August 24, 2012

The man who brought thrills and hope

Laxman excited with his elegance, then he instilled a sense of calm. In between, he played the greatest innings by an Indian
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It was always "chik", that sound from VVS Laxman's bat when it met ball; a gentle sound, barely audible, a pleasant meeting of two otherwise antagonistic elements. And I often wondered if he would one day play a shot that made no noise at all, as if there were no protest from the ball. It was always like that, always "chik", never the more laboured, more demanding, "thok". No, that was a sound for you and me, for people who needed to muscle a ball, to discipline it.

Only once did I hear him go "thok", in an IPL game, when he was trying to heave a ball over midwicket. He was throwing bat at ball, like a painter of fine miniatures splashing colours, a sitarist playing the drums, a polite man raising his voice. It wasn't him. Laxman and the IPL were never friends, and you could see why.

You could also see why Laxman might have made a fine surgeon; gentle, precise incisions - they might even have been painless - and a sense of calm around him. Indeed, that was what it was thought he was meant to be, coming as he did from a family of doctors. When his parents were told their son could bat, when word began to spread that a kid was batting with a feather, they let him find his calling. But when the schoolboy came home, there was an earthworm laid out to be dissected on one of those trays biology students will recognise. He had missed school and his education was still important.

Early in his career Laxman was the strokeplayer, revelling against pace, standing up to punch deliciously through cover, or merely pausing in the midst of what others might have called an off-drive, or even pulling through midwicket. He did all that in an astonishing innings in Sydney a few days after the fireworks had announced the end of a millennium. It was one of the finest innings I have seen played against fast bowling: 167 out of 261, against McGrath, Fleming, Lee and Warne, with 27 boundaries.

The SCG might have made him feel at home, and it invariably did, but it had to take second place in his career to Eden Gardens, where he averaged 110 from ten Tests (at the SCG, a relatively more modest 78 with three centuries from four Tests). He made five centuries in Kolkata, none more celebrated than that 281, but there was another innings that was to announce the arrival of a man so light on his feet that he seemed to skip towards wherever the ball was pitched.

It was March 1998 and Laxman opened the batting with Navjot Sidhu (wouldn't that have been a priceless mid-wicket conversation!). He made 95 but that was the first time you saw him dance out to Shane Warne and play against the turn through midwicket; or rather against some perceived turn, because he was right where the ball pitched. And then, as if to pay obeisance to an old art, he hit the same ball inside-out through cover occasionally. It was as thrilling a display of batsmanship against spin as any you will see; a sneak preview, maybe, of what was to come three years later, when he played not just the finest but the grandest Test innings by an Indian.

It was inevitable, then, to compare him to that other great Hyderabad batsman, Mohammad Azharuddin. You could see they came from the same school of batsmanship - wrists so supple and obedient that they diverted the ball into crazy spaces just when it seemed it was sniffing at the stumps. Their records aren't dissimilar. Azhar averaged 45.03 from 99 Tests to Laxman's 45.97 from 134. Azhar had 22 centuries and 21 fifties, an amazing conversion, compared to Laxman's 17 centuries and 56 fifties. Once he vacated No. 3 early in his career, Azhar batted at No. 5, which is around where Laxman gravitated to. But Azhar remained the athlete throughout, always light on his feet, whereas Laxman grew a little heavier and tended to, as Aakash Chopra recently pointed out, reach for the ball with his hands in the latter half of his career. Both were remarkably delicate of touch, though Laxman handled pace, and specifically bounce, significantly better.

And until the world of glamour and high-street labels entrapped Azhar, they were very similar people: warm, generous, god-fearing and extraordinarily humble. Hyderabad was like that in the '80s and early '90s; an unhurried city where commerce had merely a bit role, where people spent hours in each other's company and hugged warmly. In August 2012, when Laxman announced his retirement, it was done with the dignity of a man unchanged by commerce and opportunity, who continued to give freely. It was, if I may be permitted a bit of indulgence, Hyderabad as it used to be.

I often wondered if he would one day play a shot that made no noise at all, as if there were no protest from the ball

By 2001, Azhar had gone, in the kind of cinematic twist that nobody who saw him as a young man could have imagined. India needed reassurance, for the fan was hurt and felt cheated. A group came together then, a strong confluence of character, and shepherded India through. Sachin Tendulkar was the senior-most, only marginally so over Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath; Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, so similar in culture and upbringing, were finding their feet; and at the helm was Sourav Ganguly, a little more brash but his heart belonged to India. It was against this backdrop that the 281 was scored. On the 14th of March, two men of great pedigree put on 335 without being separated. India won the next day, when a callow Sikh took six wickets. India re-embraced cricket, and the shyest of that amazing group of cricketers was centre-stage.

The 281 was followed by spectacular cameos, and it wasn't till Australia again, in 2003, that he rediscovered his best. In December he made 148 in a memorable win in Adelaide, and then Sydney welcomed him again. On the 3rd of January 2004, he made 178. Then in coloured clothing but with similar finesse, he made 103 not out on the 18th, and 106 on the 22nd, both against Australia, and on the 24th he made 131 against Zimbabwe. That was his peak. To merely watch was to be aware that we were in the presence of rare beauty.

