281 has changed my career, says V.V.S. Laxman

V.V.S. Laxman said that given the fact that the middle-order had been a very classy one with some of the greats in Indian cricket packed in it.

Laxman felt the 167 against Australia in the Sydney Test was more significant for him than the 281.   -  G. Ramakrishna

Former India cricketer V.V.S. Laxman reveals that his decision to give up opening the innings for India was the toughest call he had to take in his career.

Speaking at the formal release of his autobiography ‘281 And Beyond’ in conversation with well-known cricket writer R. Kaushik, here, on Thursday, Laxman said that given the fact that the middle-order had been a very classy one with some of the greats in Indian cricket packed in it.

“Yes, I was not sure whether I would play for India again with that very important decision for I knew the chances of playing in the eleven were very slim then and the only way to get back was by scoring runs heavily,” Laxman said to a query from the moderator and well-known moderator Harsha Bhogle.

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“Yes, retirement was also a tough call as you knew that you would be giving up something you loved (playing) and enjoyed for so long. But, again I had that feeling of achievement too at 37,” Laxman said.

“Well, it has been a great privilege to be part of the Fab Five of Indian cricket (Sachin, Sehwag, Ganguly, Dravid being the others). They were all different personalities but with one goal - to win matches for India. They had a sense of pride in whatever they did for the country,” he said.

Interestingly, Laxman felt the 167 against Australia in the Sydney Test was more significant for him than the 281.

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“First, it was very special being my first Test century and more importantly, gave me the confidence that I belong to the big league at the highest level. And, honestly, I was not surprised with my 281 for the season before that series the preparations both mentally and physically very good with Ramesh Sir (SAI athletics coach N. Ramesh) ensuring a different fitness regimen for the first time in my career. I was ready to bat for long hours at the highest level,” he said.

The formal release of Laxman's (third from right) autobiography ‘281 And Beyond’ in conversation with well-known cricket writer R. Kaushik.   -  G. Ramakrishna

 

“Definitely, 281 has changed my career and that of Indian cricket too in terms of getting the self-belief that we can beat anyone in the world and dream about being the No.1 team, which we achieved eventually,” he said.

Laxman also went down memory lane to the long walk with late ML Jaisimha at the IPCL Ground before a 1997-98 Ranji game against Baroda.

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“That was the phase when I was not thinking of playing for the country. I was not in sync. Then, Jai Sir took me away from the nets for a long walk and insisted just to enjoy the feel bat hitting the ball. Believe me, after the next 20 minutes, my rhythm was back,” Laxman recalled.

The former India stylish batsman also traced the words of encouragement from off-spinner Arshad Ayub (for whose club Ensconse he played in the HCA Leagues) to dream big and not just think of playing for under-16 for Hyderabad. “I mean, I was struck in awe when he cited the example of Sachin then playing for India at the age of 16 taking on Pakistan fast bowlers. That was a huge inspirational chat for me,” he said.

Former India left-arm spinner S.L. Venkatapathi Raju said that when everyone was in the pack-up mood against Australia in the 2001 Kolkata Test, only Laxman was told that India would win the match. “We thought was he joking. But, that is history now thanks to his epic 281. He always had that spark from early days,” he said.

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Former All England champion Gopi said he always followed Laxman’s success with a sense of pride that he is from Hyderabad. “We have that unique feeling of a fellow Hyderabadi, who is very special, scaling the summit in his sport,” he said.

Telangana Minister for Information Technology K.T. Rama Rao. who was on the dais along with Gopi and Laxman, felt that both the sportspersons had brought a refreshing change with their achievements and had shown everyone that Indians can compete against the best in the world and still succeed.

Laxman’s family members including his uncle and mentor Baba Krishna Mohan also spoke. “My only regret is that Laxman couldn’t score 10,000 runs and play in a World Cup, he said.

Laxman’s wife Sailaja rated the great cricketer to be the best son, better husband and father, even while mentioning she has rarely seen him bat.