V.V.S Laxman Curated
Former Cricketer & Commentator
CURATED BY :
Were you closer to your mother or your father when you were young?
I think I was equally close to both of them. They inspired me with their actions and helped me become a better person. In fact, both of them are my role models. However, the person with whom I used to share all my issues was definitely my mother. She was the one who was always there to help me by solving various issues that I had as a kid, especially in school. But ultimately, I was close to both of them and was fortunate to have them by my side in all the situations I faced.
Both your parents are doctors and you also wanted to be one yourself. What made you take the detour towards cricket? How supportive were your parents of this decision?
Like every kid in India, I too wanted to play cricket. But to be honest, playing for India was my wildest dream. My goal was to become a doctor like my parents. I was very good in Science. I finished state first in Science in my 10th standard, scoring 98 out of 100. Even in 11th standard, I took BiPC (a combination of Biology, Physics and Chemistry as mainstream subjects), but I got many opportunities in cricket (around the same time) and I capitalised on all those opportunities. By the time I was 17, I was on the verge of playing for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy, while also clearing my EAMCET exams. That was the toughest phase in my life where I had to choose a career. I’m fortunate that my parents gave me the freedom to pursue my dream of playing cricket although it was with a deadline of five years. They told me that if in those five years I got to play for the country, I could continue (pursuing) my dream; otherwise I would have to come back and appear for the medical examinations. I worked really hard and towards the end of the fifth year, I managed to fulfil my dream of playing for India. I am happy that my parents never forced me to pursue anything, unlike a few of my friends' parents. They also emphasised that it is not the profession that glorifies you, but you who go out and glorify the profession – I tried to do that till the last day I played the game.
Do you have any regrets about missing out on a triple century?
Would I have been happy to get a 300? Of course. But the way I approached that innings—and a lot of other innings in my career—was that the team came ahead of my personal aspiration. It was very clear that on the fifth day we would only play for 1 hour and then declare so the bowlers have enough time to pick up Australian wickets. As you’d expect, the Australian bowlers were bowling wide outside the off stump with a defensive field, because they wanted to delay my 300 and with that the declaration. In trying to force the pace and get runs, I got out. But I don’t at all regret the way I got out because I was trying to play to the situation and fulfil the expectations from the team. I’m very happy that the 281 enabled the team to win the game, and that is very satisfying for me.
Would you like to tell us about your magnificent test innings where you have played in the Eden Gardens scoring 281 runs against Australia?
The situation we were in, to go out and play in the manner that I did, and the way the team won the match, I think that was a very important and memorable Test match for all of us. I stuck to the basics and played my natural game, played with a lot of freedom. I was not thinking about the past or the future, all I was trying to do was be in the moment and play to the merit of the ball. I capitalized on the loose deliveries, respected the good deliveries, but played each and every ball as if it was the last ball I was going to face. When you think about the process rather than focusing on the outcome, the outcome will take care of itself. What I and the team learnt from that match was to never give up. In cricket, as in life, you face a lot of adversity and challenging situations, but all you have to do is to trust yourself, believe in your abilities and keep fighting. Because you don’t know when the tide will turn. From that time onwards, we as a team felt that irrespective of whether the opposition has a strong hold on the match, till the last run is scored or the last wicket is taken, never ever give up. And that is something that I will very fondly remember.
You have an outstanding record hanging in with the tail. How did you manage to do that?
I’m very proud of my performance as a number 6 batsman batting with the tail. In that situation, invariably the opposition captain would spread the field and try to give me a single so his bowlers could bowl to the tail-enders and get their wickets. So I had to develop a strategy to maximize my performances with the tail. I was lucky that we had bowlers who took a lot of pride in their batting, were always keen on working on their batting and there was a rapid improvement in their performance. I gave them a lot of confidence, not just in words but also in action. So I gave them the strike whenever a run was available, that’s how I showed trust in their ability to bat. Communication is also very important. I’d ask them to tell me which bowlers they weren’t comfortable with and I’d try to face that bowler as much as possible.
Do you think you should have gotten more opportunities in the shorter format of the game?
Yes, I think so. Especially since 2001, the way I was performing, I thought I deserved a longer run. There was no consistency in the thought process behind my selection. But having said that, it’s a team game. My style of batting in the shorter version of the game was more suited to the top 4, not as a finisher. And there was so much class and talent in the top 4—you had Sourav (Ganguly), Sachin (Tendulkar), (Virender) Sehwag, (Rahul) Dravid—so sometimes it became difficult to accommodate me.
