"An exceptional teamplayer"

Anil Kumblewith V. V. S. Laxman.-V. GANESAN

V.V.S. Laxman was a great player, in fact an amazing player, and a great human being. Lax never got his due. He had a sword hanging over his head right through his career. One bad game and people would scrutinise him and his batting methods even when others would have failed in the same innings. Yet, he achieved so much, always shining in adversity. That he always put team before self was so beautifully highlighted in his retirement too. He could have played the Hyderabad Test but decided not to because he thought of the team first. Lax was always like that.

He was a classy batsman and a very dear friend. I have not seen an exceptional team player like Lax. In this team game very few can be termed a team player but Lax was extraordinary. Give him a message and he would deliver. Every match we would have an issue, whether to play an extra batsman or a bowler, a seamer or a spinner, and sadly Lax would always figure in the discussion. He never really got his due.

Lax missed out on many key games. He could have batted in the top four but mostly he got to bat with the lower order. And he loved it. He would have got more hundreds had he batted in the top four but he never cribbed or complained.

He was such a treat to watch, so wristy, so elegant. He made it look so easy. Lax was a beautiful batsman to watch even when you were bowling to him. He was just brilliant and had three shots to a ball. He could play on the off, on or hit straight. He did not play the sweep but could rotate the strike and hit boundaries at will when batting with the tail. I always knew that if I hung around Lax would easily pick a boundary or two in an over. Once set he was unstoppable because it did not matter who was bowling. He was a fantastic strokeplayer.

My only regret, and probably his too, is that he never got to play a World Cup. He deserved to as any other batsman. He was branded as a slow runner but that was not true. He got runs at a fairly good strike rate even in Tests and he could have been a fine one-day batsman too.

I have a lot of fond memories. We played 15 years together. He was my room partner when I got the 10-wicket haul (against Pakistan in Delhi). The phone did not stop ringing and he helped me with the calls. We discussed almost everything and he was always a nice person to talk to and confide in. He never let the team down and I know cricket will not be the same without Lax.

(Anil Kumble, as told to Vijay Lokapally)