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Laxman set to end innings

- Selector told VVS his place was not guaranteed after NZ series
VVS Laxman after his dismissal in the second innings of the Adelaide Test

Calcutta: A few days before the August 10 selection committee meeting, one of the five selectors spoke to Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman over the phone.

According to a top source of The Telegraph, the gentleman was unusually blunt: “You’ve served Indian cricket exceptionally, but after (the failure in) Australia, we were expecting you to quit...

“This committee doesn’t want to end your career, but there’s just no guarantee how our successors will act... So, it’s up to you.”

The R word wasn’t specifically used, but Laxman was clearly advised to call it a day.

Around 10 days after that conversation, Laxman appears to have taken the one decision which never comes easy for sportspersons. On Saturday afternoon, he’s expected to announce that his India innings is going to come to a close.

Till late on Friday, though, it wasn’t clear whether Laxman would retire after the two-Test series against New Zealand, in Bangalore, or after the first Test itself, in hometown Hyderabad.

Laxman, a veteran of 134 Tests and the author of one of the epic innings of all time (281 at the Eden, in March 2001), neither took calls nor did he respond to text messages.

There’d been speculation five months ago, when Rahul Dravid decided to quit, that Laxman was on the same track, but the majestic batsman gave nothing away.

Much to the contrary, when the Board held a felicitation for Dravid, towards the end of March, an emotional Laxman declared he’d “miss” his company the next time he played for India.

Laxman may have been hurt (a) by what the selection committee member told him and (b) by recent comments in the media, but the reality is that he wasn’t even a shadow of his self in Australia.

Given Laxman’s credentials, it was difficult to believe that he’d averaged below 20 in the four-Test series.

But, of course, we won’t remember Laxman for his failure in Australia. Rather, we will continue to raise a toast to the many wristy and courageous innings, from Sydney (167) at the turn of the Millennium, to the 96 in Durban (December 2010).

An astonishing second innings player.

Being overlooked for the 2003 World Cup remains the 37-year-old Laxman’s biggest regret. However, one hopes he won’t close his innings with bitterness.

That, after all, wouldn’t be the Laxman one has known (and respected) for 16 years.