He never batted like that again, except maybe for the customary century in Sydney in 2008, when he made 109. The new Laxman was less thrilling, more restrained. In his last 51 Tests he averaged 51.36 compared to a career average of 45.97. He was more solid, more dependable; the lightness of touch was still there, the dignity unwavering, but he wasn't the fencer anymore; he didn't dart towards the ball. Instead, he waited for it, played more from his crease. Where you were on the edge of your seat before, you now sat more calmly. Indeed, he now brought hope where he had dealt in thrill.

And thus he played out his career, the moving ball posing more problems towards the end. It is inevitable, for the faculties must dim. The yearning for the touch, the lightness of execution, grew. Occasionally the ball would still kiss the blade fleetingly and vanish to the boundary, as a reminder of the artist we had in our midst. In India, where he recognised every accent, every idiom a ball could come up with, he could have given himself another year. He really did want to beat England and Australia again.

But it wasn't to be. A man of deep faith and integrity said he listened to an inner divine voice that told him the time had come. And we must believe him, for this is not the time to search for conspiracy. A career of a wonderful man and outstanding batsman is now behind us and it has left us with many memories to savour.

Laxman had something every cricketer dreams of: respect in his dressing room and in those of his opponents. And the opportunity to leave our game richer. It's been a mighty fine innings.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 20:37 GMT

    Further someone rightly pointed out that Laxman got bold too often against pace & was a total failure on fast tracks.........bcz he was a form player with weak defence & form is temporary class is permanent.................He could perform only on his day on flat wicket that day would come only occasionally.........The biggest flaw in his technique was that he would not come on front foot to full deliveries, would not cover the line of ball and would close or open the face (instead of pointing it to bowler) like Rohit (Nohit) Sharma does; making him a big candidate for bold

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    E.g in a 350 run chase top order batsmen scored 347 for 9 wickets and the last batsman Mr. L hits the 4 & team wins - All these Indians will think that Mr. L is the Man of the Match bcz he hit the winning runs & will overlook the batsmen who brought score to so close to wining score.......That Mr. L is Laxman...............If some of u remember Sandstorm Sharjah cup 98 qualifying game against Aus the selfish Laxman was there at crease when Sachin got out at 140 odd & Ind needed only 20 runs at 6 rpo to win but Selfish Laxman preferred remaining not out (to inflate his avg) over team victory & didn't even try any big hits he just blocked deliveries & remained NO.

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    Overrated inconsistent batsman with mediocre avg (& even that too inflated by a large proportion of NOs) whose low scores put pressure on other batsmen and rendered India lots of losses. In few matches in which he made up for his poor performance in first inn India managed to win ..............Laxman did nothing in 1st inn yet India managed to score 400 with efforts from rest of the batsmen. Now Ind need 220 in 2nd inn, rest of batsmen accumulate 150 and Laxman partially does his job by scoring 70 (whereas he was due 100 runs since he scored nothing in 1st inn) and Ind wins this appears like bollywood movie finish that all Indians like and they think falsely that Laxman singlehandedly won the game......huh......he was the culprit whose bad performance in 1st inn had made target stiffer in 2nd inn in other games he performs bad in both inn resulting in India playing with 1 less batsman (the Laxman zero batsman) hence India loses those games

  • POSTED BY pitch_it_up on | August 27, 2012, 17:56 GMT

    I was waiting for this article to come up Harsha!! This is a perfect tribute to a legend!

  • POSTED BY rnarayan on | August 27, 2012, 16:27 GMT

    Hi, my message got chopped. Most important, Laxman's criicket was the cricket of what in Hyderbad we called "tameez", Shukriya, VVS

  • POSTED BY rnarayan on | August 27, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Harsha, you captured it. For a generation who never saw Hyderabad cricket at it's best, in the'70s, you have provided the link, for Laxman played the cricket that Hyderabad once stood for. As Mumbai's was known for it's hard-nosed professional approach to the game, so Hyderabad was known for its emphasis on elegance and style, seemingly understated, refined, but in fact "in your face" arrogantly amateur. I was fortunate in my youth to play with ML Jaismha, Pataudi and Abbas Ali Baig. Pataudi and Baig learned much of their cricket elsewhere, but at heart their cricket was as Hyderabadi as was possible. With their retirement, Something special passed from cricket in the view of many of us, though Azhar was exquisite in his touch, to all appearances a Hyderabad cricketer. Laxman brought back that Something. Perhaps, he was not the classical stylist that Jai was. But, like Jai's, his batsmaship was beautiful, his cricket the cricket of discretion and manners, or as we say in Hyderabad,

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 10:04 GMT

    Typical scenario when VVS used to come for bat is 4 wickets down and India had to survive last one and half day of test to draw the match. He always gave hope to millions of spectators in such dire straits, that's the kind of reputation he had earned. Well written tribute by Harsha to great test batsman.

