A team-man for sure

“I don't want to sound boastful about my ability, but what really drives me in a crisis is the fact that I simply enjoy facing challenges. I am fortunate that most often I have been successful,” says V. V. S. Laxman in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

In a crisis, the stylish Vangipurapu Venkata Sai Laxman has rarely failed his team. The 35-year-old batsman, who has scored 7415 runs from 113 Tests, says that there is no better or more satisfying feeling for him than to go out and play the lead role in helping India either save a Test or win it. Not surprisingly his 16th Test century, against Sri Lanka in the final Test at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo recently, helped India level the three-match series and hold its head high.

“It was a special effort definitely. The team needed it and I responded; I am happy with that,” says Laxman in a chat with ‘Sportstar' on return from Sri Lanka.

Question: How do you come up with match-winning performances each time the critics write you off?

Answer: Honestly, I don't read too much into these comments. My job is to go out there and do what I am supposed to do — bat as well as possible. Essentially, I don't want to be seen as someone who never made an effort. There is no compromise in this regard. In terms of commitment, I can never be found wanting.

You keep doing this so consistently, whenever the team's fortunes revolve around your batting. How do you manage to do it?

I don't want to sound boastful about my ability, but what really drives me in such a situation is the fact that I simply enjoy facing challenges. I am fortunate that most often I have been successful in crises.

Even after having played 113 Tests, honestly, don't you believe that you are still on some sort of a trial to retain your place in the Indian team?

Not really, for in the final Test against Sri Lanka when I helped my team level the series, I was just doing the job that was expected of me.

So you don't think that somewhere down the line the ‘Big Three' (Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman) would be phased out of the Test squad?

Honestly no. There was never a hint in this regard. Never ever was there a discussion on this subject in the dressing room. All this unfortunate talk is only heard outside. Retirement is one thing that every champion sportsperson has to face in his life. Personally, I don't want to waste time by giving too much of a thought to this. My main objective is to keep doing well every time I get a chance to play.

Even after 14 years of international cricket (Laxman made his Test debut in 1996) you still retain the same verve. What motivates you?

There is no better honour for a sportsperson than to represent his country. Everything else pales into insignificance. It is a privilege and the biggest driving force for me even now.

Do you believe that you have got the recognition due to you in international cricket?

I am not sure. But whatever you people think, it may be in terms of popularity. That may be because I have not scored as many hundreds as the other two greats, Tendulkar and Dravid.

What is the biggest disappointment in your career?

Apart from not playing in a World Cup, probably my poor conversion rate after scoring 50s consistently in Tests. The fact that I have 45 half-centuries and only 16 centuries certainly hurts me. But again, the point here is that I play at a position where the chances are very less.

The 'Big Three'...Sachin Tendulkar (left), V. V. S. Laxman (centre) and Rahul Dravid at a practice session. "We batted in the best interest of the team... For us, the team is more important than any individual feats," says Laxman.-

Whenever there is a need to shuffle the batting order, you are the first one in the scheme of things. As a result you have played in more positions, from opening the innings to batting at No. 6. Does this hurt you?

Yes, it is a fact that I had to face a lot of experimentation. But, I repeat, I only look at each challenge as a big opportunity. Sometimes I may not have been successful. I never complained.

What exactly has been the secret of your consistency in the last 14 years?

My intense preparations before every major assignment and the desire to keep improving. Well, I may say that this has been the decisive factor for all three of us (Tendulkar, Dravid and me).

We batted in the best interest of the team. Statistics can never be a priority for us, for we always believe that once we keep performing, they (the numbers) will follow us. For us, the team is more important than any individual feats.

What makes Gary Kirsten so special as a coach?

Frankly, I had never seen the kind of camaraderie that prevails in the team ever since Gary took over in 2007. Every one of us is enjoying the game and helping each other. The whole team is relaxed but not complacent. That is the reason why I feel this is the best dressing room atmosphere I had ever seen.

Your comments on Dhoni's captaincy…

The beauty is in the way MS leads the team. He is so cool and composed even in adversity. He is a clear leader, makes everyone of us enjoy our game. He makes us feel very comfortable, thereby helping us to give off our best.

How long do you think you can keep playing at the highest level?

I don't want to look too much ahead. I always took it series by series right through my career. And it should be no different. I am already looking towards the forthcoming series against New Zealand and Australia. And I believe that we should have the best of preparations to beat them, especially the Aussies. Personally, I am eagerly looking forward to another encounter with Australia against whom I have always been really good.

What sort of influence your parents (Dr. V. Shantaram and Dr. Satyabhama) still continue to have on you?

It is a huge one. Earlier, it was my parents, and now my wife Sailaja has joined them. Without their support, it is very difficult to enjoy the game. My parents have decided to serve the common man as both of them are doctors by profession. They dedicated themselves to serve humanity. They always thought I am born to serve the game. Either way, it is service with a difference. Importantly, I am enjoying and still have the hunger for runs.