Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo
VVS Laxman has spent almost all his career as the most disposable member of the team. He has one bad Test, and the knives come out. Fans and critics alike find Laxman's the easiest place to question. Thankfully, his team-mates and the selectors know his worth. Easily India's best batsman on bad or testing pitches, he rescued India once again, following his fifty in the first innings with a match-winning, series-levelling, flawless century on a tense final day.
"I have had it [people questioning my place in the side] since the start of the career," Laxman said, laughing. "I have started dealing with them much better. But what matters really is how the team feels about you. And there is no doubt that the team members feel how important my contribution to the team is. I really don't think [about] what the people are thinking outside the dressing room.
"Initially it was tough to play with that insecurity feeling. Sometimes I imagined that if [I had been] given a free hand, I would have probably got much more runs. But after the first four-five years of international cricket I started dealing with it much better and now these things don't really bother me. I have played more that 100 Test matches, which very few in India do."
Laxman has rescued India before, in more challenging conditions too, but he rated this as an important knock. "This innings stands out because of the situation we were in not only in this Test but also in the series," he said. "The way we came back and won the Test. The partnership between me and Sachin [Tendulkar] changed the momentum of the game. Very satisfying feeling. More importantly feels good for the team because we really worked hard during the entire tour."
Laxman had not only two good spinners and Lasith Malinga to contend with, but also the pain that the back spasms that he developed while fielding during the fourth day brought him. He got treatment on the field, took painkillers, but the medicines have limitations. They don't kick in immediately. He just had to forget about that pain.
"It was painful," Laxman admitted. "I stared my innings well, but during the partnership I had a lot of discomfort and the spasms didn't allow me to move freely. Once I was into my 30s it became very painful.
"It was difficult [the decision to ask for a runner]. You don't want to create confusion and also not break the rhythm. If you see, Sachin got out once I took the runner. But I was in such pain that I thought that the best decision in team's interest was to have a runner instead of just giving away the wicket due to pain."
It was an extra sweet feeling because at the same venue two years ago, Laxman fought pain from an injured ankle, scored a valiant 61 not out with the tail, but it proved to be agonisingly inadequate in the third innings of that match. He spoke more about playing in pain in this match.
"During the game I took a couple of painkillers," Laxman said. "Nitin [Patel, team physio] came and gave me a quick treatment. But I don't know how much the pills helped as it takes 30-40 minutes before the painkillers start to show their effects. But the situation and the importance of the game, sometimes supersedes your pain. Sometimes you just focus on the process and goal in hand and it takes you over the pain barrier."