Laxman backs young batsmen to step up
VVS Laxman, who rescued India with a sublime 85 to help them reach 201, backed Virat Kohli and the openers, M Vijay and Abhinav Mukund, who haven't done well so far in the series, and said playing county cricket will help young batsmen adapt to different conditions and hone their skills.
Twice in three innings Kohli has fallen to the short ball. However, Laxman believed Kohli would be the batsman to watch out for. "Today, it was unfortunate," he said. "Considering the bounce of the wicket, he expected that ball to rise more. It was an unfortunate dismissal. He is a fabulous cricketer and has improved as a batsman in the last two years. He has played well in various tough situations in ODIs. It shows he is improving with every match. He will be a great player to watch out for, a match-winner for the country."
The openers haven't scored much either. Vijay, who failed in the first Test, fought hard for nearly two hours before he fell, strangled down the leg side. Mukund fell early, unable to cope with extra bounce off a delivery that jumped from short of a length. However, Laxman didn't see any cause for concern. "We've got talented openers. Abhinav had an excellent domestic season and Vijay has always grabbed his opportunities. It's tough playing in the West Indies, especially on wickets that are usually damp in the first couple of hours on the first day. They are potential match-winners."
Laxman agreed when asked whether the youngsters would benefit from the experience of playing county cricket but wondered if the tight international calendar would allow them that opportunity. "It will be a great experience for a batsman to play county cricket. I enjoyed my time with Lancashire. But given the amount of time the cricketers are already playing, it doesn't give much opportunity. It will be great for a batsman because you get so many opportunities to play on different pitches, in different weather conditions and against different bowlers."
Laxman also praised Suresh Raina, with whom he was involved in a 117-run partnership to lift India from the depths of 38 for 4. "Raina has practiced a lot playing the short deliveries. You could see that in Jamaica and here. He has played two important knocks. He played positively when the chips were down. It was great to see the way he approached the innings."
The two batsmen didn't talk much at lunch, Laxman said. "That's the beauty of this Indian team. Irrespective of the situation, it's very relaxed. Someone puts his hand up."
Laxman reached 8000 Test runs during his innings, but rued the fact that he couldn't carry on to reach a century and take India to a more competitive total. "Had we batted on, we could have got around 250 to 300, which would have been a very good score."
It was yet another innings of substance in crisis from Laxman, who said such situations bring out the best in him. "It gets the best out of me, especially when we are in a terrible situation. The track was challenging and so was the situation. But I always regret not converting the hard work done into big hundreds. Still, I got into better rhythm especially after Jamaica."
Laxman felt the pitch had some venom in the morning session but eased out once the sun came out in the afternoon. "It was a difficult wicket before lunch because it was slightly damp. They were getting bounce. After lunch, the wicket eased out a bit and it was nice for strokeplay. Raina came out positively and changed the momentum of the innings. That partnership was important but I think we threw away the hard work done after lunch. "
While Laxman appreciated the 8000-run landmark, he said he could only savour it after retirement. "So many runs seem great once you retire. At the moment I am not elated. I was just disappointed not getting a hundred. Personally, it would have been satisfying had I got the hundred as those additional 15 to 20 runs would have got us to 250. The bowlers did well to get us right back in to the game. It is an evenly poised situation."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo