Monday, June 12, 2006
End of the road for Laxman?
With Mohammad Kaif scoring an excellent unbeaten century against the West Indies yesterday, one can't help but wonder if this isn't the end of the road for VVS Laxman. India have a couple of tough decisions to make after this series, and Laxman is going to be squarely in the centre of them.
Sehwag and Jaffer will be opening the batting for the foreseeable future, and Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar when he returns, will take the #3 and #4 spots. With the 5-bowler strategy also in the mix, there is really only room for 2 middle order batsmen, and a backup. The four players in contention at the moment are Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Kaif and Suresh Raina.
You have to believe that Kaif is going to get a run in the side now, and with VVS failing so far on this tour, it's hard to see how he will be picked ahead of Yuvraj when Tendulkar makes his return. Age and value in the field are both clearly going to work against him. Personally I have my own misgivnigs about Yuvraj's true utility with the bat, but he is a fighter, and his pugnacious approach to the game is both refreshing, and requisite.
At that point, Laxman finds himself fighting for a reserve batsman spot, and that's a position that he's not likely to fill ahead of Raina. The man who played perhaps the defining innings of his generation may be about to exit stage left, with no more than a small whimper.
If it does turn out that way, we will all be left to wonder what could have been. An average of 43 after 75 Tests is not to be scoffed at. Critics will suggest that his recent form has been poor, and a couple of fifties against Pakistan, and a 140 in Zimbabwe has not been a great return since the 2003/04 Australian tour. However, it was only 6 months ago that he produced a top class match-winning century against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad.
A confidence and touch player, it wasn't until his Kolkata masterclass that he really cemented his place in the side, and even then, the one role he has been allowed to consistently fulfil is that of #1 scapegoat. Sometimes deservedly so, other times not. At the end of the day, I will thank him for the great moments and the entertainment, and consider myself fortunate to have seen some of his great knocks in person.