HAVING played no cricket since the Australian tour in January,VVS Laxman is currently in the middle of the most extensive layoff in his career.
His name,however,has been making Monday morning sports news headlines frequently. Not here in India,but in faraway Bradford,a multicultural town in Yorkshire,England. Where a cricket club named after him has been doing rather well this season.
It started with a phonecall Laxman got a couple of months ago. On the line was a 41-year-old businessman called Manish Patel,asking if he could name a cricket club after the Indian batsman. It was a peculiar request,but Laxman agreed with no particular second thoughts that he can recall now.
It was a little strange. He was very adamant and I had no choice but to say yes. Manish and his family are among my closest friends. I have known them since 1995 when I played in the Bradford League as a youngster, Laxman told The Indian Express. Obviously I was humbled by their gesture to name a club after me.
As it happened,the name didnt let the man down. VVS Laxman Cricket Club has been the toast of the Bradford Mutual Sunday School Cricket League this season. The League,in which matches are played on Sundays,is a 117-year-old competition of teams representing the varied aspects of Bradford.
The teams in the League are divided into four groups,and VVS Laxman is currently fourth in Group B. Despite a few washed-out encounters,the team is just a win away from qualifying for the semifinals.
The BMSSCL consists of Indian-origin teams,Pakistani-origin teams and several local teams. The standard is quite high,since you have many players who have been part of senior leagues across Yorkshire, said Mukesh Patel,Manishs cousin and captain of VVS Laxman CC,whose crest carries an Ashok Chakra. Back in 2001,the league was written about after it featured a game in which all 22 players were Patels.
Mukesh said senior members of the newly-formed club were unanimous on naming it after Laxman. We did actually discuss a couple of other names. But once Manish suggested VVS Laxman,the meeting was brought to an end, he recalled.
Laxman is an icon,probably the closest to being Mr Perfect. And not just on the field. He is a perfect example of how you should carry yourself. It is unimaginable how hes handled his fame. He is also like family to us, Manish,who is also the club secretary,said.
Laxman played two seasons for Pudsey Congs in the senior Bradford Cricket League in 1995 and 1996. I was picked following my performances for the India U-19 team in England the previous summer. I was just 20,and for the first time in life had to live alone and fend for myself, he said.
On the field,I played alongside (former England quick) Matthew Hoggard and under former Yorkshire captain (late) Phil Carrick. The opposition had guys like (former New Zealand swing bowler) Simon Doull and (Pakistan batsman) Yousuf Youhana (now Mohammad Yousuf), he added.
In Bradford,Laxman met the Patels,with whom he shared vegetarian meals and a family atmosphere he could be comfortable in. It wasnt easy for young Indians to get acclimatized to the conditions here back then. And we just hit it off from the time we met first. He was such a nice guy even then,just more reserved, Manish said.
Laxman has been a frequent visitor to the Patel household ever since,and makes it a point to spend time with them whenever he is in England.
They are amazing people. Even when I was at Lancashire last year,I would drive down to their place whenever there was no cricket. They treat my family like their own, Laxman said.
VVS Laxman CC,Manish said,is our small way of showing our gratitude and affection towards a great friend. And we try our best to play the game with the same impeccable fairness that Laxman has always endorsed.