  • POSTED BY balajik1968 on | August 26, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    Nice tribute to Laxman. You have touched upon the romance between Hyderabad batsmen and the Eden Gardens. Sadly the romance has come to an end, with no Hyderabad batsman ready to take over. I thought Ambati Rayudu would take over, but I feel it is not to be. Personally talking about Laxman, I thought he was the Manna Dey of Indian cricket.

  • POSTED BY on | August 25, 2012, 19:20 GMT

    great article from a fellow hyderabadi,,,,,,,,,,his batting was poetry in motion, the green fields were his canvas for putting the elegant poetry on it.............a true gentleman................i think we will not see euch display for some years to come................first it was vishwabath and then came azhar and finally vvs.......

  • POSTED BY warneneverchuck on | August 25, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    To those who r taking Imran and all I would say that Sachin has more experience than Imran or any other cricketer at international level so he is best to decide abt retirement

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 20:37 GMT

    Further someone rightly pointed out that Laxman got bold too often against pace & was a total failure on fast tracks.........bcz he was a form player with weak defence & form is temporary class is permanent.................He could perform only on his day on flat wicket that day would come only occasionally.........The biggest flaw in his technique was that he would not come on front foot to full deliveries, would not cover the line of ball and would close or open the face (instead of pointing it to bowler) like Rohit (Nohit) Sharma does; making him a big candidate for bold

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    E.g in a 350 run chase top order batsmen scored 347 for 9 wickets and the last batsman Mr. L hits the 4 & team wins - All these Indians will think that Mr. L is the Man of the Match bcz he hit the winning runs & will overlook the batsmen who brought score to so close to wining score.......That Mr. L is Laxman...............If some of u remember Sandstorm Sharjah cup 98 qualifying game against Aus the selfish Laxman was there at crease when Sachin got out at 140 odd & Ind needed only 20 runs at 6 rpo to win but Selfish Laxman preferred remaining not out (to inflate his avg) over team victory & didn't even try any big hits he just blocked deliveries & remained NO.

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    Overrated inconsistent batsman with mediocre avg (& even that too inflated by a large proportion of NOs) whose low scores put pressure on other batsmen and rendered India lots of losses. In few matches in which he made up for his poor performance in first inn India managed to win ..............Laxman did nothing in 1st inn yet India managed to score 400 with efforts from rest of the batsmen. Now Ind need 220 in 2nd inn, rest of batsmen accumulate 150 and Laxman partially does his job by scoring 70 (whereas he was due 100 runs since he scored nothing in 1st inn) and Ind wins this appears like bollywood movie finish that all Indians like and they think falsely that Laxman singlehandedly won the game......huh......he was the culprit whose bad performance in 1st inn had made target stiffer in 2nd inn in other games he performs bad in both inn resulting in India playing with 1 less batsman (the Laxman zero batsman) hence India loses those games

  • POSTED BY pitch_it_up on | August 27, 2012, 17:56 GMT

    I was waiting for this article to come up Harsha!! This is a perfect tribute to a legend!

  • POSTED BY rnarayan on | August 27, 2012, 16:27 GMT

    Hi, my message got chopped. Most important, Laxman's criicket was the cricket of what in Hyderbad we called "tameez", Shukriya, VVS

  • POSTED BY rnarayan on | August 27, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Harsha, you captured it. For a generation who never saw Hyderabad cricket at it's best, in the'70s, you have provided the link, for Laxman played the cricket that Hyderabad once stood for. As Mumbai's was known for it's hard-nosed professional approach to the game, so Hyderabad was known for its emphasis on elegance and style, seemingly understated, refined, but in fact "in your face" arrogantly amateur. I was fortunate in my youth to play with ML Jaismha, Pataudi and Abbas Ali Baig. Pataudi and Baig learned much of their cricket elsewhere, but at heart their cricket was as Hyderabadi as was possible. With their retirement, Something special passed from cricket in the view of many of us, though Azhar was exquisite in his touch, to all appearances a Hyderabad cricketer. Laxman brought back that Something. Perhaps, he was not the classical stylist that Jai was. But, like Jai's, his batsmaship was beautiful, his cricket the cricket of discretion and manners, or as we say in Hyderabad,

  • POSTED BY on | August 27, 2012, 10:04 GMT

    Typical scenario when VVS used to come for bat is 4 wickets down and India had to survive last one and half day of test to draw the match. He always gave hope to millions of spectators in such dire straits, that's the kind of reputation he had earned. Well written tribute by Harsha to great test batsman.

  • POSTED BY balajik1968 on | August 26, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    Nice tribute to Laxman. You have touched upon the romance between Hyderabad batsmen and the Eden Gardens. Sadly the romance has come to an end, with no Hyderabad batsman ready to take over. I thought Ambati Rayudu would take over, but I feel it is not to be. Personally talking about Laxman, I thought he was the Manna Dey of Indian cricket.

  • POSTED BY on | August 25, 2012, 19:20 GMT

    great article from a fellow hyderabadi,,,,,,,,,,his batting was poetry in motion, the green fields were his canvas for putting the elegant poetry on it.............a true gentleman................i think we will not see euch display for some years to come................first it was vishwabath and then came azhar and finally vvs.......

