Cricket’s ironic ways have been firmly established yet again through the retirement of VVS Laxman.
One cannot think of a controversy that the Hyderabadi batting stylist got involved in during his 16-year international career apart from the time when he was livid over being ignored for the 2003 World Cup (they picked Dinesh Mongia who scored 120 runs in six innings).
In the first five days of his international retirement life, Laxman has stirred up the spice in the Hyderabadi biryani, hot enough for the media to feast on at least till the New Zealanders leave our shores.
Wonder whether Laxman realised the impact his comment on how difficult it was to get through to his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to convey his retirement decision, would make.
Dhoni is entitled to his breaks and he’s not the first Indian cricketer to go ‘missing’. The next time we marvel at Captain Cool, we must also realise that proper unwinding helps a player to perform better. That said, the story about Dhoni not being invited for a party hosted by Laxman on Tuesday adds a twist to the tale.
Not being able to inform the captain about his decision to quit was a smaller matter as compared to him calling it a day despite being in the squad for the two Test matches against the New Zealanders. According to reports, Laxman was training hard in Bangalore and surely it wouldn’t have been for Hyderabad’s Ranji Trophy campaign.
At his press conference on Saturday, he stressed that he always listened to his inner voice and indicated that it was the case this time round too.
Laxman has been a great servant of Indian cricket. He has played the greatest three-figure innings by an Indian and his three consecutive hundreds at the Sydney Cricket Ground have gone unheralded. But to call his decision to quit (after already being picked) a brave one is being slightly presumptuous, simply because we do not know the REAL reason. Emotion did play a role though and he went off on his own terms.
Laxman needs to tell his story and hopefully will get down to working on his autobiography. Throughout his career he has been a sucker for a good read and people who have lent him books have enjoyed the pleasure of his appreciation. Laxman’s favourite book is Sacred Hoops by former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, who wrote about the combination of sports and spirituality.
He not only loved taking on the Australian bowlers. He loved reading books on Australian cricketers as well and it did not matter if they played in a different era. There’s a yarn of him and fellow Hyderabadi, the late M L Jaisimha talking about Ian Chappell’s Chappelli. Jaisimha asked Laxman which part of the book he had reached and the senior batsman told him exactly what to expect next in the book. When funds were needed to sponsor a book on Jaisimha after his death, Laxman got an automobile giant to under-write production costs. Jaisimha Uncle was that dear.
It is an Aussie — Steve Waugh — who probably paid the best tribute to Laxman during his playing days: “If you get Dravid, great. If you get Sachin, brilliant. If you get Laxman, it’s a miracle.”
Strangely, the Australian media have not found Laxman’s retirement an apt time to pay tribute. He gave them much joy and good reason to express themselves through cricketing prose. But above all, he played the greatest contemporary innings against their country.
A good series against New Zealand would have provided Laxman good amount of run fuel to tackle the Englishmen and then the Aussies against whom he averages 57.04 at home. Personally, he would have felt great to walk away in the sunset then. But even the best of men script their fairytale. Not even when you are gentle and gigantic; gracious and great.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor