Posted by: tootingtrumpet | October 6, 2010

VVS Laxman – An appreciation

The wrists, the wrists, the wrists…

“Ah son, but you should have seen VVS Laxman bat. They don’t make them like that any more.”

I’ll be saying that to my grandchildren, but, if truth be told, were VVS to retire tomorrow, I’ll be saying it to my children, because he is the last of a species, driven to extinction by the twin assaults of power-hitting bats and Twenty20 cricket. VVS Laxman has taken guard for India 271 times in Tests and ODIs hitting just 8 sixes, as many as Brendon McCullum hit in one Twenty20 match in February. His nearest comparator playing today, Mahela Jayawardene, has played one fewer Test, but hit over ten times as many sixes in those matches. VVS is one of a kind – and the last one too.

So what is all the fuss about? It’s hard to put into words – the commentators at Testmatchsofa.com were reduced to groaning as if they were dubbing soft porn, rather than describing a run chase at Mohali. It may be easier to say what VVS is not. Though he barely uses his feet, he is no Trescothick, standing up straight to smash the cover off the ball; though his wrists can direct any ball to anywhere on the field, he is no Eoin Morgan, finding gaps and scampering ones and twos; though he has the balance of a Mark Waugh, the technique is individual, not classical; though he scores runs quickly and in volume, he is neither a Virender Sehwag nor a Sachin Tendulkar.

The two characteristics that mark VVS as unique are the utterly effortless transfer of weight backwards and forwards through the crease that allows the sweetest possible timing as the wrists break just sufficiently to send the ball through the in-field gaps. Only two men have ever come close to VVS in their capacity to hit the ball exactly when (and therefore where) they want to in my time watching cricket – David Gower and Brian Lara (though he favoured power later in his career). The second characteristic, almost impossibly residing in the same man as a technique dependent on the tiny fractions of a second in which the ball approaches and hits the bat, is the ability to make runs in Test cricket’s hottest cauldrons. Has any batsman ever played better against top class bowling when his country needed it most? And within a month of his 36th birthday, VVS has done it again – twice in two Tests – to square a series in Sri Lanka and to guarantee retention of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Chandigarh.

When VVS retires, he will be bracketed with Tendulkar and Dravid as the great Indian batsmen of their generation (they have played 101 Tests together after all) and will be positioned a notch below both of them – VVS’s numbers are nowhere near either of those giants’. But there will be run machines in the future of whom you will say, “He’s like Tendulkar, this bloke” and orthodoxy given life of whom you will say, “He’s like Dravid, this bloke”. There will never be the opportunity to say, “He’s like VVS, this bloke”, because there will never be another player anything like VVS, so keep the DVDs under lock and key and pray youtube doesn’t go bust.

You can find the Tooting Trumpet at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.

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Responses

  1. Lovely stuff Mr Trumpet. He’s a weird and, as you say, probably unique batsman – simultaneously hugely unorthodox and utterly delightful to watch. The unorthodox ones are usually not too easy on the eye. I loved it when he got the arse with Ohja. It almost confirmed he was human. Thanks for blogging about this match. It’s been spellbinding and I’d been feeling that no one had been paying attention.
    Incidentally, massively impressed with Australia’s bowlers, particularly Bollinger. And much less bullish about England’s Ashes chances after this match, despite the result.

    • “I loved it when he got the arse with Ohja. It almost confirmed he was human”

      but then he apologized soon after confirming that he is divine afterall:)

      Nicely done Toots

    • Yes, the Aussies looked handy at times. I like Hilfenhaus a lot and we know MJ is dangerous if the radar is working. Dougie is an honest trier, but he needed to be out there at the end even if just to make Ishant think. Hauritz was disappointing, lacking the skills to make things happen. Not the first overseas spinner to flounder in India though. If Clarke and Katich cannot bowl at all, Watson becomes crucial to Aus and bowling 10 or so overs a day and opening is a tall order. Smith for North is obvious if they can trust him at Six – perhaps not with Hussey at Five and Clarke at Four.

    • Dement – it was great to see VVS so animated, much more so than when reaching personal landmarks. And he looked after the kid later, as you say. Decent bloke by all accounts and looks it too.

  2. If there was a player who had fluent wrists like VVS it was Azhar. Incidentally both were from the same city (Hyderabad).

    VVS has left some of the best bowlers in the world look completely clueless. He is one of those rare species – who continue to create masterclasses in timing and placement with calm audacity. A very nicely written tribute for the sublime cricketer.

    • elegant – Thanks for the kind words. Azhar was certainly as wristy as Laxman, but the ball was hit more frequently through the legside, with more of a whip than a stroke. That shot was his and Viv Richards’ alone before KP started doing it. VVS, I suggest, hits more on the offside, gliding rather than whipping or punching the ball.

