When he used to bat, one would feel the need to romanticise the game of cricket. Often one doubted if the willow could actually work the kind of wonders that VVS Laxman performed. Seldom would you associate art with batting, but Laxman made you do that and believe there was an artist at work on the 22-yards canvas.
Now, the times have changed, the game has evolved, entertainment has crept into the gentleman’s game and fast-paced cricket is the order of the day. Ask VVS Laxman if this is a welcome change, and the purist in him would choose to look at the competitive nature of T20s with a gentle smile. He confessed his love for ‘timing’ over ‘brute force’ and said that he still considered Tests to be the litmus test for a cricketer.
From beyond the boundary ropes, under the mentor’s hat, sits a master batsman, who sat down for a chat with IPLT20.com to analyse arguably the three most dangerous batsmen in T20 cricket – Glenn Maxwell, AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni.
Here are excerpts from a very very special interview:
The Big Show: Glenn Maxwell.
Laxman’s take – “Most fearless batsman this IPL”
What has been the key aspect of Glenn Maxwell’s batting this year?
Fearlessness. That is one thing that we saw very briefly in the ICC T20 World Cup this year. He was playing fearlessly, attacking from ball-one without the fear of losing his wicket, which has worked well for him and for Kings XI Punjab. The only difference between the T20 WC and the IPL is that he is converting starts into big scores. He is talented and skillful and can play a lot of innovative shots. What differentiates him from the other batsmen in this tournament is the fearlessness, which has helped him succeed.
Does he signify fearlessness in a format where it is needed the most?
Without a doubt! For someone to come and hit the first ball for a six, shows his mindset and shows the kind of confidence level he has at the moment. He is playing to his strengths. He does not have one or two shots that he relies on. He can play an array of shots and play a couple of shots for each and every delivery. If the same ball is pitched on the off-stump, he can hit it through midwicket and at the same time reverse-sweep it over point. That skill and the ability he possesses to destroy bowling attacks, make him a very dangerous batsman.
He has hit a purple patch this season. If you were Maxwell’s coach, would you talk to him constantly or just let him be?
I would just let him play the way he has played and I would just ask him to assess the situation better and win matches for his side. He has done it and there has been a vast improvement on that aspect from the T20 World Cup. He is learning from every game and he realises the importance of David Miller, Virender Sehwag and himself in that Kings XI squad. I have always felt that it doesn’t matter how quickly you get the runs as long as that innings has an impact on the result of the game.
How would you describe Maxwell in one word?
Laxman’s take – “Most complete batsman in the modern era”
Is he the most complete batsman in the modern era?
Yes, he is without a doubt; and I feel Maxwell is getting there. Like Maxwell, AB can play shots all around the wicket. He has got three or four shots for one delivery. There is nothing that he cannot do when he is batting. He is quick on his feet and in his thought process. To execute some of the shots he has played, one has to have a quick mind, which he has done effectively not only to mediocre bowlers but also to the best in the business. He is quick on his feet, always thinking, and an exceptional runner between the wickets, which makes him a complete cricketer.
Does he have the perfect blend of orthodox cricket and T20 cricket?
Yes, you are right. That is why he is complete. Because of his good basic technique, even on tough conditions, he can adapt quickly. To unsettle the opposition, he can play some freak shots and get his innovation into the picture and change the game singlehandedly. He has the potential to play aggressively and be defensive at the same time.
The most astute cricketing brain when it comes to batting?
I do not know him personally, but the way he bats, you can make out that he responds to a particular situation in a certain way. AB exactly plays the way he should in a particular situation.
MS Dhoni: The Monk.
Laxman’s take – “The perfect combination of brain and brawn”
One thing that every cricketer would want to have that MS Dhoni has?
Temperament. The reason MS Dhoni has been so successful, is his temperament and situational awareness, which is so important for a cricketer. He understands exactly what is to be done as a captain and as a batsman in a particular situation, and he delivers more often than not. You may have the best technique and skill, but you need to know when to do what, which Dhoni does brilliantly. His game is totally different when he comes to bat early and when he bats down the order during pressure-cooker situations, which all boils down to situational awareness.
Has he put more thought into his batting over the years?
Yes, he has, and a lot of it. The Dhoni during his debut was one-dimensional and the opposition bowlers could make him play according to their plans. But it is amazing how he has progressed as a batsman. He understands his own game and has the hunger to keep improving. I would say that MS Dhoni is an all-round player now.
This calmness that he is known for, is it his nature or does he make a conscious effort to be that way?
Calmness cannot happen overnight and it is a conscious decision by him to be calm. Especially when you are leading the side, you don’t want your captain to be restless or panic. Right from the first day I saw him, MS Dhoni has always remained the same. He has always taken cricket as a sport, which I think is his biggest strength. He doesn’t get emotionally attached to the result. He will be disappointed if the team losses, but he is not someone who will brood over the loss. He is always looking to start afresh. He is a very balanced cricketer and there are very few I have seen in my career who are as balanced as MS Dhoni.
Is he the perfect example of a cricketer who uses his brain and brawn to good effect?
He does no doubt. He is one player who has succeeded because of his brain. It is only because of what is between his two ears that he has succeeded. It is the main reason why he has become one of the legends of the game.