From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.02 :: Jan. 14, 2010

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CRICKET / INTERVIEW/V. V. S. LAXMAN

‘The 2001 series against Aussies was crucial’

“India’s success (scaling the Test summit) was the culmination of long hours of planning and hard work by almost everyone who played for the country in the last eight years,” says V. V. S. Laxman in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

V.V.S.Laxman

India’s journey to the summit of Test cricket was a long one. And one of the architects of Team India’s rise to No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings has been V. V. S. Laxman. The elegant batsman from Hyderabad stands apart for his ability to raise the bar when under pressure.

When he went out to bat for the first time in a Test — against South Africa in 1996 — the batsman at the non-striker’s end was former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin. Azhar had a high opinion of Laxman and predicted a great future for him.

So it isn’t surprising that Laxman, 35, is a prominent member of the number one Test team in the world. His unbridled joy over Team India’s achievement is quite understandable. “Definitely, one of my goals has been achieved. I always dreamt of being a member of the best side in the world when I started playing for my country,” said Laxman in an exclusive interview to Sportstar.

“It is a great feeling and an honour to be a part of the ‘Fab Four’ of Indian batting. So when three of us were there in the team that eventually scaled the summit, it was all the more special,” he said.

However, he hastened to add that the credit for India’s achievement should go not only to the ‘Fab Four’ but also to other great players such as Anil Kumble and Virender Sehwag who played a big part in India’s success. “Of late, (Gautam) Gambhir is in terrific form. And there were also many others who contributed in their own way during that long period but unfortunately faded away for one reason or the other. It would be unfair to forget the invaluable contributions of such players,” Laxman remarked.

How did it all happen?

“The defining moment was the 2001 Test series against the Steve Waugh-led Australian team. Never before did we see an Indian captain retaliate against the Aussies the way Sourav Ganguly did even before they landed here. He should get the credit for giving us the hope and sowing the seeds of self-belief in the Indian team — that we can beat any side in the world,” Laxman recalled.

“It is a fact that there were many great players in the past too who had played for India. But the 2001 series was when we started believing in ourselves,” Laxman pointed out.

“Personally, the Kolkata Test in that series was a memorable one. It was when we came from behind to score a fantastic victory, that too after being forced to follow-on. This changed the course of Indian cricket,” said Laxman, who scored an epic 281, which was considered by Wisden as one of the top 10 innings in the history of the game.

K. R. DEEPAK

Laxman thinks very highly of M. S. Dhoni as skipper. "What I really like about him is he is very cool and never gets hyper even when things go wrong," he says.

A batsman who has always had a special liking for Australian bowling, Laxman said it was after the 2001 Test series that India realised it was important to win Tests abroad if it was to become the No. 1 team in the world.

“So in this context, the Headingley Test win in 2002 and the Test wins in the West Indies were significant — they ensured that we stayed on course. But again, the 2003-04 Test series in Australia, when we won the Adelaide Test and almost won the Sydney game, made us believe for the first time that we can be the No. 1 side,” Laxman explained.

“India’s success (scaling the Test summit) was the culmination of long hours of planning and hard work by almost everyone who played for the country in the last eight years,” he said. “Even the role played by the coaches and the support staff should not be forgotten. For instance, when John Wright took over, his sober influence on the team at a time when the match-fixing scandal had just broken out was one of the key factors,” he said.

How does the current team compare with the one in 2001?

“Essentially, in terms of self-confidence and the ability to transform even a losing situation into a winning one, the two teams are the same. What I mean to say is the winning habit that we inculcated in the team since that famous series, fortunately, is still intact. Even now, when the chips are down, we are always hopeful of a batsman or a bowler turning the game around,” said Laxman.

How does he rate Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain?

“Oh! His record speaks for itself. But what I really like about him is he is very cool and never gets hyper even when things go wrong. Dhoni is one who has immense confidence in his players, but at the same time never looks overconfident,” said Laxman.

After 13 years of Test cricket, Laxman has assured himself of a special place in the game. As for his future plans, he said: “As I said earlier, being a member of the No. 1 team was one of my goals. I look forward to contributing to the team’s success in future too. I am enjoying the game; and I am always willing to contribute in my own way to ensure that India stays at the top. I know staying at the top is as difficult as reaching there.

“It is imperative that we don’t become brash in the days to come. We have to really keep working hard to sustain the process of winning. We have to show the same hunger for success at the highest level,” he said.




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