‘Dravid loved batting, VVS made it look easy’
Hyderabad, Aug 22: “Every game we play leaves a footprint in cricket's history. We must never forget that.” Rahul Dravid said these lines in his Donald Bradman Oration last year. Not for a moment in 16 years, did Dravid forget it, nor did VVS Laxman. Hence, ensuring they left a rich legacy behind them.
Dravid and Laxman have inspired a generation with their steely resolve, selfless devotion to the team and their feats on the cricket field. Besides being the pillars of India’s batting, they were also mentors to the players to whom they now pass on the baton.
Of those who take up the mantle now, the man that comes closest in embodying the values and work ethic of the retiring legends is Gautam Gambhir. Quiet, focused, resilient and the one to always put the team ahead of himself, Gambhir is, in many ways, the heir to India’s two eternal team-men. And after firmly stating, “No one can ever fill the void left by Rahul and Laxman” Gambhir vowed to “Maintain the high standards set by them and take their legacy forward.”
In a heart-warming chat with bcci.tv, India’s opening batsman spoke, with fondness and reverence of his two senior team-mates who have played a significant part in his career.
What are the first words that come to your mind when you think of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman?
No words can describe what Rahul and Laxman mean to Indian cricket. Not only me, no one can express their worth in words. The way they have performed overseas, conducted themselves, not only on the field but also off it – they’re the perfect role models for all the youngsters in this country. You can learn so much from them, not only cricket wise but generally in life. Filling their shoes will not be easy for anyone, whether it’s a youngster or me or any other member of the team. What Laxman and Rahul have done for Indian cricket, it’s very difficult for anyone to replicate it.
Suddenly, India are without two of their best Test batsmen. How will the team cope with this?
We’re going into a Test series after a long time without two players who have played more than 100 Tests each for India. Not having them suddenly in the team is going to be a very different feeling and it’s not going to be easy. But then it creates an opportunity for a youngster.
When you walk out to open in the next Test, in a batting line-up that’s without Dravid and Laxman, will your approach be any different?
Opening the batting is a difficult job. It’s very important for the team to get off to a good start. I cannot make it even tougher for myself by thinking about the fact that there’s no Rahul or Laxman to follow. That way, all I’ll do is put added pressure on myself. As an opener, you have to set a platform for the people to come in, that role doesn’t change whether the batsmen to follow are experienced or inexperienced.
What is it that you’ll miss the most about them?
Everything about them will be missed. Just being in the dressing room with people like Dravid and Laxman is an enriching experience. You know there are two people in the dressing room who are always by your side when you’re going through a bad phase. You can approach them and talk to them about not only batting but the mental aspect of the game as well. One special thing about them was their mental toughness. Not having them around will be very tough but hopefully we can live up to the standards they have set over the years. They took the mantle for such a long time and now it’s important that we take their legacy forward.
What’s the one thing that you’ve learnt from each of their batting?
Rahul Dravid just loved batting. He never threw his wicket away. All he did was bat, bat and bat. That’s the one thing I love about him. In Tests, if you just keep batting, runs will come. If I had to choose someone to bat for my life, it would have to be Rahul Dravid.
For Laxman, I cannot even think of taking anything from his batting. When he’s batting in full flow, there’s no better sight in world cricket. He makes batting look so easy. You cannot take anything from his batting, you cannot imitate him because if you do, you are only creating problems for yourself. I’ve seen so many great batsmen. There are much bigger legends in world cricket. But there’s nothing more beautiful than watching VVS Laxman bat at his best. It’s just something else. I’ve shared some big partnerships with him – in Napier and one in the Delhi Test against Australia where both of us scored 200s. I’ve been very privileged to watch him from so close.
Does it amaze you how an extremely calm, gentle and amicable man like Laxman becomes such a fighter with the bat?
That is what mental toughness is all about. It’s worth learning from him that aggression is not about abusing on the cricket field or showing your emotions. It is delivering for the team. When the team requires you to stand there and bat for six hours and you do it, that’s what aggression is. Both Dravid and VVS are the living examples of that. I’ve never seen VVS Laxman pump his fist in the air or react much after scoring a hundred. But there have been times when he has stood tall for the team when the team needed him the most. That’s something all of us should learn from these two men.