Monday, January 16, 2012

It is perhaps best for VVS Laxman and his fans if he bids adieu to international cricket

This post is available on Cricketcountry website. Written just after the Perth Test. 

Has VVS Laxman played his last Test match?

His esoteric brushstrokes changed the landscape of Indian cricket in Kolkata, 2001. For the next 10 years, his creative bat lent beauty and substance to the glorious structure of the team. Even in his low-scoring days, he painted miniature masterpieces like the 32 at Bloemfontein. However, the artist has been increasingly handing in blank canvasses, with some ungainly smudges that serve as a pale after-shadow in the wake of the glorious artwork of more than a decade.

The pitches were bouncy, the bowlers fast and Australian, the balls hastened off the pitch, zipping to the bat. Ensemble of instruments to which he has many a times waved his bat like the baton of a conductor to produce celestial music. His arms did flash once or twice, batting from many melodious memories – but all that one heard was some off key tinkering followed by the repeated chorus of Aussie celebration, while in the background droned the undeniable music of time. And once the pages of the scorebook were turned, one was greeted by the deafening sound of silence.

The conjurer who held us entranced with those hypnotic wrists, dispatching the same deliveries to diametrically opposite corners of the ground, whose lazy alchemy of the swivel and pull transformed hitherto dangerous bouncers into golden run making opportunities – that grand enchanter will perhaps bow out on this last stage where the sorcery of time shoved his act into a stuttering side show. The audience had waited, cast into spell by memories, as the master magician had trusted his gifted hands to pull out the last rabbit from his treasure filled hat – but the tricks did not come off.  What the world saw was symbolised by the shot that brought about his dismissal in the second innings at Perth – nothing.

Perth 2012 – the final hurrah?

Even in his last innings, when he joined Rahul Dravid, millions of fans still stuck in the mesmerised state, induced by his early wizardry, fervently wished for an encore of Eden Gardens or Adelaide. But the maestro was forced to play second fiddle to Father Time, the willow was willing, but the feet did not move. The ninth ball was edged to the slips, and he walked back – perhaps for the last time. The final trick unperformed, the last bow an apologetic lowering of the head as the hapless Indian batting suffered another collapse.

Perhaps it is best that he calls it a day now – without being hounded out by the scapegoat hunting powers that be, who had for so long deferred difficult decisions till tripping over the time-bend, the weight of the batting legends collapsing on the fabric of Indian cricket. The genius of his artistry has transcended the celebrated shortness of public memory – the magnificent masterpieces of Kolkata, Adelaide, Sydney, Mohali remain fresh in the mind. His admirers will probably like to cling on to those celebrations of colour rather than spend more and more days trying to decipher his signature in stark minimalist offerings. 

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