Listening to Mentira by Manu Chao, it’s only fitting that I begin my humble ode to VVS Laxman with a confession. Truth be told, Laxman was not my favourite batsman in the Indian team. (Have I lost my audience already? I hope not). Being born and raised in Mumbai, Sachin Tendulkar is the man I feel most attached to; before that, it was Sunil Gavaskar, not Kapil Dev. (What to do, I’m an Indian and deep down we Indians are parochial).
Nonetheless, and this is no mentira (lie), Laxman was the world’s most gorgeous batsman to watch and he more than ably filled the huge void left by one of the game’s other touch artists I unabashedly admired for the sheer beauty he brought to the craft of batting: Mohammed Azharuddin. Now, it might come as an unpleasant surprise to Indian cricket fans, who, for obvious reasons, don’t think much of Azhar after his ill-fated tryst with match-fixers, but one of Laxman’s idols was Azhar. And it showed. For if Bruce Lee had fists of fury, Azhar and Laxman had wrists of steel. Okay, okay, I promise that’s the first and last time I am going to mention the much-used and abused word ‘wrists’ in connection with Laxman’s batting. Instead, let me quickly get to the thing I admire most about the great man, which, in my eyes, is what made him such a great man.
I first took note of Laxman when he floundered as an opening batsman and, as was my wont back then, quickly dismissed him as a journeyman. How wrong I was, thankfully. The next time I noticed him was when he did the unthinkable – no, it wasn’t that great knock, his first big ton in Tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground I am alluding to. It was when he turned down a chance to play for India, as an opening batsman. This was an unprecedented and most un-Indian thing to do. To demonstrate so much conviction in one’s own skills and be willing to bide his time for a place to open up in the middle order was a show of fortitude that I wasn’t used to seeing from Indian cricketers who are even now willing to do anything for a place in the Indian team. As far as I’m concerned, this is what I will revere most about Laxman. Admittedly, this might have a bit to do with my inability to say ‘No.’
Needless to say, now, and for the next few days, almost every one of his admirers will gushingly recall other more glorious achievements by Laxman; such as his epic battles against Australia, and against other countries in the fourth innings of Test matches. The latter is an area I have no qualms in admitting that my greatest hero, Sachin, comes up desperately short vis-a-vis the genius from Hyderabad. And I thank them all for bringing to the fore these unforgettable highs on this bittersweet day for Indian cricket and allowing yours truly to relive those magic moments. But achievements with the bat apart, there is one very important thing you can all pick up from Laxman. You mustn’t take anything and everything that comes your way. If you make the mistake of doing so, you will lose a bit of respect for yourself.
Fear not, say ‘No’ to the things you don’t feel passionately driven to do. Trust me, it will motivate you to work harder at what you love doing, which in turn will make you anmuch more confident person. If you do hone that which you love to do consistently and sincerely, like Laxman did (he quietly scored a magnificent mountain range of runs in domestic cricket after politely declining the offer to open for India), you can be sure your time will come, much like Laxman’s did.
The writer tweets @Armchairexpert. You can follow him if you’re into that sort of thing.