Ranji Trophy Plate League 2011-12

The secret of Laxman's steel: Hyderabad

He may not be able to play for his Ranji side often, but follows them closely even when on tour and is encouraged by the upturn after they hit rock bottom

Sidharth Monga

December 1, 2011

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VVS Laxman drives through the off side, India v West Indies, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 5th day, November 26, 2011
While VVS Laxman has been playing match-winning knocks Hyderabad have been struggling © AFP
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"Yes, yes I follow them very closely. I follow them so closely I exchange messages with one of the coaches every half an hour and check how they are doing. Even now I know we are around 260 for 6, and we bowled them out for 147."

VVS Laxman is aware of events in Goa, even as he works on his fitness at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. Laxman is already preparing for the Australia tour, slowly starting to visualise the challenge, the Australia bowlers, the crowds that adore him there. An eye, though, always remains on how Hyderabad are doing in the Ranji Trophy. "I follow Hyderabad cricket, and I am very passionate about it," he says. "It's unfortunate I don't play for them that often but I really think a lot about Hyderabad cricket."

Laxman owes Hyderabad cricket a lot, and vice versa. It is not just the supple wrists he has inherited. He says he learned to play well under pressure because of his early days in Hyderabad. He was their main batsman when Mohammad Azharuddin was away on India duty, and he says he learned to be responsible for the team. Hyderabad, in turn, gave him seniors he could look up to, and local competition he could relish.

Because of the Australia tour and the BCCI's decision to send the Test specialists there early, Laxman can't play for his home side this year, but the phone rarely stops buzzing when Ranji matches are on. The past few years have not been an easy time to be a Hyderabad supporter. Last November, Laxman helped save a Test with a second-innings 92 after India had been 15 for 5; three days before that Test began, Hyderabad were bowled out for 21, the lowest-ever Ranji Trophy score. This November he helped India win the Delhi Test against West Indies with 58 not out in the second innings, only to watch Hyderabad fold for 54 against Maharashtra the next day.

Laxman is positive while talking about Hyderabad's match against Goa, which they eventually won on the third day. But Goa is cricketing backwaters well and proper, and that succeeding against Goa, and Assam before that, makes Laxman feel the state is doing "much better", says all that needs to be said of the depths Hyderabad cricket has plumbed. Two years ago they were relegated to the Plate League for the first time, and they seemed to have built themselves a home there with the dismal performance last year.

The Indian Cricket League had caused disruption - Hyderabad were one of the most-affected sides in terms of the number and quality of players lost to the rebel Twenty20 tournament - but Laxman sees deeper problems with Hyderabad cricket. "Even after the ICL players came back, we have been doing well only in patches," he says. "I feel that the quality of cricket while I was growing up was very high in Hyderabad. This is something that has to be addressed. The quality of league cricket has deteriorated to an extent where a lot of teams give walkovers, and they don't even turn up for matches."

The administration dropped the ball too, failing to retain the talented Ambati Rayudu, who went to play for Baroda after the 2009-10 season, something Laxman dubs "a huge loss; [Rayudu is] one of the most promising and talented cricketers in our country".

However, Laxman, ever the optimist, sees some positives this year, at least at the top level, despite the 54 all out. The two big reasons for that, he says, are the new coach - Sunil Joshi, the former India spinner - and the identification of a group of young fast bowlers.

"It's much better than two years ago," Laxman says. "The cricketers playing now are all young and eager to learn. Potentially, they could be very good players in the years to come. I am very impressed with the way Sunil Joshi has been coaching the side. He has done a fabulous job in terms of developing a bond within the team, and creating a positive atmosphere and environment for the players to excel in.

"That's very important. When the team is going through a tough period, it is very good to create an environment in which everyone can relax and concentrate on doing well instead of adding excessive pressure. If you do that, they will go into their shell. I am sure things will only improve."

