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‘Very Very Special’ Laxman has called it a day from International cricket with immediate effect. It has been a long 16 years journey for him and even when there were famous players including Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid surrounding him, he still managed to stand on his own.
Laxman, a veteran of 134 Tests have scored 8781 runs including 17 centuries and 56 fifties, perhaps came into the prominence since the epic innings in 2001 series against Australia. Australia led by skipper Steve Waugh were on a roll and unbeatable but then that was before they faced Laxman. India, a match down in the series, were almost on the verge of losing the series at Eden Gardens. India, following on in the second innings, were down and it looked like in no time Australia would finish up the match. But then stood in their way was gritty Laxman who went to bat for nearly two days to score 281, the best individual score for India then.
He was up against the fierce bowling attack of Australia, comprising of the likes McGrath, Gillispie, Kasprowicz and Warne, but nothing could stop him. His innings saw India scripts an epic win in that match and that was one of the rarest occasions when a team down following came back to the win the match.
The innings became a part of cricket folklore and set a benchmark that hardly anyone could ever emulate.
That was the innings that changed the face of Test cricket in India and they just got better from and became one of the fiercest forces to reckon with. Laxman had a huge role to play in the India’s rise to the pinnacle of the Test cricket. The wristy Hyderabadi went on to play many great knocks after that magical innings at Kolkata and recovered India from dire straits on lot of occasions.
What Laxman would be most remembered for was his ability to bat in the second innings. Higher the pressure, the better he used to bat. He was one of the four players who formed the fab four of India along with Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly. These four helped India win many matches both away and at home.
Laxman did retire on his own term. He did not bid goodbye to the game amidst millions of fans chanting his names, teammates giving a lap of honour, rather he chose to call it a day and did not barter his dignity and honour.
With Laxman retiring ahead of the New Zealand series, it does give Indian Team to test all their option before actually going to play on a foreign soil. India would be playing at home for long time before going overseas and only then will the team actually miss his services.
India is vulnerable to fast rising pitch that was seen in England and Australia in the last season and barring Sachin Tendulkar no one has the proven ability to manoeuvre such kind of attack in the middle order.
The whole Indian batting suffered in these two tours and it one of those instances where Laxman failed. The poor run in the last two series and the criticism that followed was one of the reasons that forced Laxman to retire.
Indian team will not be the same ever again. With Dravid retiring after the Australia series, Sachin still had an assurance that he would have Laxman for assistance. But since he is gone as well, it would put immense pressure on the Master Blaster.
Indian selectors already battling to find a replacement for Dravid, will now be scratching their head over to find someone to fit in to Laxman’s shoes. But his shoes are too huge to be filled and hardly are there anyone in the current crop of players who could replace him.
Laxman who never bat at his favourite number three position but did exceptionally well at number five and has a phenomenal record in the second innings. He stayed calm during the intense of situation and delivered whenever his team expected him to. He carved a niche for himself in pressure situations and India will now have to find a player who would have same kind of temperament.
Anyone who has followed Laxman will know that every time Laxman was down he came back strongly and perhaps the upcoming tour we could have seen something like that. And he already starting preparing for the series but unfortunately he retired before that. Laxman played cricket for 16 years and he still had some cricket left, but then he drew curtains on his career creating a huge void in the team.
Replacing, who was inarguably one of the best batsmen in the fourth innings, will be a tough for India. The cricketing world saw many match winners but then everyone will agree to the fact that the crafty middle order like him comes once in a generation and can never be emulated.
By Samikshan Dutta Choudhury
Indian Sports News Network