Within a matter of months we are again saying Goodbye. Seems just like yesterday that Dravid bid adieu to international cricket and here you are, doing the same. Even before India gets back to Test cricket after a long break, we have been left hopelessly depleted. It won’t sink in as yet. It will sink in when the first test against New Zealand begins in Hyderabad and we don’t have a middle order to call our own.
You are the third among the Greatest Four to announce his retirement in the last few years and without you the team is never going to be the same ever again. Change is a part of life, they say. But cricket as I knew it years ago when I was a kid is gradually changing. The deep sense of respect & gratitude people felt to the likes of you , Dravid, Kumble, Ganguly is not there anymore. The young blood today is cocky and confident. For them, this is more of an occupation and it’s no longer a gentleman’s game. The competition is tough and cricket could be an ideal career choice is dawning upon this generation’s parents.
What is it to be you, VVS? What is it, to play with stalwarts like Sachin and Rahul, yet, make your own separate identity? What is it, that made you special & appreciated? Is it only talent? Is it only perseverance? Or is it the warmth you exuded as a person? Is it the humility? Or the serenity?
You have always been the unsung hero and we never knew when did you became the vanquisher of the deadly Aussie brigade…
Just last November you hit that 176 n.o. to help India conquer an innings victory against West Indies, followed by the rare failure in Australia. Everyone exclaimed, your career’s over. I admit, the debacle in Australian sub-continent was shocking & humiliating but you weren’t the only one who failed. It was a collective failure. And we did recover from it in the limited overs format. Once again, we are back to playing good cricket and the upcoming test series is just another chance to bounce back in this format of the game.
What I now realize is that, people have taken you for granted so many times. Even now, an unspoken rumor was going around that you are going to quit soon after this test series, or maybe soon after the first match. It would be a fitting farewell, they said, in Hyderabad, your home-town.
But you just shut everyone up. You quit on your own terms, in your own way, unwilling to back down or show any kind of weakness. You said that the time was right, a time to let youngsters take the mantle. In doing so, you have left a huge void in the middle order. How the hell are we going to fill it so soon? You showed how a great cricketer never gets bogged down, and you have always held your head high. You admitted your mistakes, improved upon them and polished your own game in a way that it was enjoyable, entertaining & fascinating. You have emerged taller living among some of the great cricketers this world has seen and yet made for yourself a special place. How did you do it?
Rarely have I considered you amazing. You are no Sachin or Rahul or even a Sourav. But it is rightly said, “You never know what you have till you’ve lost it.” And now that we are losing you, I remember all those times when you have literally pulled Team India out of difficult situations. Your first test century, a scintillating 167 against Australia in Sydney – just amazing. And who can forget that epic 281 again versus the Aussies that launched you as a superman.
I see so many quotes today by current and retired cricketers praising you. They have oodles of praise your batting, your temperament but above all, they have a great respect for your character, your personality. Almost all, have described you as a great human being. Those who have not expressed this verbally, in the depths of their heart, every person that has met you, has experienced the genuine warmth radiating from you.
Rahul Dravid’s tribute to you is very emotional. I absolutely loved these lines –
“When he walks in, whether you are batting in the middle or sitting in the pavilion and a wicket has fallen, he brings calm to the whole dressing room. I, personally, get a feeling of calm and solidity, not because Laxman will always score but because you know that he will never let you down in terms of effort: you know that he is there and he will pull his weight. There is no higher compliment. You know he has the requisite quality, and that he can read situations well. He has turned up in every circumstance: bad pitches, good pitches, when setting a total or after the opposition has piled up a big score.”
VVS, you really have been a different kind of inspiration for all. Not only for young batsmen but us mere mortals too. Your retirement was inevitable, everyone’s is. But you are walking away as a hero. And I bet, all Aussies’ are breathing a sigh of relief right now. 🙂
The team will move on….. it always does. Young & dashing Kohli is in an unbelievable form, Raina is looking good, Manoj Tiwary would get better, Ajinkya Rahane will be groomed and who knows, even Rohit Sharma bounce back. There is no dearth of talent in Indian cricket and Team India will always have a bright future.
But, it will never be the same again. We have lost another Ace today. In this pack of cards, now a solitary ace remains. He will fight till he feels right and retire on his terms too, just like all you people did.
I will miss you VVS. You have been a part of that Indian team which fueled my passion for cricket. You will be missed for that effortless ease you displayed while batting, for your shots, for your silent assault on bowlers, for that calmness, for that reverence, for being what in words sounds quite easy but in reality is something that you can’t say for many people – a good human being.
I salute you. And dedicate this letter to all genuine lovers of cricket. In you, let us all find inspiration to reach higher and make our own “very very special” place…
With lots of respect & adoration,
A fan who will always look up to you