Ojha’s tribute to his Laxman bhai
Hyderabad, Aug 24: Most of VVS Laxman’s fans, supporters and teammates would’ve loved for him to play the first Test of the series against New Zealand. It would’ve been the perfect farewell for him, on his home ground of Hyderabad. But Laxman, like he’d done for the last 16 years of his life, chose to put the team before self and walked into the sunset with a calm dignity that has been his hallmark throughout his career.
While his retirement came as a shock to all associated with Indian Cricket, for one of Laxman’s teammates, it was a bit heartbreaking. Pragyan Ojha was more than keen to play his second Test in his home town with his fellow Hyderabadi and someone he’d admired since childhood. But it was not to be.
After putting India in a dominating position in the first Test at the end of Day 2 with his two wickets, Ojha spoke emotionally about Laxman, the man and the cricketer he was privileged to know for so long.
An untimely exit
Laxman bhai’s retirement came as a shock. I never thought that after being selected for the series he’ll announce his retirement. I wanted to play this home Test with him – two Hyderabadis playing a Test match for India in their own city would have been great. I thought we’ll play together on our home turf and do something special for India.
The lighter side of Laxman
Besides being a great cricketer and a wonderful human being, he has this great sense of humour. He doesn’t joke around with everyone but there is this group of people with whom he opens up. He cracks jokes and pulls their legs. He has a superb sense of humour.
Those unforgettable words
He’s given me a lot of good advice but what touched me the most was something he told me when he called me on the night of his retirement. He said, ‘It’s time that I move on in life and now you are the flag bearer of Hyderabad. You have to ensure it keeps flying high.’ I was deeply touched by his words and was thinking about it for the whole night. Those were precious words and I will do my best to value them. I’ll work hard and strive to serve both my country and state for a long time.
He always told me that whatever his future with India is, he wants to continue playing for Hyderabad and win the Ranji Trophy. It will be huge for Hyderabad if he plays. Someone like him going out there and scoring runs for the team will be an immense confidence booster for everyone. If I’m available, I’d love to play with him and I pray that we win the Ranji Trophy under him.
When you’re bowling to batsmen like VVS, Tendulkar or Dravid, and make them defend a ball, I think that’s the best length you’ve bowled as a spinner. You improve tremendously as a bowler by just bowling to these batsmen in the nets. I never used to miss these opportunities. Whenever Laxman bhai used to come for the nets, be it with the Indian team or during the off season, I used to call him up and ask where he’s batting and went to bowl to him. These batsmen, sometimes they play shots that are very difficult for the others pull off. And if you can beat them or get them out in the nets, it does a world of good to your confidence and you know that you can bowl to any batsman in the world.
That moment of glory!
The famous chase against Australia. He got angry on me because I couldn’t take that single. He had that liberty of shouting at me because he has seen me growing up as a kid. It showed how passionate he was about India winning. He didn’t want any silly thing to happen. Although I got shouted at, I’ll cherish that moment for the rest of my life. It was two Hyderabadis winning the Test for India.
The guiding hand will be missed
Everyone will miss his sense of humour. For me personally, during crunch situations, when I was bowling and the wickets didn’t help me, he always used to be there at short cover or short midwicket and talked to me. The other seniors did the same and it was equally motivating. But when someone from your own state, who has known you since you were a kid, comes up to you and says something encouraging, it really helps. I’ll miss that. When you’re bowling, sometimes there’s too much on your mind and you tend to forget the basics. Whenever I was under too much pressure, he came and told me, ‘It’s not about wickets but about discipline. That is your strength.’ And that helped me regain my focus.