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Seeking change, sometimes without reason

Harsha Bhogle

Posted: Oct 31, 2008 at 0004 hrs IST

: And so another inmate of death row walked out of the kangaroo court that was sitting in judgement over him. And he did it with poise, simplicity and dignity. This double hundred was flawless and like a master cutter shaping a diamond, VVS Laxman eroded the Australian bowling. They respect him there far more than we do in India and this innings was an example of why that is so. Maybe, like with the flagbearers of the new economy, now imperiled, we need to be careful of plans that come in fancy packaging; that cater to the here and now.

He was unhurried, as he has always been. And yet the scoreboard was moving. Like the smooth car that merely seems to glide on the road, that lets you take in the scenery and doesnít require you to glance at the speedometer, Laxman merely seems to caress the ball into the gaps. His 200 came from 301 balls, 79 balls faster than Gautam Gambhir who had himself played an innings of extraordinary class.

There is something deeply satisfying about a man who doesnít thump his own chest, doesnít give the two fingers to the opposition, is in the news for the right reasons and doesnít know what a brawl means. And yet, isnít aggression all about trying to win a game, about ensuring your bowlers have the best chance? Have we lost this definition somewhat? Maybe we live in the era of gimmickry, symbolised at its very worst by reality shows where the most talented singers must know how to scam smsí and organise newspaper releases; and where judges must be hostile and walk out of shows or do something equally demeaning to be noticed.

And yet, a champion stands on six hundred and sixteen wickets, another plays his hundredth test in Nagpur and a third has gone past twelve thousand runs without needing to be indecent; without needing to visit match referees. Neither has Rahul Dravid who has scored the small matter of ten thousand test runs. The message going out to young Indians is that it is possible for simplicity and achievement to live together.

Only four days ago there were suggestions that Laxman be left out of the eleven to accommodate another bowler. The same suggestions were made forty days ago and four hundred days ago. We seek change, and to be honest change isnít always bad, but somewhat we seek to dump as well. True, we need to groom another generation of middle order batsmen for we cannot have too many leaving at one time but try telling that to a player who is scoring runs; who is in the pursuit of the only thing he can do well in life.

This will be one of Laxmanís more satisfying moments. He was treated very shabbily during the IPL, was prevented, in a most bizarre episode, from playing for a month in England and had to witness the swords being sharpened for his execution. Donít forget this is a man who gave up a million dollars a year so the Deccan Chargers could get better players and help develop cricket in his state. In England they are going crazy over a million dollars per player. Laxman gave up a million a year for three years! At the end of the first season in the IPL, he was sacked when he had been captain for six games and the job was given to a man who had led in the other eight!! And not a thank you for the extra three million!!

Yes, this will be special for VVS. Even if it wasnít as breathtaking as his 167 in Sydney or as captivating as his 281 in Kolkata. It will be special because of the atmosphere it was played in. And he will enjoy the fact that it has helped put his side in a very strong position. India have never had two double hundreds in an innings. Gambhir with a fantastic coming of age innings on Wednesday and Laxman with this reminder on Thursday have changed that.

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