What do you make of India’s chances at the 2019 World Cup?
Along with England, they start as the favourites to win the tournament. They’ve got the balance, they’ve got the experience and they’ve got the class to go on and win. There are one or two issues that still need to be addressed, especially the role of an all-rounder and the bench strength in the pace bowling department, but I’m sure the selectors and the team management are working on that.
What is the future of Test cricket, with T20 now becoming so popular?
T20 will stay, and the shortest version of the game will be very popular. Because what T20 and IPL have done is brought in a lot of new fans to the game. People who may not be purists, but treat cricket as entertainment. But the longer version of the game still has its fans, and more importantly, the players give a lot of value to Test cricket. Because I think the players and fans know that Test cricket is real cricket, where you’re tested in every aspect—your mind, your skill, your endurance. And as long as that’s true, I think Test cricket won’t be threatened.
Why did you pursue cricket as your profession instead of being a doctor?
How did you motivate yourself to go for the selection session the next day when you injured your left knee by falling off your Kinetic Honda bike?
Is your father behind the reason for your success even when you were physically in pain?
Would you agree that the 2001 Test Series against Australia was a turning point in your career?
Could you tell us about the journey when the whole Indian team made a mission to make India in the number 1 spot in Cricket history?
In your opinion, was Greg Chappell a successful coach for the Indian Cricket Team?
How would you best describe Anil Kumble’s performance against the West Indies with his fractured jaw?
Why did you love playing against the Australian Cricket Team during your international tenure?
How did you maintain friendly relations with all the team members, in spite of everyone having different personalities?
Name one bowler with whom you enjoyed playing cricket the most.
Which of the five best Innings would you sit down with your children and show them the success of those performances?
Have you been totally candid in your autobiography?
Absolutely candid. During my career I never expressed myself openly. These days, I give a lot of motivational talks. Two years ago, when I gave a talk to an MNC in Goa, an elderly person told me that my 45-minute talk inspired him and that it would be valuable for his son and grandson. He also said that I should write a book. That was the trigger for this autobiography. I’ve read a lot of autobiographies of eminent people. I have learned a lot by reading books on Mahatama Gandhi, Vivekananda and Andre Agassi.
What is your greatest fear?
There is nothing I am fearful about. I think it’s important to enjoy whatever situation and challenges you face, whether good or bad, and for me that’s the excitement of life.
Have you enjoyed playing against the Australian Bowlers?
I’ve always enjoyed playing against them. Even when I represented India under-19 against them in 1994, I was the highest scorer. The reason could be their attacking, competitive nature. They were probably the best bowling unit in our generation, and they could do well anywhere in the world. So, their never-say-die attitude got the best out of me. Also, the In.dian team challenged them and raised the bar whenever we played against them.
Which living person do you most admire?
My dad. He has always been my role model and is the person I would most like to emulate. I admire him for the way he has led his life. I would be very happy if I can follow in his footsteps and inculcate his values and principles in my life.
The Australians were ‘competitive’, but you always retained a ‘good boy’ image. Tell us more.
I never showed my emotions. I believed that being competitive or having the killer instinct doesn’t mean that you throw tantrums. It’s about showing mental toughness when it matters the most. People relate sledging to Australians, but they didn’t sledge me much. It never perturbed me. Smart sledging is all about whom to sledge and how to do it. Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh are the smartest sledgers I’ve seen. The impact they had was unbelievable.
Tell us about your 281 runs against Australia in Calcutta was a seminal knock—then the highest Test score by an Indian.
After the first practice session at the Eden, I developed back spasms. When physiotherapist Andrew Leipus made me see my back in the mirror, it was titled towards one side. I was in tears. But, thanks to Andrew, I played that Test. It was a monumental match because of the situation we were in—India followed on, being 274 runs behind, but went on to win by 171 runs. Rahul Dravid and I didn’t talk much during that partnership [376 for the fifth wicket in the second innings]; we just said “one more over” to each other, finished it, and said the same thing again and again. You’ve to have goals, even in challenging situations; you’ve to break them into smaller goals to achieve the bigger goal.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I wouldn’t call it a defect, but until I retired from international cricket I used to have cricket at the centre of my life and that meant having to neglect my personal life and other interests of mine. I was so passionate about the game that I wouldn’t do anything that was not beneficial to me as a cricketer.
