A wizard’s spell and superstar’s simplicity

Idols inspire you with their heroics, and it’s a special moment when you meet one. Here is how V. V. S. Laxman felt on seeing his idols.

Hero worship: A wristy Mohammed Azharuddin was every budding cricketer’s idol in the late 1980s and early 1990s. No wonder, Laxman, also hailing from Hyderabad, was motivated to style his batting along the lines of Azhar.   -  THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

As a 14-year-old, my jaw dropped when the idol I used to watch closely on television appeared in flesh and blood without any notice at the Gymkhana Grounds, Secunderabad. I was a big admirer of Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Mohammed Azharuddin. For all his flair and flourish with the bat when leading India, I was bowled over by Azhar’s simplicity. I was then a member of the Hyderabad under-15 team training at our home ground. Not just overawed, I was simply star struck, despite his down-to-earth attitude.

The teenagers trooped around the wizard, described by no less than the BBC’s Christopher Martin Jenkins as possessing tensile wrists like revolving doors. Azharuddin had visited the facility for some vital batting practice in the nets, perhaps in preparation for a tour ahead.

He patiently answered every question. Seeing the impressionable minds before him, keen to hang on to every word he uttered, Azhar listed three steps to success.

● Be sincere and committed to your goals for which you need to put in a lot of hard work.

● Look forward to playing and winning matches for the team.

● Irrespective of success or failure you have to be the same.

We took turns to get a feel of Azharuddin’s bat that had coaxed rather than clobbered the ball to boundaries, with effortless ease. For all its high-impact hitting, the bat felt so light, surprisingly, I noticed. Outside cricket, I met my hero in 2001. An earthquake ravaged Bhuj in Gujarat on Republic Day. A benefit match was organised at the Cricket Club of India (CCI), Mumbai, between Bollywood stars and the Indian cricket team.

It was an exhibition match, played under lights. We were in cricket gear but the man we all adored entered the arena in an impeccable suit. I was impressed by Amitabh Bachchan’s modesty and simplicity.

He was a superstar, but I was floored when he shocked me twice in two minutes. That he recognised me was a most pleasant surprise, considering I wasn’t such an established cricketer then. He even remembered my first Test century in Sydney! He then wished me the best for the upcoming series against Australia.

As told to A. Joseph Antony