V.V.S. Laxman has decided to call it a day. “I announce my retirement from international cricket with immediate effect,” the stylish India batsman informed a crowded gathering at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad on Saturday.
In a way, he set a unique trend by quitting the game when he is already in the squad for the Test series against New Zealand starting on August 23 in Hyderabad. “I am not playing in the two-Test series,” he made it clear.
“I listened to the divine inner voice and to my conscience. I feel it is the right time to move on. And, as one who always put the team’s interests ahead of personal goals, I thought this is the best way to give the youngsters a chance in a home series ahead of the tougher overseas assignments,” 37-year-old Laxman said to a stunned audience.
“I would have loved to play the tougher series against Australia and England later this season. But, somehow, I found it extremely difficult in the last four days to keep going,” the elegant Hyderabadi said.
“It was my dream as a youngster, to represent India. And, I am blessed by the almighty to have played for 16 glorious years of international cricket. I cherish every moment of that fabulous journey,” Laxman said.
“I always read about sportspersons entering a phase when they feel they should call it a day. I thought I have entered that phase, and I will not regret my decision,” he said. “I am very clear in my mind and conscience. There is no way I am going to regret this decision.”
Laxman also apologised to the family members and well-wishers, who were hoping he would play for one last time in a Test in Hyderabad. “I know my parents, especially, would have loved to see me in action. But, I repeat, that I listened to the divine inner voice and that is it,” he said.
Referring to his cricketing journey, the veteran of many a battle said it was an honour to play alongside legends like Sachin, Rahul and Ganguly. “I enjoyed every moment of my association with all of them and my captain M.S. Dhoni. I will never forget the bonding and the affection they showed me right through,” he said.
The star India batsman said he informed the national selectors on Saturday morning about his decision to retire. What was their response? “Definitely, they were surprised and did not want me to quit. But, I convinced them, as I did my parents, that I would be happy if I retire,” he said braving a smile.
“I am grateful to the HCA, BCCI and the national selectors over the years and all those well-wishers for extending their support. I think it is time to express gratitude to all of them and my coaches in domestic and international cricket,” he said.
Struggling to control his emotions, Laxman reminded that he always gave his best for the Indian team. “I might have disappointed sometimes. But, that was not for want of commitment,” he said.
Not hasty decision
The classy batsman, who made his Test debut in 1996 against South Africa, also asserted that it was not a hasty decision or one taken because of the adverse comments in a section of the media that he is blocking the chances of youngsters.
“No doubt, it is a very emotional decision. Especially in the last four or five days, I found it really tough when I was debating about retirement. But, I must thank my parents for giving me complete freedom to take the final call,” Laxman said.
“Definitely, till a few weeks ago, I never thought of quitting at the start of the two-Test series against New Zealand. In fact, I have been training really hard for the last four months. But lately, there has been a serious internal, mental battle which suggested I should end my career,” he said.
Did the dismal tours of England and Australia last season play a role in his decision? “Definitely, they were huge disappointments. I mean, no Indian cricketer would like to see the team lose so badly. But, then again, you should also remember that we were on top of the world at our best. So, I look at that phase as part and parcel of the sport,” he explained.
“Yes, I did call up my India teammates including captain M.S. Dhoni, who is very difficult to get on phone (with a smile) and spoke to them. Honestly, I was moved by the abundance of affection they showed. And, all of them were surprised and did not want me to retire,” Laxman said.
To the delight of the HCA secretary Dr. M.V. Sridhar, president G. Vinod and vice-president N. Shivlal Yadav, Laxman made it clear that he would now chase another dream — to lead Hyderabad to Ranji Trophy victory this season.
Dr. Sridhar announced that the Northern Stand at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium will now be named after this “great cricketer”.