      Of course Azhar was lovely to watch, especially in England, but his legacy is that awful bottom hand half pull off the front foot that crunches the ball through midwicket in one dayers. Graeme Smith does it, Luke Wright too and it’s sad that Azhar’s signature shot has been so bastardised.

  3. VVS has been an absolute thorn in Australian sides over the years.

  4. Hi…this is definitely one of the best articles ive read abt vvs ..ive been a huge admirer of his batting for the last 10 years and iam really happy to see him play like this…..like u said..there is no other player like him…….btw Mr Trumpet do you even believe laxman is more elegant to watch than Mark waugh and David gower ???……i certainly think so…but some ppl say iam biased :)

  5. David Gower – YES! Lara – No way! I am not even remotely suggesting Lara was any lesser batsman – just not in the same bracket.
    To me Azhar and Mark Waugh are the three men in this club of wrist masters albeit using it their own unique way.

    I still wouldnt consider David Gower in this club because he is a lefty – They have a god given lazy elegance in almost all of them good ones
    (Ganguly, WV Raman et al).

    Another unsung batsman with exquisite elegance is certainly Carl Hooper. I remember in my childhood staying througout the night just to watch him bat!
    Curiously, all these are gentle players – none of them were aggressive on and off the field and very sporting.
    Alas – if only Azhar knew he had enough money anyways!

    • Please add Saleem Malik to the list of supreme wrist artists.

  6. Excellent post, Toots. Thanks.

    I don’t want to talk about VVS’ batting because many better writers than I have waxed eloquent.

    Yesterday, I was watching some local news channel and they showed a brief interview with his family. Both his parents are doctors (VVS himself was a medical student for a while, before he focused full time on Cricket) and they were refreshingly humble about their son’s achievements.In fact, they didn’t talk about it as his achievement – “we are happy he is fulfilling his ambitions by doing well for the country.” His wife also talked about “playing his part in the win”. Gave me the impression of a very humble, and grounded family, with no starry airs at all.

    And then Shivlal Yadav (former India off spinner) talked about how, since the days of Ghulam Ahmed (Hyderabadi off spinner, India test captain and uncle of Asif Iqbal, the Pakistani captain), Hyderabadis have done well against Australia :)

    I checked the stats immediately, and yes, Ghulam Ahmed did have his best figures against the visiting Australian side (1955-56) at Eden Gardens.

    Coming back to VVS, I remember tracking his career from the early 1990s, when he was part of the Under-19 team and then broke into the Hyderabad Ranji team.He was talked about a lot, but did not do much in the first 2 years.It was another physician, Dr.M.V.Sridhar, who scored big centuries for Hyderabad. VVS made his first class debut around the same time as Vanka Pratap, a promising local batsman. However, even in those early days, VVS had some big scores against the visiting Australian Under -19 team. He soon left Vanka Pratap and Abdul Azeem way behind, and just like Azhar did a decade back, scored heavily in the domestic tournaments (Vizzy Trophy etc). I think a large part of his ability to ‘get into the zone and stay there’ has been honed in these domestic tournaments.Among the great Indian batsmen of the last two decades, VVS has easily the best domestic record. He has scored over 50 first class centuries, and 18,000+ runs, at an average of 50+ (need to check Cricinfo for the exact figures).

    I know this is a digression, but I want to share a link about another cricketer from Hyderabad, who could have been a great international batsman, but for the vagaries of fate. I saw this unsung player when I was kid, and at that age, rated him better than Azhar (proved wrong later).Mr.Laxman belongs to a similar genre of batsmanship, and I feel thankful that Laxman did not remain unsung.He broke into the middle order after some struggle and stayed there.

    Here’s the link about Saad Bin Jung, and in the comments you can see Saad and Harsha Bhogle trying to bury the past :)

    http://ramscricket.blogspot.com/2008/10/promise-unfulfilled.html

  7. Thank you for the kind words above and the link to the excellent piece about Saad bin Jung who sounds like another Vinod Kambli or Ambati Rayudu.

    Lara was not as aesthetically pleasing as VVS (who is even more aesthetically pleasing than even ME Waugh, DI Gower and Super Hoops – very good call) but Lara also had that timing that allowed the ball, bat and wrists to arrive in exactly the right configuration to send the ball where he chose. I didn’t see enough of Salim Malik, but he was better than Inzy, he must have been good!

  8. Very eloquently written! The fact that VVS still delights fans in an era where Indian batting headlines have been dominated by Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag speaks volumes about him.