  • POSTED BY warneneverchuck on | August 25, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    To those who r taking Imran and all I would say that Sachin has more experience than Imran or any other cricketer at international level so he is best to decide abt retirement

  • POSTED BY Nampally on | August 25, 2012, 18:45 GMT

    Laxman's batting was a poetry in motion. It appeared as though he was afraid to hurt the ball. So he glided it gently with slight flick of the wrist like the royal wave from Her Majesty the Queen - hence the "Chik" instead of "Chok". VVS also was the best ambassodor of the Hyderabadi culture reputedly matching that of Lucknow's!. From the reports I read VVS always highlighted the positives in a person & was personification of courtesy & grace. Even at his retirement he was as gracious as ever albeit emotional. These qualities are in addition to his almost a legendary status of being the #1 man to go to in times of crisis in the Indian batting. Being a cricketer from Secunderabad in my youth, I can say the state boasts of Ghulam, Jaisimha, Azhar & VVS. One unlucky great never gets mentioned is Abbas Ali Baig.He was every bit as graceful but you need lucky breaks to reach the top. VVS made it despite his silken manners. I wish VVS same happiness as he gave millions of Fans in Retirement.

  • POSTED BY on | August 25, 2012, 18:42 GMT

    An artist on another artist. Harsha Bhogle- The one cricket writer who's art so much resembled V V S Laxman's batting! His pristine and graceful prose on V V S Laxman's batting that carried the same adjectives!!!!

  • POSTED BY on | August 25, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    Harsha will always have the best to tell about VVS!

  • POSTED BY Nibsy on | August 25, 2012, 14:26 GMT

    VVS was brilliant player under pressure. His speciality was to play amazing innings which turned the match in his team's favour. This is a classic case of statistics not telling the whole story. I think I counted something like 13 innings where his contribution was the difference between winning and losing. On top of that he was great to watch and he played his best against Australia when they were No 1 unlike someone like Kallis who has never really produced it against the best side of the modern era. Don't worry about obscurity i will be telling my grand children what a truly special player he was in years to come.

  • POSTED BY spinkingKK on | August 25, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    For those of who comments that Laxman was only an above-average batsman and not great, only thing I can tell is this: I have never had a chance to see BradMAN play. However, I am blessed to have seen LaxMAN play. I don't care about the number of centuries he has scored. Because, there are quite a number of factors why someone can't score centuries always. However, to me, Laxman at his best is the BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN. Bowlers just have to dream of getting his wicket or getting the run rate down. Just AWESOME.

  • POSTED BY WickyRoy.paklover on | August 25, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    Its a high high time realy that jst a fairly average odi and reasnbly gd test playr z been considrd ''GREAT",N "LEGEND" BY a certain group of fans 4rm none othr than india,so one should nt b surprisd about al ths undue "hype" n "ovr.ratng",z it jst bcoz he had a 1 gd tour in 2003,bcoz othr than that,he doesn't have too much to show.I HAVE GONE THROUGH EACH N EVRY STAT REGRDNG HIM,SO ONE SHOULD NT DOUBT MY CRIC knowldge regardng him.

  • POSTED BY PKjena on | August 25, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    Congratulations Mr. Harsha for this extraordinary tribute to one of the legends of cricket. Laxman's batting was tantalizingly sublime, deceptively languid, and exuded indescribable poise and endurance. You write about Laxman - the man and his cricket - like a classical purist, a tradition that goes back to Sir John Frederick Neville Cardus, and CLR James and takes us back to a time where people, culture and character intersect, and life is so much a celebration of joy. It is such a delight to read this.

  • POSTED BY indianpunter on | August 25, 2012, 9:42 GMT

    yawn! another one where an "above average" cricketer is being elevated to a "great". Whats wrong with India and Indians. Laxman, by the time he called it quits, was well past it. Make no mistake, Harsha, and be under no illusion, the "inner voice" was Srikkanth !!

  • POSTED BY Kishor_shinde on | August 25, 2012, 6:13 GMT

    Awesome harsha just awesome......? Truly Respect is what comes to Dravid and Laxman, Always..!! It's really difficult to see these great legends retire one after another...:(

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | August 25, 2012, 5:12 GMT

    Hyderabad was always a great place for kinship. The groups hanging around even after the day is long over soaking in each other is unique in Hyderabad. I spent a few of my early years in Hyderabad,actually Secunderabad and noticed this. Secunderabad was all Army with tanks,trucks and soldiers lifting the morale of the civilians as it were.Hyderabad was different and I first saw the meaning of warmth and cordiality apart from brotherhood there. Cricket was a Nawabi extension with the churidaars making way for cricketing whites. But the way they played portrayed the class and culture that was distinctive. When Jaisimha walked in with his collar upturned and goodl looks,one knew one was at Fateh Maidan where big matches used to be played then. Azhar was the future. And when he made 3 hundreds in a row we knew that a star had once again risen from the Deccan. Laxman was probably the best of them. The one who would make comparisons of Amla possible years later. The original artist.

