Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Real Hero


So it’s all over. There was a feeling it was going to end soon, but I kept hoping it would be delayed. I kept hoping that he would play one or two more years. I kept hoping that the magic would be created once again. There would be one more classic innings, one more wristy flick. One more caressed cover drive…. Alas it was not to be. VVS Lakshman has decided that he has played his last innings in international cricket. The painter has decided to keep his brush away, the poet his pen. The ultimate sufferers though will be his fans.

VVS Lakshman was my hero. He was the cricketer who made me watch cricket. He was no ‘God’, he was a human being who did the unthinkable. And that struck a chord with me. I never wanted my heroes to be gods.  Gods can do anything and everything. A real hero is one who can do acts that are unmanageable, unthinkable for his peers.VVS often did that. He was a real hero.

In March 2001, the all conquering Australian team landed in India to capture the final frontier. My elder cousin sister was kind enough to take me to the Wankhade for the first test. It was a privilege to be at the Wankhade for those three days for there was some special cricket played during that test.  Tendulkar played two gems and Gilchrist and Hayden scored outstanding hundreds. Glenn Mcgrath bowled a fiery spell which included 8 maiden overs on a trot at one stage but the moment that I shall never forget took place around tea time on the last day. Shane Warne was bowling from the pavilion end and he had spun quite a web around the Indian batsman.  Young VVS was trying to break his strangle and proceeded to play three shots that I have never forgotten. When Warne flighted one outside his leg stump VVS non chalantly flicked him through mid –on. Next ball was flatter and quicker, VVS stood tall and cut him for four.  The master now bowled a flighted googly, only for VVS to drive him through covers. What batsmanship. What a player. Those three deliveries made me a fan of this wonderful player, and my admiration for him has only increased over the years.

To watch VVS in full flow is to enjoy cricket in its most beautiful state. The elegant and easy cover drives, the flick through midwicket and amazingly the flick through mid off. When he is batting Lakhsman is like a beautiful newlywed bride- you want to keep watching and savoir every bit of the beauty as you never know when it will disappear.

The test match after Mumbai, VVS produced 281. Everybody knows about VVS and 281. That 281 was special because it was made when his side was a test down, following on and 270 behind. That 281 was special because it made his team win a test match and a test series against all odds against the best team in the world. That 281 was special because it was made on a 4th day wicket against Warne, McGrath and Gillespie. That 281 was special because a failure in that innings would have meant that VVS would have gone back to the Ranji trophy. Quite simply it was the greatest innings ever played in the history of cricket.

Sadly, India and Indian cricket never realized his importance and never gave him due credit. In fact I cannot think of any Indian cricket that has been treated so harshly by successive selection committees. His place was constantly under scrutiny and the way he was dropped from the one day team was shameful. But this post is not about the exclusions- it is about celebrating a glorious career.

And make no mistake, it was a glorious career. Invariably, Lakshman had a major hand to play in a major Indian victory.  And so many wonderful innings. It is difficult to pick his best innings. It could be the 148 at Adelaide which was instrumental in an historic victory or it could be the 178 at Sydney where for two hours on the second morning he made Tendulkar look like any ordinary cricketer. It could be the match winning hundred he made against Sri Lanka at Galle or his 96 at Durban. It could be the 79 at Perth, 72 at Johnsonburg, 69 at Trinidad all which lead to unlikely and historic away wins. As did the 69 at Mumbai against Australia where on a dustbowl where the entire Australian team scored 94, it looked as if he was playing an inter-school match.

But don’t measure VVS in terms of statistics. Measure him in terms of his skill and ability. Measure him in terms of the joy he spread while batting. Measure him on the entertainment he provided. And you will find the VVS Lakshman’s greatness cannot be measured.

It is difficult to believe that I will never see him bat again. No more flicks, no more cover drives.  Life and cricket will never be the same again. At the press conference to announce his retirement, VVS in typical modesty thanked his family and his supporters who had helped him reach this land mark. He thanked his team mates and his captains.

NO VVS-Thank you. Thank you for bringing so many smiles to our faces. Thank you for making this beautiful game even more enjoyable. Thank you a million times.

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