You know what, I’ve never really been a big fan of VVS Laxman. Maybe it’s because he started out as a test opener for the Indian team at a time when every every test opener sucked big time. I don’t think he did anything extraordinary for the next 2-3 years, moving in and out of the team as the selectors tested pretty much every Ranji opener out there for India’s top spot. And in my head, Laxman became an also ran.
Then, during the famous rout in 1999-2000 down in Australia, Laxman failed in the first two tests and was dropped from the one-day squad when it was announced. He walked out to the crease for the dead rubber knowing he had been dropped from the one-day squad. And he went on to score 160-odd runs at a strike rate or almost 100. The selectors made some adjustments and retained him in the squad and the thought stuck in my team – this dude is selfish, he plays only for himself, he scored a century only when he was dropped from the team.
After that epic partnership in Kolkata in 2001, I didn’t give Laxman much credit, he must have known his spot on the team was under question again, I thought. I just felt sorry for Dravid, whose talent wasn’t getting its due simply because it had been overshadowed by a this selfish batsmen. My thoughts over the next 10 years can probably be converted into a case study about ‘confirmation bias’ by a Harvard Business School professor. Every time Laxman played well, he had either been lucky or had been trying to save his own ass. The fact that his great outings were interlaced with failures in the middle gave fodder to my thoughts. Centuries came and went, he played many match-winning knocks, he’s been the nightmare of the Australian team for the past decade, but I had made up my mind in 2000 and it refused to budge. People started mentioning him alongside the names of Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid and a sarcastic, “yeah, right!” was all I came up with.
But it’s time to stop now. It takes something very, very special to to convert an outright critic into a fan and VVS Laxman has done that as far as I’m concerned. Today’s one wicket victory over Australia was the last nail to the coffin that buries my bias forever. He is indeed one of the greats of Indian cricket, he is someone who has actually won matches for us. He’s probably in the last few matches of his career and I’m glad I can write this before he hung up his boots. VVS Laxman is indeed very, very special.