Laxman: Money, fame not the right reasons to play cricket

Delivering the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture, former India batsman V.V.S. Laxman spoke about values of the sport, the different formats, and the need to patronise Test cricket.

V.V.S. Laxman..."It was the 1983 World Cup that first brought live television pictures to our household, and it is fair to say that I was hooked to the game for life."   -  PTI

A mirthful meeting between M. L. Jaisaimha and Dileep Sardesai at the Panjim Gymkhana, Goa, has made a lasting impact on V. V. S. Laxman, a 'union that took my breath away'.

Delivering the eighth Dileep Sardesai Memorial Lecture at the C. K. Nayudu Hall, Cricket Club of India, in Mumbai on Thursday, Laxman said: "Mr. Sardesai had come to meet Jaisimha Sir; it was a reunion that took my breath away. There was a constant buzz as the two legends chatted and laughed and exchanged anecdotes.

"What seized my mind was how positive, energetic and fun their talks were. There was no bitter memory, and no unsavoury episode recalled. It offered me a whole new perspective about what the game meant to these individuals and what lessons someone like me, in the early stages of my international career, could imbibe.''

Sharing his thoughts a little further, the stylish right hander from Hyderabad said: "It reminded me why we all play the game; for the sheer love, for the enjoyment it brings to us, for the camaraderie and the spirit of oneness it instills in a varied set of people. Fame, money and comfort will be inevitable by-products, especially in this era where for instant success, almost instant reward is guaranteed. But if fame, money and comfort are the only factors that drive us, then we are playing cricket for entirely the wrong reasons.''

After recalling what he had heard about Sardesai, as a technically sound batsman, a fine human being and a talent spotter and giving a chronological account of his career, Laxman turned towards a large black and white picture of Sardesai executing a late cut and said: "They say a picture is worth a thousand words; yes, very true. This famous photograph playing the late cut speaks volumes about his batting skills and style. The word ‘wristy’ has also often come into the equation and it has always brought a humble smile on my lips. I have found one tangible connection with Mr. Sardesai, and for that, I am grateful.''

'Little Gavaskar'

Laxman was only eight and half years old when India won the 1983 World Cup and since then, he said, he was hooked on to the game.

"Inspired by the deeds of the team which didn’t exactly enter the tournament as favourites, but surprised everyone by embarking on a memorable journey to the Lord’s balcony on that eventful June 25th evening, cricket suddenly became all-encompassing. It was the 1983 World Cup that first brought live television pictures to our household, and it is fair to say that I was hooked to the game for life.

"It was no surprise that I wanted to be Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. In our battles in the gullies, I would alternately be one or the other, but my friends used to call me 'Little Gavaskar' because I was not only small at that age and had a solid technique, but also because they found it very difficult to get me out. I am not sure what Sunnybhai thinks of this, but as a little boy, I got a massive kick out of being spoken of in the same breath as one of my heroes,'' said Laxman.

He added how reciting shlokas from the Bhagvad Gita had helped him.

Laxman also touched upon Test cricket, Twenty20, cricket with the pink ball and cricket under lights. "While as cricketers we enjoy every format, no format throws up the kind of challenges that Test cricket does over five days with the overhead and pitch conditions as well as the condition of the ball changing with the passage of time. It requires you to be on full alert for the duration of the game, especially in the sub-continent where the game might appear to be drifting for three and a half days and then dramatically, without warning, springs to life in a 45-minute burst.

"The Twenty20 version is a wonderful addition to our rich game, a concept that has revolutionised not just strokeplay, bowling and fielding standards, but also our attitude, approach and mindset. There is no scope for meekness or fear in the 20-over shoot out; if you blink, you will come out second best.

"This attitude has gradually worked its way into the longer formats and consequently, the aggression has led to a profusion of results in Test matches. All we can agree on is that the approach to batsmanship has changed. There is a greater emphasis on run-making as compared to occupation of the crease. But, despite that, there are the Dravids and the Pujaras who have the temperament and technique to bat like walls and are equipped to bat time, and display big hearts when their backs are against the wall.''

Laxman stressed on the need to keep Test cricket alive and thriving.

"I am of the firm conviction that we should do whatever is within our reach to ensure that Test cricket is popular and well patronised. Towards that end, taking Test cricket to newer, some would say smaller, places is a brilliant move by the BCCI. Admittedly this move shouldn’t just be a populist one; the new grounds must have excellent infrastructure, the cities must have top-class hotels, there should be no compromise on quality. And we will all agree, I am sure, that our new Test centres — Indore, Rajkot, Visakhapatnam, Dharamsala, Ranchi and Pune — meet these requirements.

"I am also convinced that day-night Tests are the way forward, but I must hasten to add that day-night first-class cricket is still a work in progress.''