The man with a seemingly soft exterior had steel in his bones. At troubled times, he was a sea of equanimity. The graceful right-hander absorbed pressure in the middle, altered scripts. And he did so with timing and elegance, finding the gaps with a surgeon’s precision.

V.V.S. Laxman, India’s man for crisis situations, bid adieu to international cricket in Hyderabad on Saturday. Although named in the Test squad against New Zealand, the 37-year-old, listening to his inner voice, decided to leave the scene ahead of the series opener in his home city. The first Test begins on August 23.

The feature of Laxman’s batting was his ability to pick the length early and play the ball late. He could get on top of the bounce, essay the horizontal bat shots capably. This explains his 1,236 runs in 15 Tests at 52.28 on the bouncy tracks — and against formidable pace attacks — of Australia.

He was a tad vulnerable while coping with quality swing because of a footwork that could be sluggish on occasions. Laxman could, however, make up for the shortcoming due to his hand-eye coordination and the ability to meet the ball with the sweet portion of his willow.

Laxman came under fire lately for his lacklustre performances on the tours of England and Australia in 2011-12, yet he averaged 67.07 in 2010 and 40.68 in 2011, his last two full years in international cricket.

At his peak, he could conjure magic, create epics. His immortal series-turning 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, is now stuff of folklore. He could don the cloak of a game changer, soak up the stress, and inspire even tailenders.

These match-winners…they are a rare breed. Laxman, of dexterous wrists and infinite charm, will be missed.

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