A day after Laxman said that, Hyderabad made their second step towards recovery. They had followed up their innings defeat against Maharashtra with an innings win against Assam, and topped it up with one against Goa. "I was very impressed with how he [Joshi] reacted after we were bowled out for 54 against Maharashtra," Laxman says. "Still he maintained the positive attitude within the team. It was very critical for the team to bounce back, which they did against Assam. After being beaten by an innings and getting bowled out for 54, going into the next match and winning by an innings was a huge improvement. That showed a lot of character within the team. There are a lot of positive signs for Hyderabad cricket."

The young bowling unit has caught Laxman's eye. "[Earlier] we didn't have enough talent as far as the bowling is concerned," he says. "Even though our batting is strong on paper, we haven't been able to convert that into strong performances. Now we have a young group of fast bowlers who have been identified and also some young spinners. All these guys are performing. It's just a matter of time before we come back to the position we were in three or four years ago."

With one league match to go, Hyderabad are in the top two in their group in the Plate League. Almost assured of a spot in the Plate semi-finals, they are now one good match short of making it back to the Elite League. More importantly, if they can win the Plate semi-final, they will get to play the main knockouts too. In that case, Joshi, or one of the other coaches, will run a high ISD bill. Someone in Australia will be pretty interested in half-hourly updates.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by gi.gos on (December 4, 2011, 18:36 GMT)

I am Sure that till shivlal is Present in Cricketing Body (BCCI) rayudu is not going to be playing for the Indian Team.It's shame that we are about to loose a player of Rayudu claiber

Posted by khiladisher on (December 4, 2011, 13:32 GMT)

THE GREATEST SIGHT IN CRICKET-THE MAGICIAN VVS HANDLING A CRICKET BAT-THE STROKES THAT HE PLAYS AND THE ANGLES THAT HE PRODUCES INSPIRE AWE AND GASPS.WITHOUT DOUBT HE IS GREATEST ARTIST THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN.THE REASON THAT HE MOST REPRODUCES HIS ARTISTRY WHEN THE TEAM AND HIS COUNTRY WANTS HIM TO -IN PRESSURE COOKER SITUATION ENHANCES HIS GREATNESS.I WOULD PUT IN IN THE ALL TIME TOP 4 FOR INDIA ALONG WITH GAVASKAR-SACHIN -AND DRAVID. HIS 281 AT EDEN GARDENS CHANGED THE FACE OF INDIAN CRICKET AND FROM THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR GAVE US THE #1 TEST RANKING IN 2009-IT WAS A PROCESS OF WHICH VVS WAS ONE OF THE MAIN ARCHITECTS.HIS GREAT 4TH INNINGS RECORD ILLUSTRATES HIS PERFORMING IN PRESSURE SITUATIONS.WE CAN EXPECT AT THE LEAST 2 MORE YEARS OF GREAT BATTING FROM THE MASTER ARTIST.

Posted by Nampally on (December 3, 2011, 2:00 GMT)

@NevadaSmith:I recall Asif very well in fact we were team mates when Osmania U. won the south zone. But I did not include his name since he emigrated to Pakistan & did not play for India.He was extremely talented cricketer. What is so great about Hyderabad is its uniqueness in culture and mannerism which extended even to playing fields of Cricket - especially at Nizam college. This transformed to artistry and delicacies of shots- mostly wristy ones like VVS plays. I quoted the example of Jaisimha because he superimposed his own style on top of Hyderabadi Culture - such as stiff collar shirts when he played + pseudo American culture. Many had Jai as the role model. I am not surprised he is remembered to this day by greats like Gavaskar. I am sure VVS carries a lot of Jai's memoies, as a child watching him. Actually this is what the Hyderabad culture is because it grows in you where ever you may be.No wonder VVS give Hyderaqbad that credit & never forgets it.

Posted by phycri on (December 2, 2011, 19:26 GMT)

Shivlal Yadav is the main culprit for Hyderabad's decline. My is AS Yadav still in the team. He made sure everyone in his household has played for Hyd. He made sure some of the best talent has left Hyd.

