Indian batting great VVS Laxman launched his book 281 and Beyond in Mumbai on Thursday. The event was attended by Laxman’s former teammates including Sachin Tendulkar, Ashish Nehra, Deep Dasgupta and Murali Karthik.
And with so many partners-in-crime coming together, the event transformed into a trip down the memory lane. The most special and amusing anecdotes were offered by another batting great Tendulkar, who spoke about the 1997 tour of South Africa, when Laxman fractured his finger.
“In 1997, when we went to South Africa, I was the captain and Laxman was in the team. I still remember he got hit on his knuckle in Johannesburg and he broke his finger. In those days dressing room was slightly different. He was sitting right in the corner facing the wall and hiding his face. I went to him to talk with him and his eyes were red. I told him, ‘Laxman you are too good a player. Injuries will happen, this is not your first or last injury.’ He had shown lot of promise on that tour and was an integral part of the team. I genuinely wanted him to stay back,” Tendulkar said.
“He was prepared to do everything, including taking injections to stay on the tour, where else I have heard many stories of cricketers who want to leave after watching the ground and conditions.”
Elaborating on the incident, Laxman shared what Tendulkar spoke to him and how it made him a stronger character.
“I was desperate to establish myself in the Indian team, I fractured my finger while playing (Lance) Klusener and I had to leave the tour. All the seniors came and consoled me that you are a good player and you can comeback but my dream was to be in Indian team. Sachin didn’t come. He came to meet me after everyone left. He looked at my kit, which had a photograph of Sai Baba, he said, ‘I am also a disciple of Sai Baba, you also are and those who follow him and are committed to the game, he never lets them down. I know you are disappointed but this is your strength’.
“He said, ‘there are lot of players who want to return from the tough tour of South Africa but you don’t want to go, you want to stay here and face the challenge’. The way he tapped my shoulder and the way he gave me confidence. He said, ‘never change this attitude because this will make sure that you have a successful career’. That was a great message from him,” Laxman revealed.
Tendulkar also shared an incident from 2010 when he had to sneak Laxman past a secretary to meet a doctor as the latter didn’t have an appointment. The incident took place in Munich, Germany where both the cricketers had travelled to see a doctor for their respective injuries.
“We were there for almost two days and the doctor was refusing to meet Laxman and I wasn’t even sure whether the secretary was even informing the doctor or not. So, finally I told Laxman, we have been waiting for too long, let’s use some other method. I decided I will go inside and tell the doctor an emotional story and then he will meet Laxman and it actually worked that way because the doctor was unaware of all this, I told him I have got a friend whose career is at stake and you have to see him, he’s come all the way from India to meet you, so he said fine bring him in, then I sneaked him in because the secretary was not allowing,” said Tendulkar.
Laxman was the one who revealed the details of the plan which both the cricketers hatched to see the doctor to treat a career-threatening injury.
“We tried first two days and nothing happened and then on third day Sachin got a wine bottle for the secretary but she wasn’t ready to listen at all. Then on the fourth day, he said as and when I go to meet the doctor you just come and stand behind me because the secretary won’t know as she had her own cabin. All I did was follow Sachin and the moment the doctor came, Sachin was like 'doc this is my friend Laxman'. And the doctor didn’t do anything, he was like 'Laxman go into the cabin' and the secretary was furious,” a laughing Laxman shared.
“It was an important treatment for me because when he saw my MRI and reports then he said if my treatment doesn’t work for you then I think it’s important for you to stop playing the game of cricket.”
Laxman’s injury in discussion is the one he suffered during the Mohali Test against Australia, where he made 73 not out to lead India to a famous one-run win.
A stylish batsman know for his use of wrists, Laxman produced numerous beautiful and match-winning knocks, but none can come close to his famous 281 against Australia in Kolkata in 2001, the knock which went on to transform Indian cricket.
At the event, Laxman recalled how he almost missed the match due to an injury and shared how much he loved playing that innings.
“I was not fit enough to play that Test match. Hemang Badani was there in the physio room, when I walked into (former physio) Andrew Leipus, who actually I feel because of him I was able to play the Test match. It was a great opportunity to go and just play my natural game. That Test match was important because I didn’t make runs in the first match (in Mumbai) and I played my natural game and didn’t really think about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen,” Laxman said.
However, the former batsman also added that it was his maiden ton in Sydney which made him believe that he “belonged to the international level.”
“The 167 (in Sydney) was a defining moment as far as I am concerned because that gave me the confidence that I can go and play against the best, irrespective of whether I am playing in India or in their own backyard and I belong to the international level,” Laxman added.