Monday, March 22, 2010

The problem of being VVS Laxman

(Also in Cricket Aakash; a version of it is in Bengali daily Ek Din)

How can anyone not like VVS Laxman? He is easily the most stylish right-hand batsman since Mark Waugh (I’m talking of sheer elegance and laid-back class here, Sachin fans). He has done more for India in the second innings of Test matches than even Rahul Dravid. He won India that Test match in Kolkata back in 2001! And of course, he is one of the nicest men you will ever meet. He is such a throwback to a much nicer, more beautiful era, that you want to back him no matter what.

And that’s why his entire career graph saddens me. Yes, he is feted as one of the greatest Indian batsmen ever. But only in Test matches. He just didn’t have Ganguly’s grit, Dravid’s fitness, Tendulkar’s all-round machismo or Kumble’s advantage of being India’s best bowler. All he had, and still has, is class. And elegance. And wrists that Madame Tussaud’s should build a wax statue of, leaving the rest of him out.

Now, one could ask: what’s wrong in someone being a Test batsman and Test batsman alone? Well, I’d be inclined to agree. I have no problem with anyone being a super Test batsman and a flop in every other format. To me, Test cricket is what it’s all about, and Laxman is awesome there.

But the problem is that Laxman has been trying his darnedest to be a one-day batsman over the years and now knows he will never cut it. He chooses to play the IPL, knowing full well that he will never be good enough for the format. Hell, he isn’t even a contender for a spot in the Indian ODI or T20 team – the IPL is far away. But he needs to play it. For the money. For the fame. And he is destined to flop, because he will never be good enough for it. Or bad enough for it.

And what this will do is reduce his glamour in the eye of the public. The more people see him struggling, playing stupid shots, attempting the impossible, the more they are going to devalue him. Obviously, he doesn’t deserve it. But at the same time, he does have the option to say no and walk away. Can he?