  • POSTED BY sweetspot on | August 25, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    Harsha in his element about Laxman in his. I was waiting for this. Cheers!

  • POSTED BY on | August 25, 2012, 4:46 GMT

    Harsha- I once posted the line on Facebook "I watch cricket to hear Harsha Bhogle speak" now i can even tell i login to cricinfo to read Harsha Bhogle's article.. You are a gift to cricket.. I am your greatest follower(rather religious in your language)...

  • POSTED BY SatishSalivati on | August 25, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    Well done Harsha! Fine tribute to a gentleman cricketer. One thing that has not been highlighted though is the same flair Laxman brought to the art of slip fielding. Probably one of the safest pair of hands in the Indian team, he made catching look very simple. The Laxman-Dravid partnership was successful not just in the middle but also in the slip cordon where they took some fabulous catches.

    Here's congratulating Laxman on a fabulous career and wishing him the very best for a great life ahead!

  • POSTED BY keecha on | August 25, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    Wow, Harsha. What a writing? The best I've seen in cricinfo till date. And some credit to Laxman for bringing this out from you. Like a kid that gets to write an essay on 'Diwali' rather than 'The Coconut Tree', the artist in you had taken a leap forward when you wanted to write about Laxman. Thank you for this. Enjoyed reading this as much as watching a Laxman drive.

  • POSTED BY warneneverchuck on | August 24, 2012, 19:43 GMT

    @al-bundy. Who is Imran khan to tell Sachin the man with longest cricketing carrier to retire. Sachin knows better than Imran when to retire

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    i will always pay any amount to watch two players in the world .... sehwag and laxman .... unfortunately m gonna miss him this winter in nagpur

  • POSTED BY santhoo24 on | August 24, 2012, 18:51 GMT

    @ Al_Bundy1 : Mate, I thought "VVS" and "Laxman" were/is one person. However I agree with you on Sachin's retirement. Yes he should have retired long time ago. with grace.

  • POSTED BY krishna_cricketfan on | August 24, 2012, 17:10 GMT

    @@ wc1992: I do not know how much Indian cricket you followed. If you want to point out greatness of Pakistan bowlers, that is fine. But not by putting Laxman down. Laxman has scored close to 9000 test runs and played enough match winning and match saving innings to warrant such an appreciative article. There are Pakistanis who do follow cricket and appreciative of this great Player.

  • POSTED BY SimplySoms on | August 24, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    Am a great fan of Azhar, but after all those match fixing allegations almost lost interest in cricket, but these fab four(Sachin, Sourabh, Rahul, VVS) again instilled confidence and bought integrity to Indian cricket. And with VVS playing i never missed Azhar. Now with these sting of retirements again the same void.... hope these new generation of cricketers again bring the same respect and interest in game especially in test cricket. Long live Indian Cricket

  • POSTED BY arup_g on | August 24, 2012, 16:43 GMT

    @Al_Bundy1 - Are you kidding me? Tendulkar has the right to decide when he retires himself and should not be forced. Yes Kohli may have a better start to test and ODI cricket than Sachin, but can he do it consistently for 24 years?! Perhaps! But only then can we compare the two in the same sentence? No one has ever done what Sachin has for Indian cricket. He alone brings masses to the stadium and TV screens - Kohli cannot recreate that! Yes, Sachin is clearly on the decline but with Dravid and Laxman now gone, his role is even more important to the team as a mentor to the youngsters. India need the right balance of youth and experience, and their current XI gives them that.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 16:38 GMT

    @Prachur Goel

    167 out of 261 was India's score he was referring to.Not number of balls.

  • POSTED BY Al_Bundy1 on | August 24, 2012, 16:22 GMT

    VVS and Laxman were good, but Pujara and Kohli are better than them at this stage in their career. That's why I keep saying - get rid of 10dulkar - he's a burden on our team. We will find a better batsman replacement for him. Already Kohli is better than him at this stage in his career. Like one of all-time cricketing greats - Imran Khan said - he should have retired on a high after World Cup 2011.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 16:03 GMT

    Well if writing is an art this definitely a very fine piece of work from Harsha. Anyone who is a true blood Hyderabadi "born and fore fathers from Hyderabad" will wipe a tear or two especially if they love Cricket as much as they love the city and read the next few lines ..

    "And until the world of glamour and high-street labels entrapped Azhar, they were very similar people: warm, generous, god-fearing and extraordinarily humble. Hyderabad was like that in the '80s and early '90s; an unhurried city where commerce had merely a bit role, where people spent hours in each other's company and hugged warmly."

    yes I grew up in 80s and 90s Azhar lived blocks away from my school and cricket life and importantly Hyderabad was very beautiful and very laid back not like the chaotic mosnter the so called "commerce" read "opulence without infrastructure" created. I guess all good things come to an end and Laxman's exit is one of them ..

