VVS the name itself has become synonymous of style, grace, poise and most importantly dignity. God’s gifts to him are aplenty, but what he will be most remembered for is his dignified elegance.
Not that he held back on the 22 yards that mattered, far from it infact. His willow moved like a magic wand tracing breathtaking arcs and cajoled spherical leather to previously unvisited corners of the cricket field. Watching a single defensive prod from VVS gave more joy than a couple of hours of the modern bludgeoners. But the talent never affected his demeanor and nor was he ever in your face.
The game was his “calling” (or inner voice as he puts it) and he played it pristine purity , unadulterated by the hype and hoopla of marketing or the new age tendency to show an “attitude”. His selfless tendencies and big thinking have been in evidence many a time – Sacrificing the Number 3 slot, not charging a premium fee in IPL to help out his side Deccan Chargers, his attitude towards the youngsters in the team, inspiring tailenders, not crying foul over the injustices meted out to him and finally his dignified decision to quit, killing all aspersions of a “settlement” with the selectors for a fairy tale exit.
VVS is all about batting and we can let all other things be, like the great man himself would want.
His batting is modeled on the other genius from Hyderabad, Mohd. Azharuddin . He must have been inspired by the wristy style of his idol and the captivating strokeplay. The similarity is unmistakable. But while Azhar was a buccaneer and completely dependent on his natural instincts, VVS combined his gifts with wisdom and conquered all. Blistering Pace, Short Pitched stuff and Spin, all were dismissed with equal ease. True he was never the pure technician but he had his own special methods. He did not resort to stonewalling techniques, as he could easily rotate the strike with a flick of the wrist and release the pressure. There were times when he had to play defensively and save test matches but a closer inspection will show that he still managed to break the shackles more easily than others. He was the more dominant partner in all his partnerships and could outscore and outbat the likes of Sachin, Rahul and Saurav, when on song.
He has given Indian Cricket the most “Wow” moments in Test matches . Scripting a Houdini act at Kolkatta (281), Setting up victory on a treacherous Durban wicket(96), Batting with the tail to take India to an improbable win against the Aussies(73*), Combining with Dravid to set up the famous Adelaide win(146), a match winning 69 on a unplayable turner at Mumbai, chasing down the target at Colombo (103*) and the list can go on. His wonder was not in these achievements but the manner in which he achieved them. In many ways he is like the right handed version of Brian Lara without the exaggerated Caribbean flourish.
He excelled in counter attacking and back to the wall situations, especially against the premier opposition of the times – Australia. He has good averages against all nations but if there is one flaw it is that without such a situation, he somehow lost interest. It was as if averages meant nothing to him and that fair weather runs were a strict no-no.
He was at his creative best when he could essay the flick-pull off Bret Lee. Dance down the wicket to Warne and hit him through mid-wicket against the turn, hit a signature square drive against a speeding Dale Steyn , wrist a straight drive to an Andersen outswinger or caress the ball to the cover boundary against anybody. His slip catching also demonstrated his natural ease and is easily among India’s best.
India will miss his presence because such creativity is not common, it is in the realm of genius. VVS was between 2001 and 2009 India’s best test Batsman and was never called so. In many ways the opposing countries held him higher than our scribes would. It is laughable that he has been put under the scanner so many times.
As Steve Waugh has said, if you get Dravid -good, if you get Sachin -brilliant but if you get Lakshman, it’s a miracle. Given his character, I think Lakshman will not crave for the titles or grand recognition. It will matter to him that he is known a great batsman but he wouldn’t care where he is placed on the list.
Go well wristy Nawab, India salutes you and no one can deny you your status – LEGEND!