Author
VVS Laxman with R. Kaushik
Publisher
Westland Sports
Date
November 19, 2018
Final Verdict
4.5/5

About the Author

VVS Laxman, an icon of Indian cricket, is renowned for his stylish batting style and legendary performances. Today, he is also a respected commentator and mentor, shaping the game’s future with his insights and deep knowledge.

The Untold Stories of VVS Laxman – Cricket, Miracles, and Life in 281 and Beyond

Amritesh Mukherjee reviews 281 and Beyond by VVS Laxman (published by Westland Sport, 2018).

There have been few glorious comebacks in cricket better than the Indian triumph over the mighty Australian team in 2001 at Eden Gardens. Forced to follow on after bundling out for 171 with a massive trail of 274, the game was all but lost. Lost, yes, until VVS Laxman joined Rahul Dravid with India reeling at the score of 232-4. Lost, yes, until the duo put up a partnership of a record-breaking 376 runs, with India going on to declare their innings at 657-7.

VVS Laxman

A religion needs miracles. It’s fair to say, then, that a country that treats cricket as a religion needs miracles, too, from time to time. Undoubtedly, the Eden Garden game was a miracle, with Laxman being one of the wizards who crafted this victory. But this wizard had cast many other spells and had many stories beyond that one inning. 281 and Beyond is a collection of those stories.

When so many people are genuinely hoping and wishing and praying for your success, how can you not walk the extra mile to keep those smiles on?

– VVS Laxman, 281 and Beyond

The Making of a Cricket Wizard

But how did a kid from a family of doctors become one of the greatest cricketers ever to hold the bat? What was the journey of VVS Laxman, the wizard? 281 and Beyond is that story. Even though he was a part of the iconic Fab Four, VVS Laxman (or Vangipurapu Venkata Sai Laxman) has always stayed in the limelight, unlike his contemporaries. Through this book, written in collaboration with the senior cricket writer R. Kaushik, someone who closely followed his career, Laxman shares his life and journey with everyone.

Rarely diplomatic and always heartfelt, the book feels like someone sharing their life by the fireplace, to use a clichéd phrase.

To his fans, he might be akin to a god. But that doesn’t change the fact that being in a position like that comes with a truckload of insecurities, trauma, self-doubt and loneliness. How do you navigate that? How do you face the pressure over and over again? We see him finding consolation and strength through religion and spiritualism.

The Gita says — do your duty, but not with an eye on the outcome. Effectively, it means the only thing that is in your hands is the effort. That is what drove me.

– VVS Laxman, 281 and Beyond

Triumphs and Trials: Life Beyond the Pitch

Not just that, he talks about his wife, his friends, and other members of his support circle who stood by him at times when he couldn’t. He writes about his maternal uncle, who nudged Laxman toward the game, ultimately changing the direction of his life. He talks of the importance of having backers when you’re growing up and want to go against the established path, when you’re struggling in your career and backed into a corner, or when you need to make tricky decisions. The stories could easily come across as preachy, but it’s that trademark sincerity throughout the narration that never lets them become so.

VVS Laxman

Those more interested in the story of Indian cricket than VVS Laxman’s personal ones (though why would you not want to know of this fascinating man, his life and career?) would find much to enjoy here, too. His admiration for his teammates, particularly Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, and Rahul Dravid, is apparent, and the anecdotes would delight any cricket lover like me. There are detailed portrayals of his teammates, their relationships with VVS, and their shared stories.

While it’s a life and career of many triumphs, it was equally filled with failures, whether his lack of selection in ODIs time and time again or his tussles during the (now infamous) Greg Chappell stint. The book includes the many struggles behind that “always smiling,” “sincere” face that saw the Indian team through numerous rough situations. However, despite his conflicts, I loved how he addressed those negative relationships without insulting the other person, only reflecting his grace and humility.

Greg sent out conflicting signals, treating me with a callousness that I found shockingly unacceptable. I will always respect Greg Chappell the batsman. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Greg Chappell the coach.

– VVS Laxman, 281 and Beyond

As much as 281 and Beyond is the story of Laxman’s career, upbringing, relationships, and struggles, it’s also the story of his batting experience. Regardless of how nervous and worried the pre-match Laxman would be, the Laxman at the pitch was a calm and determined man and, undoubtedly, one of the best. He describes his quasi-meditative state as he’d face the best of bowlers while piling runs for his team. At his best, he was a musician tuning his instrument, eyes closed, a state of pure existence and skill. The book is a conglomeration, therefore, of VVS Laxman, the man, and VVS Laxman, the legend.

Favourite Quotes from VVS Laxman’s 281 and Beyond

As I previously mentioned, some of my favourite parts were Laxman recounting his stories with his teammates. Two such incidents are:

The night before the Pune match, we had gone out for dinner—Viru, Zak and I. Out of the blue, Viru told me, ‘Laxman bhai, you had a great opportunity to make a triple hundred in the Kolkata Test, but unfortunately, you didn’t. Now you wait and watch, I will become the first Indian to score 300 in Test cricket.’ My jaw dropped and I stared at him in astonishment. This guy had played just four ODIs, wasn’t anywhere close to Test selection, and here he was, making the most outrageous of claims. For a second, I thought he was joking, but Viru was dead serious.

Most youngsters breaking into the team are so busy trying to establish themselves that the fun element goes out of their cricket, and I say this from experience. MS was different. (…) What stood out was his balance and maturity as a human being. He understood the game really well, and his situational awareness was excellent. And he had plenty of self-belief. He was unorthodox as a wicketkeeper and batsman, but he didn’t succumb to pressure and try to be classical. He had a unique batting technique, and because he knew his game so well, he knew how to use it to score runs.

Conclusion

Ultimately, it paints a vivid, all-encompassing portrait of a reserved cricketer whose presence heralded a new era of Indian cricket. He doesn’t shy away from talking about any aspect of his life, whether it’s the successes, failures, disappointments, relationships, grudges, insecurities, or ambitions. “You are what you are as a person. Your legacy as a human being doesn’t depend on the results you produce.” Indeed, VVS, indeed.

Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh doesn't know what to do with his life, so he writes. He also doesn't know what to write, so he reads. Gift him a book if you chance upon him and he'll love you forever.

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