Posted by laxmanrules on (December 2, 2011, 16:52 GMT)

Laxman, Kanwaljit and others took Hyderabad to the 2000 Ranji finals too. I think, this was the same season where Laxman scored a record number of centuries and Runs in the Ranji trophy to seal his place in the Indian team . Funnily enough, Hyderabad has the lowest and the highest Ranji team score too. Remember Rayudu scoring a century in the last game Hyd played in the elite league. Shivlal Yadav is probably the person to be held responsible for this decline and his handling of Rayudu combined with the IPL destroyed the Hyd side,

Posted by Percy_Fender on (December 2, 2011, 11:17 GMT)

I used to be in Secunderabad in those days when Jai and the others used to play.I cannot forget the elegance Jaisimha brought on to the field of play both in his cricket movements as well as his sartorial impeccability. And that walk itself created his aura and presence.There were many from the Hyderabad of those days who should have played for India and I never knew why they did not.One such was an Asif Iqbal Rizvi who used to open the bowling for Hyderabad. He migrated to Pakistan and played for them as a batsman who was truly brilliant. he was their captain as well.I remember how Sarfaraz had called Asif a traitor when Pakistan lost to India sometime in the late 70s or so.I recall Asif had this very open stance but played all the shots in the book.Hyderabad is not just about VVS. It has had a galaxy of greats who as Nampally says did not make it for reasons other than cricket.

Posted by   on (December 2, 2011, 4:46 GMT)

@Nampally...excelently said...

Posted by cricconnossieur on (December 2, 2011, 3:06 GMT)

From the peak of winning the Ranji trophy and Irani trophy in 87 and reaching the final in 2000, Hyderabad has not done anything of note in the domestic championships. With players like MV Sridhar, Kanwaljeet Singh, Arshad Ayub, Venkatapathi Raju and Laxman , this slide is baffling. The fact that Hyderabad lost many players to ICL points to a deeper malaise. Questions need to be asked about the HCA functioning and set up . Inspite of having a healthy league structure and a separate cricket stadium this lacklusture performance is unacceptable.

Posted by PMadhavarao on (December 2, 2011, 2:39 GMT)

Go !! Laxman Go!! Wishing you all the best in Hyderabad. Just one suggestion, please do not poke at out side off stump deliveries, make good judgment and leave them alone.

Posted by Nampally on (December 1, 2011, 22:04 GMT)

Hyderabad once boasted of excellent cricketer like Ghulam Ahmad, Jaisimha, Abbas Baig, Pataudi, Raju. Abid Ali, Krishnamurthy, Azaharuddin and VVS Laxman who all made it to Indian test team.Jaisimha was the most dominant, graceful & stylish of them all. He captained the Hyderabad team for nearly 15 years, was the Manager of the Indian team and a commentrator as well.Unfortunately because of politics Jai was not a regular player in the Indian test team, just like Abbas Baig - an excelent batsman. In this respect Azhar & VVS Laxman were relatively lucky to play regularly for India. Of course this helped VVS to show his talent and compile a huge total in the Tests which is next only to SRT & Dravid.Today he is labelled amongst the "Fab 3" and is the most dependable batsman in crisis. Eden Garden is his favourite ground, as it was also of Jaisimha,where he averages over 100 in Tests!.I hope VVS keeps the Hyderabad flag flying high with his heroics & wish him all the best in the OZ land.

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Tournament Results
Maharashtra v H. Pradesh at Pune - Dec 21-24, 2011
Match drawn
Vidarbha v Hyderabad at Nagpur - Dec 21-24, 2011
Match drawn (Hyderabad won the faster scoring rate)
Andhra v Vidarbha at Cuddapah - Dec 6-9, 2011
Match drawn
Assam v Maharashtra at Guwahati - Dec 6-9, 2011
Maharashtra won by 7 wickets
Hyderabad v J + K at Hyderabad (Deccan) - Dec 6-9, 2011
Match drawn
Jharkhand v Goa at Jamshedpur - Dec 6-9, 2011
Jharkhand won by 45 runs
Kerala v H. Pradesh at Kannur - Dec 6-9, 2011
Match drawn
Tripura v Services at Agartala - Dec 6-9, 2011
Services won by 6 wickets
More results »
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