VVS Laxman was a soldier in the guise of an artist. He used his bat as a paintbrush no doubt, but whenever India were in trouble it turned into a rapier, flashing magnificently and snatching glory. Team-man to the core, Laxman avoided mentioning individual landmarks and chose India’s rise to the top of Test rankings when Express asked him to choose his most memorable moment, exactly a year after his retirement. Excerpts of the interview:
At the time of retiring, you said the time was right to give the youngsters a chance. How do you assess their performance over the one year?
It has been very impressive. After a tough Test series against England I was really impressed by the way they played against Australia and also in the ODIs. It was good to see the youngsters grab their opportunities and perform when it mattered.
Would you like to single out anyone?
I was impressed with a lot of them, both in ODIs and Test matches. Virat Kohli has become a prolific scorer in all formats, Cheteshwar Pujara exhibited amazing temperament to be successful at the international level. Shikhar Dhawan probably made the most impressive debut by any international batsman and continues to play match-winning knocks even in the one-day format. Murali Vijay had a good series against Australia. Rohit Sharma has had a decent run as opener (in ODIs). Ravindra Jadeja has done well as all-rounder and Bhuvneshwar Kumar took his opportunities. We have a good crop of youngsters who are developing into quality international players.
How is retired life coming along?
It’s been quite enjoyable. I played some matches for Hyderabad , I do some corporate talks, had a stint with STAR Cricket as commentator in the series against Australia which I enjoyed and was the mentor of the Sunrisers. The travelling, has come down after retirement, so I get to spend more time with my family.
Which is more difficult, fulltime cricketer or fulltime family man?
They are different and also similar, in some ways. Different because being a family man is not a career, while cricket was a career and an opportunity to do something for the country. Similar because I loved the game like the way I love my family. And it’s great to be with the family and notice the small changes in your kids. Both are really enjoyable.
Which was the most satisfying moment in your playing career?
From realising my dream of representing the country to all the wins I was part of. But the highlight would definitely when we became the No 1 Test playing nation in 2009. While the process started in 2000, it happened in 2009. It was almost like winning the World Cup.
What do you think of our chances in South Africa?
It will be tough but I’m sure the potential the young Indian team possess will help them perform well. It’s a good move by the selectors to send a lot of batsmen who will be part of the Tests with the India A team which is touring South Africa now. It’s a great opportunity for them to assess the conditions and know what to expect in December. It’s going to be a big challenge playing South Africa in South Africa and I am sure it will be a great learning experience for a lot of them.
What do you think of the recent performances of our ODI team?
I am glad to see them play like the No 1 ranked ODI team. I was impressed with the way they focused on their game in the CT and to have remained unbeaten throughout the tournament speaks volumes of their talent. The way they played in the nail-biting final says a lot about their temperament and mental strength.
Do you miss playing cricket?
It goes without saying that I miss playing cricket. It’s something that I was passionate about. I started playing representative cricket from the age of 13 and retired at 38. When you do something you are so passionate about for 25 years and stop it, you definitely miss it. More than the game, I miss the camaraderie and the team environment. But I feel in the life of a sportsman you have a first innings and a second innings. I have finished my first innings and just started my second innings. There are other aspirations which I have and I am sure I will fulfill them. One of my dreams is to set up a school and sports academy of international quality.