  • POSTED BY 158notout on | August 24, 2012, 15:10 GMT

    In terms of elegance at the crease I would love a team with Amla, Bell and Laxman at 3,4,5. Not sure what the rest of the team would be, perhaps Gower opening. They would great to watch, especially on a baking hot day somewhere like Adelaide.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 14:47 GMT

    Ever since Laxman has announced his retirement i was waiting for your article on him. You have always talked about his stylish batting in most of your articles earlier and this was no exception. But i was waiting to read your thoughts on his career especially his last 50 tests where he provided such solidity in the middle order and was one of the prime architects of India's No.1 test status. Laxman will definitely be remembered for his achievements in the first half of his career but his rearguard innings over the last few years is something which very few cricketers can boast of. I am from hyderabad and i loved your analysis on Azhar and Laxman. Looking forward for your future writings.

  • POSTED BY Capt.Harry on | August 24, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    Great article Harsha..VVS was a first class timer of the cricket ball and always had the capacity and mentality to bat long innings.Hope he takes up coaching and pass on his amazing battings skills to the new generation. His elegance and timing will be surely missed...West Indian and Indian supporter

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | August 24, 2012, 14:07 GMT

    Laxman was a better batsman against high quality pace and spin bowling from a genius like Warne. VVS also had a greater range of strokes.Azhar was always suspect against short pitched bowling and used to hit out to camouflage this short coming.It was surprising because he honed his skills on matting wickets,the very recipe to master back foot play. He was excellent in playing the moving ball though as he proved in those innings of sheer mastery in England.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    Azhar and Laxman are legends of the game. Azhar was a superior batsman than Laxman in shorter format of the game. Also, Laxman was no comparison to Azhar when it comes to fielding. Azhar is the best fielder India has produced. Bhogle, missed this point in comparison. I wonder if Mr. Bhogle is just a touch biased here. Laxman may be a slightly superior Test batsman than Azhar, but overall Azhar was a superior cricketer to Laxman. Laxman handled the pace and bounce significantly better than Azhar, but Azhar could also play attacking game required in shorter format of the game. If you also consider Azhar's exceptional fielding abilities, Azhar is a superior cricketer than Laxman. I am not counting Azhar's leadership skills. Nonetheless, Laxman is the best Indian test batsman of the last decade.

  • POSTED BY intcamd on | August 24, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    He was the best #5 for India. Clearly belongs in the ATX1 for India, although most famously Bhogle voted for Umrigar (!!) and not Laxman a year or so ago when Cricinfo did all time X1s for each country. He has never been given his due, even less than Dravid and Kumble have been celebrated in relation to the accomplishments on the field. Today's India is all about self promotion and a me-me attitude, and meaningless personal stats (SRT) are accorded more respect than contribution to team wins. The man who contributed more to Indian wins in the last decade (which by definition is the most ever, because India never had as much off-shore success as in the last decade) was perennially in danger of losing his position and ultimately dropped disgracefully (he retired but let us call it what it is, he was forced to quit), while someone like Dhoni is reaping hundreds of millions without making one useful score in tests in Aus/Eng/SA.

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | August 24, 2012, 12:53 GMT

    Of the modern batsman AMLA is wristy and compares to Laxman. It makes us indians proud that AMLA roots are traced back to Gujarat India. I hope India finds a new wristy player of height , elegance and character of Laxman. I felt very sad when I heard Laxman had called it a day.

  • POSTED BY AdityaUpadhyay on | August 24, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    Harsha again a master piece, thing could be delivered none other than. Bringing in human touch & emotions to an article, only a true cricket lover you can do that.:)

  • POSTED BY AdityaUpadhyay on | August 24, 2012, 11:59 GMT

    I would slightly disagree. When he hit that majestic 281 vs Aus , he was promoted to No. 3 , but he didn't perform consistently , that is why Dravid was again promoted to No.3. IMO he was the messiah in crisis for India, but still consistency was missing in him & he failed the promises as a batsman after the majestic 281. he brought in a new flavor in celebrated Indian middle order . Ganguly - Fighting spirit, Dravid- Solid batting , Tendulkar - Master & Laxman - Elegance. I will still miss those flicks through those supple wrists on the off stump deliveries going just pass the umpire , boy that was poetry ...

  • POSTED BY wc1992 on | August 24, 2012, 11:24 GMT

    All i remembered of him is very few innings against Aus, in fact 2. And then him getting YORKED (clean bowled) by number of Pakistan bowlers ie WW Razzak , that maybe the reason not many Pakistani will rate him as high as indian

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 11:20 GMT

    Correction - He scored 167 in Sydney of 198 balls.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 10:56 GMT

    VVS was a master at playing with the tail and getting india out of many pressure cooker situations and leading his country to victory......thanks laxman for the memerising fare provided..........................

  • POSTED BY Kedars_DT on | August 24, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    Good article Harsha but why aren't you in the commentary team of India-NZ series ?

