Calcutta, Aug. 18: If life without Rahul Dravid was going to be tough, it will be tougher with no V.V.S. Laxman either. But neither could have played forever and, so, one had to be prepared for a massive change in the middle-order script.
Of course, it has come about rather abruptly as Laxman didn’t retire before the August 10 selection committee meeting, but this evening, five days before the first Test against New Zealand.
Despite being advised by one of the five selectors to quit, in the lead-up to the last meeting, Laxman didn’t. That he still made himself available meant he had every intention of playing out the two-Test series.
Apparently, according to a well-placed source of The Telegraph, two factors made Laxman review his position.
First, the realisation that “sentiment” played a huge role in Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his colleagues retaining him and, second, the “negative reaction” of some former cricketers after the August 10 selection committee meeting.
Laxman called Srikkanth in the morning, thanked him and the rest of the selection committee for “supporting” him and said he’d be announcing his retirement.
While some may question Laxman’s timing, days before a series he’d been picked for, he should be congratulated for not being swayed by hometown Hyderabad hosting the first Test. The temptation must, indeed, have been great.
Sure, Laxman could have done a Dravid, back in March, but to quit or not is an intensely personal decision and he had the right to choose the timing. Amazing wristwork or not, few always get it right.
While Laxman was fairly calm during his media conference, which was telecast live by many networks, wife Sailaja almost broke down.
Laxman’s extraordinary journey began in Ahmedabad, 16 years ago. After being in and out of the India XI till early 2001, he cemented his place during that memorable series at home against Australia.
Producing one of the all-time epics, 281 at the Eden, Laxman quickly became a middle-order gem (others being Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Dravid) and a favourite of Calcuttans.
Incidentally, with three having retired, Sachin is going to be rather lonely Hyderabad onwards.
Like Dravid, Laxman became a man for every crisis, particularly in the second innings. The 37-year-old thrived on challenges, so it’s surprising he didn’t wait to set right the failure in Australia.
But, as Laxman himself put it, “it was a very difficult decision” to reach.
He mentioned his “inner voice” and described it as “the right time to move on” and “to give an opportunity to the youngsters in home conditions”.
Laxman, a gentleman to the core, added: “I have left the game with the same ideals — putting the team’s goals ahead of my personal aspirations.”
The immediate beneficiary will be 25-year-old Suresh Raina. He’s certain to make the XI now, instead of sitting in the dressing room.
Always humble, Laxman made it a point (in his statement) to thank even his physical education teacher in school. The gesture says so much.
Till tonight, meanwhile, Srikkanth and Co. hadn’t named a replacement. They may not, as XIV remain in the squad.
If they do, one from among Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Subramaniam Badrinath should get in.