“I couldn’t stop smiling. I just couldn’t. The coach’s words were music to my ears. Venkatesh Prasad and I had just returned to the pavilion. Australia having us bowled out for 171 in under 60 overs and asked us to follow-on. I was the last man dismissed, and had just sat to remove my pads when a friendly hand came to rest lightly on my shoulder.
‘Don’t take your pads off, Lax’. ‘Oh! Why, John? ‘You are going at No. 3.’
My mind went blank. It took a few seconds for the message to sink in. That’s when the smile surfaced.
VVS Laxman starts off with these first few lines in his autobiography 281 and Beyond (penned by R Kaushik). It was a very, very special knock. He aptly named his book after that historic 281 against the mighty Australian at his favourite ground, Eden Gardens, in 2001. But, it was a game-changing knock. It changed the destiny of Indian cricket. “I had made 281, in a crisis, with our backs to the wall, and put the team in a position from where we could expect to pull off a win against all odds. Isn’t that what you play the game for?’’
That is VVS for you. A wristy batsman who scored against the any kind of bowling, Laxman played over a hundred Tests to aggregate more than 8,000 runs. A soft-spoken man, who distanced himself from controversies, the stylish Hyderabadi batsman has reeled off his numerous experiences from league cricket to international level.
The ups and downs he went through, sometimes very painful, like when he decided never to open for India again or when he was not considered for the 2007 World Cup or when he decided to quit the game. He has kind words – be it for his parents, maternal uncle Baba Krishna Mohan or wife Shailaja or coaches, who were instrumental in his fruitful and eventful career when he mesmerised his numerous fans with his magical batting.
In this book, Laxman writes about the dressing room meltdown, the nuances of batting in different formats, learning from John Wright and the rocky times under Greg Chappell. For a small change from his usual ‘not to belittle or harm others’, Laxman was critical of the Australian Chappell who he thought caused instability while being in charge of the Indian team. He even says a fellow Australian Greg Blewett had warned him of Chappell being the coach. “He (Greg) was brusque and abrasive, highly opinionated and rigid in his thinking.’’
A strokeful batsman himself, Laxman reveals how he was successful in Australia where the conditions were challenging. “… when I played in Australia, I felt every innings was an opportunity to exhibit my talent. I loved their attacking style, I relished the quick outfields that provided value for shots even on the vast grounds. I thrived on the pace and bounce that didn’t require me to generate my own power.’’
For his numerous fans, the book could help them go down the memory lane along with this gentleman-cricketer.
Title: 281 and beyond
Penned by: R Kaushik
Publication: Westland Publication
Price: Rs 699