‘He deserves it'

NAGARA GOPAL

V.V.S. Laxman has been named in this year's list of Padma Shri awardees. A. Joseph Antony gets some reactions.

The Indian Test trio of V. V. S. Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and wicket-keeper M. S. K. Prasad were having dinner in a Brisbane restaurant during the 2000 tour of Australia. “I am one of your fans,” Tendulkar told Laxman.

“You are pulling my leg,” said a dazed Laxman, his eyes wide with disbelief.

“It's a fact and no exaggeration,” replied Tendulkar calmly.

Was Laxman a victim of Aussie sledging? “Never. They respected and liked him too much for that,” said Prasad.

As Director of Cricket Operations, Andhra Cricket Association, Prasad, while congratulating Laxman on being conferred the Padma Shri award recently, reminisced their days together, right from the Nutrine era.

At a South Zone under-15 camp in Chennai, Laxman would scream ‘Catch, catch,' in his sleep. At other times, the dormitory's inmates would hear the prodigy repeat the coach's instructions from the day's practice. “Laxman had soaked the mentor's words into his sub-conscious state,” recalled Prasad.

Prasad rates Laxman's 137 for South versus East Zone in the 1995-96 Duleep Trophy match in Lucknow, as the best. Prasad was Laxman's partner during that innings. Barely would speedsters Subroto Banerjee and Prashanth Vaidya, at their prime then, complete their follow-throughs and one could hear the ball clattering into the metal sight screen. “Though packed with power, the strokes were stylish, orthodox and executed with elan,” Prasad added.

In the same tournament, a decade later, Robin Uthappa had problems tackling the red Kookaburra ball at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, against Sri Lanka ‘A.'

Laxman walked up to him and said, “You bat for 20 overs and I assure you, you'll get a century.”

The T20 World Cup winning squad member was instantly at ease and sure enough, reached the milestone. “Laxmanbhai is a total team-man, whatever side he turns out for, enjoying the success of his team-mates as much as his own,” said Uthappa.

“A very approachable senior, he's jovial, friendly and charming. For all his achievements, it's amazing that he's so simple and humble,” concluded Uthappa.

Former Indian captain Anil Kumble welcomed the move to honour Laxman, only the second cricketer from Andhra Pradesh after Mohd. Azharuddin, to receive the coveted award.

“The true character of a cricketer or any sportsman is known when the chips are down. Laxman has always shown his capabilities as a batsman in such circumstances,” the legendary leg-spinner said.

“I am happy his efforts for the sport and country are recognised. He thoroughly deserves the tribute and I am sure it will adorn his wall and he will be proud of the title too,” Kumble added.