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Amol Muzumdar recalls his experience of three English summers with Laxman

VVS Laxman’s retirement from international cricket makes me to go into rewind mode.

In 1995, he and I set out to England to play club cricket in Yorkshire. It turned out to be a disastrous summer for us. At one point of the tour, we were close to tears. The cricket was tough and runs did not come our way with some Yorkshiremen being really nasty. It left us crestfallen.

Amol Muzumdar and VVS Laxman

VVS Laxman of MCC XI is applauded onto the pitch by MCC members during the Tsunami relief match between MCC XI and International XI at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 14, 2005 (inset) Amol Muzumdar. PIC/Getty Images

The next time we boarded a flight for another English expedition, Laxman suggested we write down our tour aims on a sheet of paper and swear by it.

“Seven hundreds each and let’s see who gets there first,” we wrote as our plane took off to Heathrow in the English summer of 1996. He ended up getting five tons with four coming in a row while I got six which was a record on the Yorkshire circuit.

What a guy!

Although we played a lot of junior cricket together, I didn’t make it big the way he did, missing out on that India cap.

Do I feel a touch jealous/uneasy/bad when I think of this fact? The answer is a big ‘NO’. ‘No’ because it concerns VVS Laxman. I have never met a cricketer as good-natured as him. I would have felt bad if it was another cricketer. We were also on the 1994 tour of England representing the India under-19 and after he scored a brilliant 119 against England at Taunton, Sandeep Patil, our coach/manager proclaimed in the dressing room: “Boys, a future star is born.” He didn’t look back after that.

Back to our club days in Yorkshire. He played for Pudsey Congs while I turned up for Windhill CC in the Bradford League, one of the toughest leagues I’ve played in. We rented a house and had a very stern landlord called Dunco, who would insist on keeping the burglar alarm switch on when we were out.

One day, I went to the gym and returned home only to find the microwave oven, television, stereo etc stolen. I called Laxman at his club and informed him of the burglary before facing up to a livid Dunco, who insisted we pay for the losses since I forgot to keep the burglar alarm on.
 

Tearful times

One day, I went to the gym and returned home only to find the microwave oven, television, stereo etc stolen. I called Laxman at his club and informed him of the burglary before facing up to a livid Dunco, who insisted we pay for the losses since I forgot to keep the burglar alarm on.

I spent most of that night crying since I didn’t have the money to pay up. I called my father in Mumbai and asked him to send us some funds. Laxman didn’t seem too alarmed. He just kept writing ‘Om Sai Ram’ on pieces of paper all over the house. ‘Laxman, you’ve got to do something more than just pray,’ I said.

The next morning, Dunco informed us that he was the one who took all the electronic stuff out of the house just to stress how important the security alert system was. To say I heaved a sigh of relief is an understatement, but I will never forget cool Laxman and ‘Om Sai Ram’

Being a vegetarian Laxman loved stocking up the fridge with chocolates that came in handy for him. But invariably his stocks diminished whenever Rohan Gavaskar or Atul Ranade came over while Laxman was busy batting for Pudsey Congs.

Laxman figured on my list of invitees for my March 10, 2002 wedding. I sent the card to his Hyderabad residence while he was busy playing for India against the touring Zimbabweans.

He didn't know about the posted invitation and so when someone mentioned to him about my reception to be held in the evening of the ODI at Mohali, he was surprised I hadn't invited him. He flew from Chandigarh after the match, stayed at Jatin Paranjape's place and came to the reception hall all by himself. I thought that was a wonderful gesture.

We rarely met up as he started playing regularly for India, but the above incident proves that he is a friend for life. Only recently, he spotted me in the corner of a hall during an awards function. He grabbed me and insisted I sit with him amidst his India colleagues.

I must credit him for his brave decision to quit on his own terms. This decision is another masterly whip from outside off-stump to the midwicket boundary!

As told to Clayton Murzello

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