  • POSTED BY CricHarsh on | August 24, 2012, 10:39 GMT

    Amazing piece. A bold display of courage and restraint. Courage to face some of the difficult subjects of Indian cricket and restraint to steer clear of any controversy.In doing so, he has been successful in celebrating the achievement of an artist who would possibly remain underrated if a parallel of his craftsmanship is not drawn with the other stalwart of his school of batting. It is possible that on a spreadsheet of batting achievements, Azhar or Laxman may often get lost in the filters of average 50, total 10,000 or highest score 300 but those who have watched them bat know that cricket is not played on spreadsheets. Anyone who remembers the ball hitting Lax's helmet on way to his 167 at SCG would know what courage he promised to bring to Indian middle order.Indeed he delivered perfectly. The deftness with which Mr Bhogle mentions his average over his last 51 tests is a poignant reminder that he retired when he was still more than useful for the team at least for one more season.

  • POSTED BY harshthakor on | August 24, 2012, 10:37 GMT

    Arguably Laxman played genuine quick bowling better than any Indian batsman ever.At his best he joined the Tendulkars and Laras and was an outsatnding champion in a crisis.His partnerships with Dravid in Calcutta in 2001 and with Tendulkar at Sydney in 2003-04 will be written in the memories of cricket lovers for ever.

  • POSTED BY harshthakor on | August 24, 2012, 10:29 GMT

    Arguably more talented than any batsman of the current era who hardly did justice to his great talent.Laxman was one of the best batsman of all time in match-winning run chases.Since Vishawnath no batsman has ever been as outstanding with his wrists.No Indian batsman has ever batted as well in Australia as Laxman did in 2003-04 ,combining the tests and one dayers.Laxman's innings of 281 v.Australia is arguably amongst the 3 best innings ever and he twice participated in match-turning partnerships in Calcutta and Adelaide.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    Brilliantly-scripted article on the profound panache and elegant artistry of V.V.S.Laxman's Batsmanship.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    Wonderful prose! Was so engrossing to read as it lyrically summarized the entire career of a mightily "under-celebrated" cricketer. Harsha has great gifts as a writer and presenter. Its just a pity that we do not see him more often broadcasting these days.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 8:41 GMT

    Bear in mind the writer is also from Hyderabad.Although VVs's pedigree is never in doubt, perhaps Bhogle should have been a little restrained in his prose and the length of the article!

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 8:25 GMT

    I, somehow, have a slightly diluted opinion about Laxman. His defense was a major loophole in his otherwise sound technique. He has been bowled far too many times than any top order batsman in the world (and bowled comprehensively). The real disappointment, when he used to get bowled, was his expressions that tells you that he didnt get a clue how it all went. It might be that he received too many 'good deliveries' than his other counter-parts.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    Thank you Harsha for this brilliant article on VVS. seems you are man to fill up the void left by Peter Roebuck.

    What an amazing human and cricketer VVS is. Its been so hard to imagine Test cricket without him and Dravid. All of a sudden cricket seems to have a back seat with VVS Laxman's retirement.

    VVS thanks you for the amazing moments and great pleasures you have given us.. This was cricket to me so far...

  • POSTED BY cricketpurist on | August 24, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    "Dhoni not reachble to VVS" Dhoni not invited to dinner party by VVS tells me something else. i still can't imagine someone being rude to Ver Very Special person. How can you be so arrogant Dhoni we have seen enough of helicopter but we probably will never see a master class wrist work again.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    the writer is equally elegant as the batsmen...Brilliant article...

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    one of the best articles on one of the best cricketersindia has ever produced

  • POSTED BY ut4me87 on | August 24, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    Not enough was said about the Ganguly's captaincy and character. He was Indian after all the regional captains we had. " and at the helm was Sourav Ganguly, a little more brash but his heart belonged to India." I think without Ganguly, the great four would not be the force they were and Dravid scored most of his runs under Ganguly.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    What a waste article on such a great man.You write 281 was followed by cameos. 281 was great because he found support from Dravid, otherwise he would have made something like 167 as in Sydney. He made matchwinning cameos like 69* and 74 at Port of Spain in Indian victory and was highest scored in match for India.Against New Zealand at Ahmedabad he he made 104* and 67*, India followed on after NZ raked up 630.He made 65* against West Indies at Jamaica when India folded for 212. He could not do anything when he ran out of partners or was last out like in South Africa during his 96 at Durban in 2011 or 89 at Port Elizabeth in 2001.See that he was unbeaten or last out on many occassions. 5 instances have been given by me in this piece only. Remember he was last out in the magical Kolkata Test in first innings also.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    A batsman's love affair with the red cherry.....he will play it so late as to keep it close to himself as long as possible, and then stroke it so gently as if to say,"come back to me". Laxman has a dignity in his bearing which was entirely his own. Without meaning to compare him with the other greats of the game, the only two who come to mind from India are Azharuddin and Vishwanath when one has to think of batsmen who seldom made the 'thok' sound, and usually made music to the ears with their 'chik' sounds.

  • POSTED BY Vidyashankar on | August 24, 2012, 6:51 GMT

    One of the best articles on VVS Laxman with an indulgence of brilliance. I remember the VVS the aggressor in one his ODI innings vs Pak in 2004. I think India 20/3 and he came in and blasted Shoiab Akthar for 3 fours in an over not before Akthar mouthed obscenities and VVS responded with the bat.

    Apart from your brilliance reliability with the bat, India will miss your safe slip catching in the Tests.

