Mumbai: V.V.S. Laxman spoke to The Telegraph for almost an hour at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel before leaving Mumbai for Hyderabad the other day.
The following are excerpts
Q Three months have gone since you’ve retired from international cricket. Have you, at any time, regretted it?
A (Smiles) No... I thought it was the right time to move on... I didn’t look at what I might have wanted, but looked at the bigger canvas, Indian cricket... We’re playing 10 Tests at home this season, which is a big number, allowing somebody with little or no experience to settle down. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, though.
But you’ve been comfortable with it?
Yes, indeed. We didn’t do well in England and in Australia last season and with both playing in India this time, initially, I did want to play against them. However, as I’ve said, I looked at the bigger picture. When the inner voice calls, you should listen.
It’s amazing that you’re still able to motivate yourself to play for Hyderabad...
That’s because I want to give something back to the game and to the Hyderabad Cricket Association, which backed me when I needed encouragement and opportunities.
What did 16 years of international cricket teach you?
Cricket has taught me a lot, top of the list being to respect the game... I owe a lot to my parents (Dr Santharam and Dr Satyabhama), who made me appreciate the importance of values, but cricket taught me much as well. I realised the importance of treating success and failure equally... To never get carried away and to never feel too low... Cricket built my character, taught me how to face adversities, how to share a rapport with teammates, how to communicate. The mindset of cricketers and sportsmen, generally, is very different to the others.
Your parents wanted you to join them in the medical profession...
Initially, they wanted me to become a doctor, but I ended up getting their support for cricket... My father told me never to forget that I should glorify the profession I enter, not the other way.
Did your failure in Australia last season hurt?
I was disappointed... Individually and collectively, we didn’t live up to the expectations... That tour was the last chance for quite a few of us to beat Australia in Australia, but we lost 0-4. We were a better side than the home team, but we let ourselves down.
Beating Australia at home would have meant a lot...
Absolutely... I grew up admiring Australia, wanting to play at the SCG and at the MCG... I used to be excited about the cricket happenings in Australia... A series win there would have been terrific.
Which was the first ground you stepped on in Australia?
The Gabba, in Brisbane, on the 1999-00 tour... We lost to Queensland, but I got a hundred on a bouncy track. It gave me a lot of satisfaction.
Sachin Tendulkar learnt a lot on his first tour to Australia, in 1991-92. How was your first trip there?
It was an eye-opener and I took on board the positive attitude of the Australian cricketers, even at the provincial level... Seeing their aggressive approach changed my mindset... I became a better cricketer after that tour. I remember thanking Sachin (the captain) for having asked the selectors to pick me. His word helped me make that touring party.
Is it a regret that you didn’t play enough of ODIs, that you weren’t picked for the 2003 World Cup?
You know, the day I decided to retire, I decided never to think of what didn’t go my way... I’m thankful to God for the opportunities and I cherish the chances I got. I don’t wish to think about what didn’t go my way.
What would you tell teenaged batsmen?
Set high standards and try to achieve them. Know what you’re passionate about and work hard towards it. Never give up.
Well, what separates the men from the boys?
Consistency. Nowadays, the opposition gets to read you well very soon... It’s easy to make a good impression at the start itself, but staying consistent over a period of time is challenging.
You haven’t been credited for having been part of a senior group (Sachin, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid) which oozed integrity and didn’t allow the match-fixing scandal of 2000 to ruin Indian cricket...
I was fortunate to perform in an era when we played our best cricket, at home and away... The results made people focus on the positives, not look at the negative headlines... We took pride in our personal and the team’s performances. We took pride in wearing the India cap.
What’s your take on that scandal?
It was very unfortunate... That Indian cricket has such a big following shows that episode is firmly a thing of the past.
But allegations crop up every now and then...
I’m not sure how to react... At times, a shot may look stupid, but the batsman has, in his opinion, made the best call for that particular ball... It’s unfortunate when allegations are made, when on-field performances get dissected and questioned. Cricket is a game where some decisions go your way, some don’t. Surely, you can’t give a different meaning to decisions which don’t work out.
Is there a message from you?
If you don’t respect your profession, the profession will, one day, hurt you... Education is very important, for it tells you what’s right and what isn’t the right thing to so.
Where do you see Indian cricket five years from now?
As a strong force internationally... This is a bit of a transition time and it seems to be going well... We have good batsmen who’re young, but I’m a little concerned with our bowling resources. We need to identify quality bowlers and look after them.
Won’t doing well overseas be the No.1 challenge?
Of course, it’s not that we can’t.
What are your plans once you’re through with playing for Hyderabad?
I’d like to set up a school and a sports academy in Hyderabad... Hopefully, the project will get off the ground soon. Also, I’d like to be associated with cricket. In what form, I can’t say right now.
The final one... There was quite a bit of controversy over your comment at the media conference that you couldn’t get through to captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the lead-up to announcing your retirement...
I didn’t want to start a controversy... That’s not me... I just stated a fact... When Dhoni came to Hyderabad (for the first Test against New Zealand), we had a lengthy chat and I realised I’d been calling him on a number which had changed... I didn’t have his new number. The media, however, made it such a big story... That hurt me... Dhoni and I share a wonderful relationship and I regard him as a very good captain. He’s inspirational, a special captain. His behaviour doesn’t change even if things haven’t gone his way. I saw that from close quarters in England and in Australia.