It is official. India’s stylish batsman, Vangipurapu Venkata Sai Laxman, who scripted many fabulous moments on the field with his willow including that epic 281 against Steve Waugh-led Australians in the historic 2001 Test series, has decided to formally announce his retirement from international cricket on Saturday evening at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad.
The 37-year-old Laxman, who threw enough hints about his retirement plans, is expected to give a detailed response to various questions at the media conference he has scheduled this evening. It will be also known then whether he would be playing in the two-Test series against New Zealand starting on August 23 in Hyderabad or not.
The big question remains – will the elegant Hyderabadi just respect the sentiments of his well-wishers that he should play the Tests and then quit the game rather than ahead of the series against New Zealanders itself or not?
By all means, it will be the end of an illustrious career spanning 16 years when Mr. Laxman left an indelible impression on not just Indian cricket but the world cricket itself with his classy displays under pressure.
“I always take pride when my contribution helps the team win rather than enjoy any personal milestones,” was Laxman’s constant reminder throughout his career.
In a way, Laxman’s magnificent career was also symbolic of the fact that if one has the talent and combines that with the desired levels of commitment and hard work, he can go a long way despite coming from a normal middle-class family.
Far away 'Down Under', the Aussies should be heaving a sigh of relief at this decision of Laxman. For the genteel Hyderabadi was at his best against them and his wonderful record of six centuries and 12 fifties from 29 Tests is proof of that when he was blazing away to 167 in the Sydney Test (2000) against an attack which included Glen McGrath, Brett Lee, Damien Fleming and Shane Warne, Azhar, who was watching that on TV at Gymkhana Grounds remarked: "This is the way one has to play against them. And I am not surprised with Laxman's batting. Look at his class and authority, great innings."
For someone who never had a Godfather except a caring maternal uncle Baba Mohan, who used to visit media offices to give updates on the young gifted cricketer’s performances, Laxman redefined, literally the levels of excellence on a cricket field.
Widely perceived as the one who changed the face of Indian cricket itself with that historic knock of 281 against Australians in Kolkata when he pulled the team out of the woods after being forced to follow-on and eventually guide to a memorable victory, Laxman has always been a symbol of dignity – both on and off the field.
The fact that he was never involved in any controversies in his long career was perhaps a gentle reminder of Laxman’s nature itself.
And, it has been a very tough decision for him to be prepared for the retirement plans too as it was obvious that he felt “deeply hurt” by the comments that he is blocking the youngsters’ chances.
Already the Hyderabad cricket Association is planning to install statues of M. Azharuddin and Laxman at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium very soon as a gesture of appreciation of their "outstanding contribution' to cricket.
Well, it will be sad that the game itself misses the glitter of this wonderful gem of a batsman, coming from the 'City of Pearls'.