VVSs badge of honour: Respect in dressing room & from opponents

It was always "chik", that sound from VVS Laxman's bat when it met ball; a gentle sound, barely audible, a pleasant meeting of two otherwise antagonistic elements.

And I often wondered if he would one day play a shot that made no noise at all, as if there were no protest from the ball. It was always like that, always "chik" never the more laboured, more demanding "thok". No, that was a sound for you and me, for people who needed to muscle a ball, to discipline it.

Only once did I hear him go "thok"; in an IPL game when Laxman was trying to heave a ball over mid-wicket. He was throwing bat at ball, like a painter of fine miniatures splashing colours on Holi, a sitarist playing the drums, a polite man raising his voice. It wasn't him. Laxman and the IPL were never friends, you could see why.

You could also see why Laxman might have made a fine surgeon; gentle, precise incisions, they might even have been painless, and a sense of calm around him.

Indeed that was what he was meant to be, coming as he did from a family of doctors. When his parents were told their son could bat, when word began to spread that a kid was batting with a feather, they let him find his calling.

But when the schoolboy came home, there was an earthworm laid out to be dissected on one of those trays biology students will recognise. He had missed school and his education was still important. He might have dissected it with a bat, it wouldn't have mattered!

Early in his career, Laxman was the strokeplayer, revelling in pace, standing up to punch deliciously through cover, or merely pausing in the midst of what others might have called an off-drive, or even pulling through mid-wicket. He did all that in an astonishing innings at Sydney a few days after the fireworks had announced the end of a millenium. It was one of the finest innings I have seen played against fast bowling; 167 out of 261 against McGrath, Fleming, Lee and Warne with 27 boundaries.

... contd.

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