The battle-scarred veteran, Vangipurapu Venkata Sai Laxman, is chasing another dream in his illustrious career spanning 15 years - to beat Australia in Australia.
The 37-year-old classy India middle-order batsman hopes that the Indian team will achieve this on the forthcoming tour ‘Down Under’. “We have won Tests there on the previous tours but not the Test series. We are well prepared for the major challenge ahead and should achieve our objective,” he pointed out in an exclusive interview with 'The Hindu'.
Laxman, who has a special liking for the Australian bowling, is pleased that he gets another huge opportunity to prove a point or two. “I just enjoy playing against them as I always do against the other teams. But, the big knocks against the Aussies under pressure have a special place in my career,” he explained.
Referring to his romance with the Sydney Cricket Ground where he has a few hundreds to his credit, Laxman reiterated that he loves the ambience out there in the middle. “But, let me tell you that the century at Adelaide in the company of Rahul (Dravid) on the 2003 tour gave me great satisfaction given the circumstances,” he said to a query.
Reflecting on the Australian team, Laxman reminded that it still has nice blend of experience and youth. “In batting they have the likes of Ricky Ponting, Captain Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey. May be, there will be a couple of new faces in bowling,” he said.
“Well, we may not have played the rookie fast bowlers like Pat Cummins (injured and to miss first two Tests against India) not and James Pattinson who have done really well in recent times. But, we should be good enough to handle any bowling attack,” says Laxman who played 130 Tests scoring 8626 runs with 17 centuries and 55 fifties.
“A series in Australia against any line-up is always tough for anyone. So there is no question of being complacent even as Australia is in the rebuilding process. At any level, we have to give off our best and we hope to do exactly that,” he said.
The elegant Hyderabadi also avoided to engage himself in a debate on the much-awaited Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th century in international cricket (he has 99 now).
“Let me tell you having known Sachin for so many years, I know he never plays for any milestones. All of them have come in the process of him helping the team win many laurels,” Laxman remarked. “Well, it is bound to happen anytime and when it does it will be a special moment for the game itself. And, I should be privileged to be part of that piece of history when he eventually does it,” he said with a big smile. “Honestly, we are more focused on the task ahead as a team and none of us don’t really too much importance to the records which come in the process of we giving off our best to the team’s cause,” he explained.
Laxman said it was a huge honour to be ranked so highly by former India left-arm spinner Bishen Singh Bedi who rated him above late ML Jaisimha and Mohd Azharuddin when asked about a comparison of the famous wristy elegance of Hyderabadis with the willow. “Coming from someone who is a legend himself in cricket, it is a huge compliment and I am really humbled,” he said.
“Right now, I am not thinking of anything else. There are no personal goals. I have prepared for the Australian tour as well as I can and hope to come good once again there, play good innings which help the team to do better,” Laxman insisted to a query. “We are grateful to the BCCI for sending some us in advance to Australia (Sachin, Dravid, Ojha, Umesh, Wriddiman Saha are among those leaving tonight) for Australia). Training under simulated conditions in India is different from the actual conditions there. So, it will be of great help to us when we go early and get used to them,” he pointed out.
What is the strength of Indian team? “It is a very balanced unit with lot of experience and exuberance. We have depth in all departments and also have a couple of exciting fast bowlers who should enjoy and do well in Australia,” Laxman said. “And remember we have to good spinners Ashwin and Ojha who hold the key too,” he added.
“Definitely, this tour to Australia is a big one as we are very keen to regain the No. 1 Test status. The confidence and morale are very high after the series win against West Indies, which followed the disappointment in England. So we hope to carry on the momentum to ‘Down Under’,” Laxman said to a query.