    Saluate you VVS. You have done India proud with your great career.Best wishes for the future endeavors. Cheers.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 6:40 GMT

    but his decision suddenly confuse, why this decision in sudden, would have ended in newzeland series,great legend of cricket, especiall test series, his stle cannot be replaced by anyone..

  • POSTED BY Witty_Cricketer on | August 24, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    Thanks for the memories Very Very Special Laxman, @Javed I believe Hashim Amla might be a worthy successor to Laxman's empire of beautiful batting.

  • POSTED BY Emancipator007 on | August 24, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    Time to stop bringing in Azhar as he ran away from extreme pacers of WI (captain Vengsarkar was incensed during'89 WI tour) right thru his career, not to speak of his off-the-field activities .VVS had problems with extreme pace (Akthar,Lee,Pattinson), but never shied away from challenges. Looking back, Ganguly's elevation to captaincy then was a masterstroke after 5-0 combined losses to OZ and SA. History and most Indian fans though have not given him the same standing/kudos that Border got for being involved in a similar team-building process with much better bowling attacks.Just like Imran's teams never lost to marauding WI teams in '80s, so too did Gang's teams never lost to Waugh's over 2 titanic series.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    Vangipurappu 'Velvet' 'Silk' Laxman. To me his second innings 93 scored at Durban in 2010 was his best innings.

  • POSTED BY RThumma on | August 24, 2012, 5:30 GMT

    Kudos Harsha, what a fine piece you have written on Laxman, Azhar, Indian cricket and Hyderabad. You have connected everything to one.

  • POSTED BY mumbaiguy79 on | August 24, 2012, 5:21 GMT

    Harsha, you forgot the 73 he made in the 2nd innings of 1st Test at Mohali couple of years back when Aussies were touring. Shows the mental capacity of VVS. No one like him!

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 5:03 GMT

    Laxman's decision to quit marks the end of an era!! There are no wristy players in present day cricket and the ardent cricket fan will miss him for sure!! Hail Laxman!!

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 4:57 GMT

    Such a wonderful article on one of the most elegant batsmen to have played this game! Thanks Harsha for a perfect recall of a great career :)

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    Oh absolutely. He terrorised the almighty attack in his time and gained their respect.Hats off to you, you genius. Wish you luck in your future endeavors.

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  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    Oh absolutely. He terrorised the almighty attack in his time and gained their respect.Hats off to you, you genius. Wish you luck in your future endeavors.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 4:57 GMT

    Such a wonderful article on one of the most elegant batsmen to have played this game! Thanks Harsha for a perfect recall of a great career :)

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 5:03 GMT

    Laxman's decision to quit marks the end of an era!! There are no wristy players in present day cricket and the ardent cricket fan will miss him for sure!! Hail Laxman!!

  • POSTED BY mumbaiguy79 on | August 24, 2012, 5:21 GMT

    Harsha, you forgot the 73 he made in the 2nd innings of 1st Test at Mohali couple of years back when Aussies were touring. Shows the mental capacity of VVS. No one like him!

  • POSTED BY RThumma on | August 24, 2012, 5:30 GMT

    Kudos Harsha, what a fine piece you have written on Laxman, Azhar, Indian cricket and Hyderabad. You have connected everything to one.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    Vangipurappu 'Velvet' 'Silk' Laxman. To me his second innings 93 scored at Durban in 2010 was his best innings.

  • POSTED BY Emancipator007 on | August 24, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    Time to stop bringing in Azhar as he ran away from extreme pacers of WI (captain Vengsarkar was incensed during'89 WI tour) right thru his career, not to speak of his off-the-field activities .VVS had problems with extreme pace (Akthar,Lee,Pattinson), but never shied away from challenges. Looking back, Ganguly's elevation to captaincy then was a masterstroke after 5-0 combined losses to OZ and SA. History and most Indian fans though have not given him the same standing/kudos that Border got for being involved in a similar team-building process with much better bowling attacks.Just like Imran's teams never lost to marauding WI teams in '80s, so too did Gang's teams never lost to Waugh's over 2 titanic series.

  • POSTED BY Witty_Cricketer on | August 24, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    Thanks for the memories Very Very Special Laxman, @Javed I believe Hashim Amla might be a worthy successor to Laxman's empire of beautiful batting.

  • POSTED BY on | August 24, 2012, 6:40 GMT

    but his decision suddenly confuse, why this decision in sudden, would have ended in newzeland series,great legend of cricket, especiall test series, his stle cannot be replaced by anyone..

  • POSTED BY Vidyashankar on | August 24, 2012, 6:51 GMT

    One of the best articles on VVS Laxman with an indulgence of brilliance. I remember the VVS the aggressor in one his ODI innings vs Pak in 2004. I think India 20/3 and he came in and blasted Shoiab Akthar for 3 fours in an over not before Akthar mouthed obscenities and VVS responded with the bat.

    Apart from your brilliance reliability with the bat, India will miss your safe slip catching in the Tests.

    Saluate you VVS. You have done India proud with your great career.Best wishes for the future endeavors. Cheers.