How would you describe your favourite journey?
Any journey where I can see and learn anything new. I was lucky that because of cricket I had an opportunity to see a lot of nice places in the world and also meet a lot of interesting people. But any journey with my lovely family is very relaxing.
However the Aussies obviously know their conditions and pitches better than the Indians.
About pitches, I’ve realised from my experience that the first tour to a country is always challenging. From the second one onwards, you know what to expect and as professionals you prepare yourself to do well. So, Indian batsmen, with their 2014 experience, will do well even on these pitches.
In the upcoming test series against Australia, will India find an advantage of winning against them in the absence of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft?
Yes, without a doubt. India starts as favourites, for they are a settled side. If India play to their potential they can win the series. But it’s very important for the batsmen to pile up a big score in the first innings. If they do that in overseas conditions, India have the firepower to take 20 wickets. If not, you are always chasing the game, forced into a defensive approach. To start the series on a winning note is crucial. I hope the mistakes India made in South Africa and England are not repeated, as when you are playing in away conditions it’s important to win the crucial moments. The team that wins those three-four crucial moments wins the match. In South Africa and England, India didn’t win those crucial moments.
Do you think a lot of responsibility would be on captain Virat Kohli to help India to big first-innings totals?
It cannot be only Virat, because this team has experience and class in its batting line-up. It’s about everyone going out with a gameplan and sticking to it. Virat was so successful in England recently as he didn’t repeat his mistakes of 2014, especially the area where he was susceptible was now his strong point. The discipline he showed in leaving the ball outside the off stump was critical in scoring those runs [593 at 59.30 in five Tests]. So every batsman will have to take responsibility.
How do you rate India’s bowling attack?
It’s a complete bowling attack—there’s variety and firepower. The five fast bowlers can bowl quick and are very skilful. In the spin department, again there’s variety and quality.
When Sehwag broke your Indian record of the highest Test score in Multan with a superb 309, did he say something like “sorry” to you?
No. I was very happy for him. Viru is such a confident cricketer, also as a person, and he’s unique. His strength is his mind and his approach towards life. After my 281, we played an ODI against Australia in Bangalore. When we reached Pune and were having dinner, Viru suddenly said, “Laxman bhai, you missed scoring the first triple Test century for India. This is something I’m going to do”. And he hadn’t played a Test till then. I was surprised. So, when he got the triple in Multan, he said, “I had told you so”.
Could you tell us something about your newly launched autobiography, ‘281 and Beyond’?
Why is there a disdain or liking in you for Australian Bowlers?
Tell us about when you scored 281 against Australia at Eden Gardens, which at the time was the highest Test score by an Indian.
How is it that you maintain a gentle personality against the Australians who were always competitive during cricket matches?
Will India achieve an easy win against the Australians in the upcoming test series because of Steve Smith and David Warner’s absence?
However, the Australian cricketers know more about their cricket pitch than our Indian cricketers do?
Do you agree that Virat Kohli’s major responsibility in this test series would be to bring lot of runs especially in the first innings of every match?
What are your comments on the Indian bowling attack?
Were you happy or disappointed with Sehwag’s performance in Multan for breaking your test record?
Did you think you had it in you to become a successful ODI player?
Did you go the US after not being selected for the 2003 Cricket World Cup?
Did that moment of having made 281 runs change your life?
Are you proud of yourself of making 281 runs in your test series against Australia at the Eden Gardens?
Was the Eden Garden a special place for you to place because of your records and achievements?
How did you maintain a calm state of mind together with Rahul Dravid against the aggressive Australian during that match?
Did you realise about your achievement in the Eden Gardens only when the audience stood up to applaud you and Rahul Dravid while boarding the flight from Kolkata to Chennai?
What is it with you and the Australians? You always seemed to raise your game when you played the Australians.
Is Virat Kohli utilizing the right technique of showing aggressiveness against the Australians in this present test series match?
Have you ever confronted anyone on the field during your cricket career?
Do you accept the fact that cricketers from the South India have a calm mind of playing cricket than that of the North Indian?
Were you disappointed with Virat Kohli due to his frequent confrontations with Anil Kumble during practice sessions?
Are the present generation of cricketers different than the ones of your generation who had a gentle and a subtle behaviour?
Why don’t you also upload your personal fitness videos on Instagram just like the present generation cricketers?