A Test in Hyderabad and news of Laxman mulling retirement are ingredients of a swansong at Uppal.
His knock at Eden Gardens is part of cricketing folklore, his 167 at the SCG an institution and the Adelaide 148 a piece of art. He finds gaps in the field but times it even better - like a man possessed. In fact, VVS Laxman's timing has been his biggest asset – never in question, rather helping the Hyderabadi come up with the best of replies. And it's only ironical that focus has shifted to the 'time' Laxman passes through the exit doors of those monuments he erected for India.
There's no denying the fact that Laxman is deep into his career's twilight zone, and that he needs to take a cue from Rahul Dravid. But terms like 'lifeline' and 'graceful exit' only demean a revered career. His inclusion in the Test squad to face New Zealand is being termed as a 'lifeline'. But such associations are absolutely naive when the man under the spotlight is India's knight in shining armour – from Eden Gardens 2001 to Colombo 2010.
Laxman's so called 'graceful exit' seemingly rests on the not-so-fragile premise of 635 runs in his last 11 Tests and averages of 22.75 and 19.38 he garnered in England and Australia respectively – tours where only Ma Junren's Army could have chosen the best performer. Still, during the year when India's Test 'reign' turned into Test 'ruin', Laxman was only behind the usual suspects Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in terms of runs scored.
How could then one question Laxman's inclusion, especially for a series at home where he has averaged 82.63 in the last three years. But at 37, more because of age than anything else, such enquires are made more often in cricket, and it's time Laxman answers those once and for all.
Not surprisingly then, news is rife that Laxman could bid adieu in Hyderabad – the venue for the first Test against New Zealand. If that holds true, it leaves Laxman's batting position in the Test of trivial interest. With No. 3 position left vacant by Dravid's retirement, Laxman, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are tipped to be the heir apparent.
Laxman has scored most heavily at his current batting position of No. 5. But while he has scored 2877 runs in 74 innings at four down, his landmark knock of 281 in the Kolkata heist came at No. 3, where he has scored four centuries and eight fifties to rack up 1611 runs.
On the face of it, a Test in Hyderabad and news of Laxman planning an announcement are ingredients of a swansong at Uppal. And it could well be a red carpet laid out for Laxman to go out and join Dravid in a fireside chair to bring curtains down on another legendary career.