INDIA’S TALISMANIC BATSMAN Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman announced his retirement from all forms of cricket today, saying it was time to make way for the next generation.
“I am retiring with immediate effect. I think this is the right time to move on,” the stylish middle-order batsman, who turns 38 in November, told reporters in his home city of Hyderabad.
“I have always kept the country’s success ahead of personal aspirations. I think it is time to give youngsters a chance at home ahead of a tough season.
“But I would like to thank the Almighty for allowing me to live my dream of playing for India.”
Laxman, better known by his initials VVS, played 134 Tests since his debut in 1996, scoring 8,781 runs at an average of 45.97 with 17 centuries and 56 fifties.
He also scored 2,338 runs in 86 one-day internationals with six hundreds, but had not been part of India’s limited-overs squad since 2006.
Laxman decided to call it a day even though he was included in the Indian squad for the two-Test series against New Zealand starting in front of home fans in Hyderabad on Thursday.
“Till last night I was unable to make up my mind, but in the end I listened to my inner voice and arrived at my decision to retire,” he said.
“I informed the chairman of selectors (Krishnamachari Srikkanth) this morning that I am not going to continue playing for India. I also spoke to many of my team-mates.
“They were surprised that I was retiring before the series. It was all very emotional.”
Laxman was retained for the Kiwi matches despite failing miserably in the last two Test series in England and Australia, both of which India lost 4-0 and were dethroned as the number one side.
He managed just 182 runs in four Tests in England at an average of 22.75 and fared even worse in Australia with 155 runs in four matches at 19.37.
“No one likes to lose, so of course it was very disappointing to lose those two series very badly,” said Laxman. “But it happens in sport. Hopefully, the team will avenge those defeats this season.”
Both England and Australia are due to play four Tests each in India on either side of the new year.
Laxman is best known for his majestic 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in March 2001, when India turned the tables on the world champions after being made to follow-on 274 runs behind.
When India struggled at 232-4 in the second innings and faced certain defeat, Laxman and Rahul Dravid (180) put on a match-winning partnership of 376 to help their team post 657-7 declared.
Steve Waugh’s Australians, set a target of 384 runs, folded up for 212 in their second knock, following a six-wicket haul by Harbhajan Singh, to leave India improbable victors by 171 runs.
Laxman’s 10-hour masterclass which contained 44 boundaries is often regarded as the best match-winning innings played by an Indian batsman.
Laxman is the fourth senior Indian cricketer to retire in the last four years, leaving batting master Sachin Tendulkar the last of the veterans to hold fort in a period of transition.
Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly retired within a month of each other in 2008, while Dravid called it quits in March this year.