Growing up watching cricket in the ’90s and 2000s was an exercise in maturing along with Indian cricket. Starting from a time of 3-0 whitewashes over England at home, to complete heart break and dashed hopes whenever India toured abroad, I grew up party to the ups and downs of the Indian cricket team. The phase from 2001, when Rahul and VVS strung together that partnership at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, was the start of a fun time of watching cricket. VVS played a major part. Invariably, if got 2nd innings runs, especially towards the later half of his career, Indian went on to win the Test match. His class and his touch at the crease, while infuriatingly inconsistent in the early years, turned me into an admirer of his skill and ability towards the later part of his 100+ test match career. Therefore, the anticipation to read the man’s story in his own words was high as I started off on the book.
Vangipurapu Venkata Sai Laxman was born and brought up in Hyderabad, like me and we happened to share the same Junior College, where he was a long graduated and much talked about, senior. So a lot of what he writes about his early days resonates with me and incidentally, his grand parents’ house was also in the locality where I spent my childhood. I had the joy of meeting with him and getting his autograph one memorable evening at the Gymkhana grounds at Secunderabad where there was a small felicitation ceremony for him, post his knock of 281 against Australia. Even with all of this background, I confess that I was not his biggest fan. That place will always remain with his partner in that innings. I digress.
The book itself turned out to be quite ordinary for me. I am disappointed with so many of these autobiographies of cricketers – a readout of their scores in the various matches they played is not of interest to the readers. Rather, the make-up of the individual, what goes into making them tick and a generous dose of their personal beliefs, lives, etc. would be so inspiring. Very few books can live up to the candidness of Andre Agassi in “Open” or that of Abhinav Bindra in “Shooting for Gold”. VVS focuses on his career path and throws in only one or two instances that were not already in the public domain. The tone of the book is much like his commentary – he uses cliches and terms that have obviously been picked up from his many travels to England and Australia. The autobiography toes the official line on so many topics, including the tenures of the coaches, the experiences with them and so on, that it eventually feels like a history lesson on Indian cricket through the 2000s, starring VVS Laxman in the lead role. There is little mention of his superstitions, his true mental state when he goes out to bat, while on the field. Insights into the make-up of the winning Indian team are all missing.
I rate the book 3 out of 5 stars. It could have been so much more, but turned out to be so much less. I continue to admire the man for his abilities as a batsman – his story telling abilities can be much better.