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Scripting a success story

With a creditable score in the Pakistan series, V.V.S. Laxman proved yet again that he is a world-class cricketer, writes V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

WHY IS V.V.S. Laxman on trial always? This can be one of the more interesting chapters of Indian cricket considering the number of times the batsman had to face music for no fault of his.

He scored a majestic 281 against the Steve Waugh-led Australians when his genius blossomed at the Eden Gardens in a Test which scripted a glorious chapter in Indian history.

Today, Laxman's status as one of the five formidable figures in the batting line-up besides Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly is confirmed.

Two failures in the triangular series finals Down Under followed by three poor scores in the one-day series in Pakistan made critics suggest that he doesn't even have a slot in the one-day squad.

And, he came up with a superbly-paced century in the decisive one-dayer ensuring Indian victory. Then after failures in the two Tests, he produced an innings of 71 which again demonstrated that there was nothing wrong with his class.

A knock which put to shade even Rahul Dravid, who eventually scored a great double century in the series-deciding Test at Rawalpindi. When Laxman was at the crease, runs flowed, literally, with minimum of ease and great variety of class.

How does Laxman handle this feeling of being on trial always even after coming up with some really special knocks?

"It is really surprising and definitely sad that some people keep harping on my slot. It really hurts. I keep reading these media reports. But, I would try to focus only on the positives. This is how I look at the whole issue. When I am giving more than 100 per cent, I should be happy with my effort," explained Laxman.

What went wrong in the three one-dayers? "Definitely there was wrong judgment of the line and length in those three matches. Then, before the final match, I spent a long time at the nets trying to correct this flaw and I am glad that I scored that century," he pointed out. In the same breath, he insists that he never goes out to the middle to silence any critic. There is a palpable sense of modesty and sincerity to the whole issue.

Personally, Laxman may not have hit the high he had a couple of months ago in Australia. But, still he put his indelible impression on the series with those two decisive knocks — the century in the final one-dayer which helped `Team India' wrap up the series and then that classy 71 in the final Test when, in the company of Rahul Dravid, he wrested the initiative when Shoaib Akthar perhaps bowled the best spell of the entire tour against the Indians. "Yes, definitely he was getting his rhythm back and looked really good. If we think from Pakistan's point of view, it was unfortunate that he had to leave the field with an injured left arm. Honestly, I was bowled on 71 for the simple reason that I completely missed that express delivery," said Laxman. The Hyderabadi does not believe that Pakistanis didn't display the desired cohesiveness as a unit.

"I cannot comment on what happened in their dressing room. But on the field, they were like a unit and it is not as if it was a one-sided series — both one-dayers and Tests," he added.

A shrewd judge of the cricketing basics, Laxman points out that the Indian pace bowlers demonstrated with stunning effect that it is not just pace but line and length and variations that fetch wickets in both forms of cricket. "It is a wonderful achievement by the Indians to bundle out the Pakistanis twice in a Test on two occasions on not-so-bowler-friendly wickets," he observed.

It is now an acknowledged fact that Laxman is a truly world-class slip fielder, having to his credit some catches which were simply out of the world. A sea change from his early days when his fielding was always under scrutiny. What is the reason? "I have been really training hard in all aspects of the game and it is one area where I really wanted to be special and I am happy with the way things are going," he said.

How does it feel to see his own highest individual Test score of 281 erased by Virender Sehwag who became the first Indian to score a triple century in Test cricket? "I am really thrilled that Viru had done it for I always believed he had the talent. And, if he can bat for a full day he can notch up these scores consistently," was his compliment.

What was the influence of West Indian captain Brian Lara's fabulous feat of scoring 400 not out in a Test against England, which incidentally coincided with the Indo-Pak series? "We were all watching that knock. It was an amazing example of staying power and getting 400 is something incredible," remarked Laxman.

How was the reception for Indian cricketers on the streets of Pakistan? "It was a great experience. The Pakistanis really enjoyed watching good cricket. And, we were really moved by the warmth and reception. There was absolutely no pressure and it was like any other tour for us. But certainly, it was a great experience to play and travel in Pakistan," Laxman said.

Well, that Laxman is already looking ahead for the home series against the Australians, South Africans and, most likely, Pakistanis is ample proof that he is determined to write a new script in the near future.

Armed with a fitness regimen, this cricketer with unflinching dedication will be back soon at the nets to fine-tune his skills for better results. He once again proved the old dictum right - class is permanent, form is temporary.

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