VVS had another generous helping of his favourite dish -Australian bowling and led India to a memorable test win. When in his element VVS is simply one of the most watchable batsman in the past 3 decades alongside the likes of Lara, Azhar, Hooper,Mark Waugh, Mahela and Gower. A superb player of spin and fast bowling alike, he is the supreme artist with supple wrists and unhurried elegance.
But its just not style, he packs a lot of substance as well. He has been India’s greatest batting match winner. With an average over 50 in the 2nd Innings of all tests he has played , he stands heads and shoulders above his team mates. In fact he is the one who ushered in India’s era of ascendancy. The incomparable 281 at Calcutta’s Eden Gardens got the wheels rolling. But he has been consistently playing match winning innings since then. However, he was always in the background, with Sachin, Dravid Sehwag, Yuvraj and Ganguly hogging the media airtime. The joke is that he hardly has any endorsements and did not even have a bat sponsor for a long time. A laidback, calm and dignified person , he brings all these qualities into his batting. He has played a part in all of India’s big victories especially against the Australians at their prime.
In 2003-2004 , the Australian’s admitted that they did not know how to get him out. He continued the form in all the subsequent series. He has played crucial match winning and match saving innings against most countries in most conditions. Without Lakshman , India wouldn’t have reached the No 1 status. True, everybody has played their part but Lakshman’s contribution is Very Very Special. I was really disappointed that ESPN Cricinfo did not choose him in the all time Indian XI middle order.
The Test match itself was a great spectacle. See – Sawing from one side to the other it had many great performances. Zaheer Khan’s Fiver got India back in the match on the first day after brilliant innings from Ponting & Watson. Paine and Johnson took Australia beyond 400 and India replied with Sachin’s masterly 98, Sehwag’s bludgeoning half century and Dravid’s errorless 77. With the first innings evenly balanced, Ishant Sharma woke up from the dead and an injury, to fire out the Australian middle order. Zaheer did the clean up job, to set up an exciting chase. India wobbled at 55 for 4 and 124 for 8 but as Rahul Dravid once put it – Nothing calms like Lakshman. He stroked his way to 73 from 79 balls with the wrists working overtime, much like his idol Mohd, Azharuddin. While others struggled on the pitch, it looked like he was having a stroll on the beach. Flick pulls, impossibly angled cuts, wristy off and on drives were on display at Mohali, the latest canvas for this modern Picasso.
Ishant Sharma took a lions share of the strike in a crucial 80 run partnership with VVS. His contribution with the bat was crucial i n both innings.
So close was the match, that even the bad decisions were evenly distributed. Hussey, Gambhir , Ishant were given dubious decisions and Ojha was not given out when plumb in front. But thats the way it goes and India can cherish a well deserved victory. I say, scrap the 3 One dayers and give us one more Test – lets have more of the good stuff.