Quietly Laxman

Transcending team allegiances, VVS commands an eclectic fan club

V.V.S. Laxman played just one Test in Hyderabad but he never really missed the overindulgent adulation that comes with the home turf. That's because for over a decade, the cricketing world, justifiably, pampered him silly. Across continents, his runs were never regretted, his strokes never went unappreciated and ovations to his innings were never half-hearted. When it came to the genial man with grace, nationality never mattered — his or the fielding side's. For anybody who has ever attempted the complex task of perfectly connecting a bat to the unpredictable path of the ball, the effortlessness of Laxman's batting was both jaw-dropping and uplifting.

In that "golden generation" of Indian batsmen, rather unimaginatively labelled the Fab Four, Laxman was often referred to as the "quiet one". But those who saw a George Harrison in Laxman did not know their music or their cricket. The crudest myth, or the laziest verdict, about Laxman is that he remained unsung, hidden in the lengthy shadows of the towering batsmen whom he followed. Yes, he did miss out on big centuries as he mostly ended up batting with tail-enders, but no preceding ton by any super star had the weight to deflate a "Laxman special" or even outshine any of his sparkling strokes.

The uniqueness of Laxman's fame is its quiet, but overwhelming, seamlessness. His supporters aren't the banner-wielding, painted-body type. They don't need to be. Most times, when the freshly greased wrists were at work, the entire stadium, regardless of the allegiance, nodded collectively in disbelief. NRI fans never had to shout out loud to make a point about Laxman's greatness in their adopted lands. It was a given, a non-issue that never cropped in any "us vs them" debates. Avid Laxman-watchers, those who have travelled far and wide to follow the 16-year journey, vouch that they haven't met anyone who happens to be a Laxman-baiter. Not even Sachin Tendulkar has such global consensus.

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