'Proud of our feats abroad'

'Proud of our feats abroad'

VVS Laxman has been a frontline soldier in India’s march to world number one status over the last decade. That epic 281 against Australia — his favourite opponents — in Kolkata in 2001 alone is sufficient to seal his place among batting greats. Now just seven short of 7000 Test runs, Laxman spoke to Deccan Herald about a satisfying decade and his challenges.

Excerpts:
How is it to be part of the number one Test side in the world?    
This has been a dream come true for me and the team. There is no better feeling than achieving your dream. Reaching the No 1 spot is the result of years of hard work and there were a lot of guys involved in this process… a lot of players, various captains, support staff and well-wishers of Indian team.
But, definitely, it is tough to maintain the No 1 spot. Other teams like Australia and South Africa have been playing well, but we have enough talent in our ranks to keep the No 1 spot with us for a long time.

Where do you think the process started?
Certainly, the journey started from the year 2000 when Sourav (Ganguly) took over as the skipper. I think the one thing that has changed in the last decade is the way we travelled abroad. We started (the process) by winning a Test in Zimbabwe in 2001, then there were victories in the West Indies (2006) and England in 2002 and 2007. I would say that the mindset has changed in the last decade.
We always used to do well at home, but never could perform up to our potential abroad. So it came as a great joy for all of us when we started winning Test matches regularly abroad and eventually it transpired into Test series wins. Batsmen were scoring runs regularly and bowlers found a way to take wickets in a bundle in conditions alien to them. So we are proud of what we have done overseas.

Do you think the label of poor travellers has been erased, finally?
I think the label of poor travellers has been erased. It is also because the way other teams coming to India and the whole experience of them travelling here. The mindset towards us abroad has changed after our Test wins there and now the teams are worried when we travel there as they know we are not mere pushovers. Now we have to win more consistently abroad, we have got the talent for that, and I am sure we will not be referred as poor travellers anymore.

How special it was to share the dressing room with the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Kumble?
I have been fortunate to play alongside them. Their commitment, desire to excel…they are role models for all generations. Their preparation and approach to cricket have been excellent, and it reflects in their performance and their record sheet shows it.

In the last decade no team has challenged Australia like India, and personally you have also relished playing against them. What provided the spark?
I have always relished playing against Australia, the best team of the world with best bowling attack in the last decade. I took my game to the next level whenever I played against them. That applies to the team also. Personally, their style of play suited me as they are very aggressive and look to take your wicket all the time. It’s a challenge to play against such a side and doing well against them gives extra satisfaction.
You had some memorable battles against Shane Warne, the best Australian bowler in the last decade...
He is a great bowler and you need to be at your best all the time while batting against him. He is a very intimidating bowler, has a great reputation; so that spurred me to perform against him as it gives great satisfaction to perform against a player like Warne. Having said that, I have not made any special preparation for Warne, I just trusted my abilities and experience of playing spin from childhood. But I feel proud that I have managed to dominate a bowler like Warne.

Despite the lofty achievements over the last decade, have you ever felt that you have not got due recognition because every time your name seems to prop up in the chopping list?
The first three or four years in my career I was in and out of the team, then I realised that the only thing I can do is to score runs. I know there’ve been a lot of rumours going around, but I am happy that I have been able to perform consistently over the last 10 years for my country. I think everybody acknowledges my contribution to the team over the years. Nothing gives you more satisfaction than winning matches for the country.
But you are playing only in Tests, so is there any added pressure on you to score runs?
I don’t think there is any pressure. But it’s definitely tough when you are playing only one format of the game. You want to play as many games as possible. I have been lucky that I was involved with Lancashire. When there was a huge gap of six months between the IPL and the first Test against Sri Lanka, I played for Lancashire for two and a half months, keeping me match fit.

You have been a free-stroking batsman, but, perhaps, since 2006 onwards you have played some in-the-trenches knocks. Was it tough to play such out of character innings?
Yes, I have done that quite a bit. You know, I have opened, batted at number three and number six. Batting at number three came natural for me, but batting at number six and opening never came naturally to me. One of the reasons for my inconsistency during my early years was opening the innings. But I made it a point to adapt my game and I am glad that I have been able to perform in the various roles given to me. So, I take a lot of pride in the fact that I was able to perform in tough situations, play some innings that bailed the team out of tough situations.

After 14 years of international cricket, is there anything you feel you have failed to accomplish?
As long as I feel that I have given 100 per cent for the country I am satisfied. But there will be areas you would like to improve, in my case, I am not happy with the number of hundreds and I like to improve my conversion rate.

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