  9. Great piece… came here via the link you gave on Dileep’s piece in the Guardian. Do have a read of the one I’ve written too – http://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/30975/VVS-Laxman.-Legend.

  10. Great innings, great batsman, great blot, Toots.

    • Or blog, even :-(

  11. gg – Blot or blog, I appreciate your kind words!

    ss – off to that link now.

  12. Superb post !! There is no possible way,we could get another VVS.I many times feel,he has been unlucky not to have stayed in the Indian ODI team.

    Also,Azharuddin,who Laxman said was his idol,was also an amazing slip fielder and wristty batsman in his day.I wish,he hadn’t disgraced himself by getting involved in match fixing.

  13. For years, I thought Laxman was a left-hander. Isn’t that odd?

    Really lovely batsman to watch. Mark Waugh is the other one that springs to mind, but he wasn’t in VVS’s class.

  14. What a fabulous piece, well written sans the hoopla!

    VVS amazes me in one thing. His uncanny knack of hitting the perfect deliveries racing to the fence without any effort, power or pyrotechnics. Many a time he appears to be playing under hypnotism, such is the gentle nature of his batting in an increasingly brutal game.

    And when has he not delivered when India needs him most? The perfect No: 6 to any World XI who can bat with any tail… Very very special individual!

  15. Laxman never gets the plaudits like Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag, etc get. But he is just as valuable player to the team as any of them in my opinion.

    He also probably won’t be remembered in the same respect as the above mentioned when they are all retired and thats a shame.

    There is not a lot more to be added to what has already been written. Except to say the one thing that really stood out to me at the end was his passion.

    The way he was barking orders and waving his bat at the No.11 and his runner showed just how much the game meant to him and how proud he is to play and win for his country.

    It’s rare you see passion like that on the cricket field these days.

    Sadly he is in that age bracket with Ponting, Tendulkar and Dravid. When they are all retired it’s hard to see who will take the place of these players in world cricket.

    • Maybe it’s because I’m an Australian of a particular age, but to me VVS is second only to Tendulkar as far as Indian batsman go. Dravid isn’t known as the wall for nothing. Sehwag needs more years under his belt before he overtakes Laxman.

  16. “There will never be the opportunity to say, “He’s like VVS, this bloke”, because there will never be another player anything like VVS, so keep the DVDs under lock and key and pray youtube doesn’t go bust. ” – Nice one!!

    Fortunately, I live in the era where I can watch live batting of laxman, dravid and sachin :)

  17. Nice post. What makes VVS special is along with being very wristy he can get big scores like at Kolkota in 2001 or his 160 odd at Sydney. I found Afghan equally elegant and he too has some great knocks to his name like at Jamaica and PE against Saff but unlike VVS didn’t make big scores.

  18. Anyway my blog on VVS and also on Zimbabwe’s cricket.

    Click Here for greyblazerr.blogspot.com

  19. Hey trumpet-liked ur writeup,interesting, watched the match on the streaming websites on my laptop at home -Wow, what a game…..loved it when Lax lost his goat at Ojha for that run out oppurtunity-the look on his face was priceless!!!-VVS is the rolls royce of the sport-somewhat like Mark Waugh. Test cricket rox….Keep up the good work man….

  20. As ever much enjoyed your piece and the comments. There are some fine shots of this wonderful batsmen with emphasis on the dominance of the top hand and the fact that he is one of that very rare breed – top of the handle players: http://downatthirdman.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/vvs-relaxman/
    TM

  21. great article.Every one praises tendulakr’s glory and others but not spotted the elegance of Laxman

  22. True. True. And very very fine Gary.

    • Thanks Kartikeya. Yesterday, I felt he was 196 short of what he should deliver when his team needs him most…

  23. excellent article ……

  24. A very good article about a man who doesn’t always get his due.

  25. Uday and Sandeep – Thanks.

  26. i have been a fan of the greatest artist ever born in cricket history since i watched cricket seriously..azhar,mark waugh,damien martin ,david gower and carl hooper were also stylish and classy.but i think against a tough bowling line up,under difficult conditions ,nobody else played as superbly as vvs laxman.the most important thing is that he repeated his match winning or saving efforts on a regular basis..great article trumpet..

    • Thanks sangeeth – I think you’re right about VVS’s delivery under pressure.

  27. Hi fab article on Laxman… However, you seem to have forgotten the silken wrists of Zaheer Abbas while drawing the comparisons (he was a predominantly offside player) and Damien Martyn (if it were not for the South African gaffe, we would have seen more of him)

    • Beautiful batsmen both – I’m preparing a post on balance and Zaheer Abbas’ back foot play will be featured. He and Majid Khan were magical in partnership,


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