England, Fateh Maidan (Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium), which was just a five-minute walk from my house. I sat with my brother and the family of my neighbour, who was a member of the Fateh Maidan Club, in the stands. A few years later I watched an India-Pakistan one-dayer from the corporate box because my grandfather was the chairman of Andhra Pradesh Sports Council. Those were the two big matches I watched live before I made my international debut.

I was always a regular at Ranji and domestic matches, right from my Under-13 and Under-15 days. I remember, one time Bombay came to Hyderabad for a Ranji Trophy match played at the Gymkhana grounds. It was the first time I saw Sachin Tendulkar in person. He was the talk of the country, having made his international debut so young. We kids were practising in the adjacent nets and I managed to take a peek at him and other stars like Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri, Mohammad Azharuddin and Arshad Ayub. They were players you normally only saw in newspaper pictures or on TV, and suddenly to see them in person was exciting. That excitement has always stayed inside me. It used to give me a thrill to be in the Fateh Maidan. Going there and soaking in the atmosphere contributed to my dreams of playing for the country one day.

Baba Krishan Mohan, my uncle and mentor, has always been an avid fan of cricket. He used to watch a lot of cricket and had seen West Indies and Tony Greig's England play in Hyderabad when he was a youngster. There were a lot of cricket pictures in his house and he had a lot of stories to narrate while I was growing up. He evoked a hunger in me and helped me achieve my goals.

For a visitor Hyderabad and Secunderabad might be twin cities, two different places. But there were no differences in the cricket in both cities. Like Mumbai has Shivaji Park, for us it is the Parade grounds, on which there are multiple matches happening simultaneously. During my days there were 14 wickets and it was chaos all around.

For me, the two most important grounds in addition to the Parade one were the Gymkhana ground and the St John's Academy. I was groomed here and realised my talent here, and it was here that I became the cricketer I am today.

The Uppal Stadium is new even to me, a local, but I'm more than eager to perform here. It is a brilliant stadium, and having played around the globe I have no doubt it is one of the best. Shiv bhai [Shivlal Yadav] has done a lot to set up this world-class venue, which has all the amenities. During the IPL games here, overseas players asked why the stadium was not a Test venue yet.

This match will be a test for both the venue and myself. I hope the crowds will come in in big numbers to watch. On the personal front, I have some unfinished business. Last time I played an international match in Hyderabad, it was against the same opponent, New Zealand. It was November 15. I had walked in to bat towards the end of the innings after Sachin and [Virender] Sehwag had scored a big opening partnership. I got out in single digits. But I have got a double-century at Uppal [224 against Rajasthan in the 2008-09 season] and I hope I can bring the same form to this Test. After the exciting draw in Ahmedabad it is an important Test match in the context of the series. If I can contribute in a win, it would be really special.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Munawar on November 13, 2010, 19:29 GMT

    Laxman is perhaps the best batsman in world right now. Gambhir must make way for Jaffer. It's time to get the country's best bat who is not in the team back into the team. Technically and temperamentally Jaffer is the most well equipped for No.2 position and is a much better option than Vijay in Tests. Dravid must retire now. He clearly is struggling these days. Time for him to bid adieu. Pujara must be brought back in. Raina must go. He is good for ODIs and T20s but doesn't have the technique or temperament for Tests. No, Yuvraj shouldn't replace Raina. Yuvraj has got enough Test chances and is good for ODIs & T20s like Raina. Rohit like Yuvraj doesn't merit a Test place either. Kaif deserves a Test chance provided Dhoni agrees. Kaif as a wounded tiger will grab the opportunity with both hands and could be a threat for MSD as a potential future Test captain. Else Badrinath merits a Test cap. Ishant needs to be brought back in the Test XI. He is a special talent. Ojha must be persisted

  • rajendra on November 13, 2010, 12:53 GMT

    Laxman u & viru can only make history, U r habitual 2 play under crucial condns. Keep it up!

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2010, 22:59 GMT

    The very best tribute to one of the most beautiful batsmen to have ever played the game. All those who like VVS, please check out the article @Navillus, thanks for the great link.

  • Mohan on November 12, 2010, 17:09 GMT

    Just wished he would get chance to play ODI again. We need a couple of some cool-minded, match-saving folks.

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2010, 14:47 GMT

    Like typical South Indian, Laxman is so modest, cool but as a professional cricketer, he deserves all the accolade given to greats! best of luck . Lurzan from Bangladesh.

  • sandeep on November 11, 2010, 23:40 GMT

    VVS laxman - cant decribe this man's credibilty in the team...really the crisis man for India at No.6. I dont think anyone in the history of test cricket has saved or even won matches for india at that position. He is a true master....not only he makes lotss of runs for India but also he iis simple,humble and polite cricketer. Other players go out of their way to make a name for themselves but laxamn lets his bat do the talking. Now he is playing in front of his crowd for the first time...may be he wil score a century or he might get out for a duck...this guy has done enought alreadyy for indian cricket.....go lax go and score a hundred.My best wishes for you...u make indian cricket look glittery b/c u r an absolute pure diamond.

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2010, 22:09 GMT

    He is the best player if the pitches are fast and seamers bowling to him.

  • Rahul on November 11, 2010, 21:00 GMT

    Come on Laxman, Sachin, Dravid, Sehwag re-write the history again......Go India Go.....

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2010, 17:03 GMT

    welcome to Hyderabad VVS... we shall meet at stadium on the D-Day...

  • Swapnoneel on November 11, 2010, 16:47 GMT

    i dream of watching laxman winning WC 2011 for India. i know its a distant dream, but who knows, finally the selectors might show some respect to give a chance to this player of great caliber to play a WC!!! had it not been the politics of ganguly and co, he'd have played over 250 ODIs to add to his 100+ tests. GO VVS!!! Make ur fans more proud of u!!!

  • No featured comments at the moment.