There was optimism mingled with conviction in VVS Laxman’s tone and tenor as the batting great predicted the start of an era of prolonged dominance by the current Indian Test team, akin to the great West Indian and Australian sides of the past.
As the long home season begin with the Kanpur Test against New Zealand, India are seeking to become the numero uno side in Test cricket and Laxman, who called captain Virat Kohli a “trendsetter”, felt achieving the number one status will just be the beginning of a long journey.
“It’s a great opportunity for India because they are going to play three quality Test playing countries. This India team has the potential to be the number one and they can be the best Test playing nation for a very long time,” Laxman told PTI on the sidelines of a promotional event by broadcast partner Star Sports.
The elegant Hyderabadi had his reasons.
“The reason for that is everyone is young in their Test careers and also they have played a lot in overseas conditions. From personal experience I have seen that once you play overseas you become an allround player because you get to play in different types of wickets, different weather conditions, different kinds of oppositions who are very good in their own backyard.
“So I think they are well rounded cricketers now and playing in India they know what kind of conditions to expect, it gives the team the right kind of platform to showcase its talent, play to their potential and once they do that they will start dominating Test cricket for a long time,” Laxman said.
He felt India should go with five bowlers in the first Test at Kanpur, and picked Murali Vijay and KL Rahul as the team’s opening combination, with Cheteshwar Pujara at number three after his impressive run of scores in the Duleep Trophy.
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In its quest to be the world’s best, the team was peaking at the right time, Laxman felt.
“All of tem are peaking at the right time, all of them are just about three or four years into their Test careers and all of them are young and fit and very talented. This team has got the talent, the all round experience by touring all over the world and playing in different conditions. They have got great skill sets – be it in batting, fielding, spin bowling or fast bowling department.”
While he was lavish in his praise for Kohli, Laxman felt the skipper is fortunate to have the right kind of players in his arsenal.
“I think Virat Kohli is very fortunate to have players from which he can chose depending on the playing conditions. They have really impressed not ony in Indian conditions but all over the world and all of them have great work ethic.
“Kohil is an inspiration, a trendsetter for me as he inspires his colleagues to raise the benchmark. He is always looking for wins. He is flexible and has conveyed the message that he is here to win.”
Asked about coach Anil Kumble, he said, “Anil is one of the most hard working cricketers I have come across and I am sure he will instill the same as a coach as well and it started off well in the West Indies. I believe that Virat and Anil will continue in same vein.”
He was also fulsome in his praise for the way Mahendra Singh Dhoni managed the transitional phase after the departure of legends in hordes.
“Dhoni has to be really credited for the way he managed the transitional phase, the way he helped in transition and also the selection committee for reposing faith and identifying the players. It was tough for them because at the start of their careers they played a lot in overseas alien condition which is always a challenge for any cricketer, but still they have adapted,” Laxman said.
“Results may not have gone their way but still I felt they had opportunities to win a match or series. There were some brilliant individual performances. Dhoni has to be credited for that and all the young players, who grabbed their opportunities and showed to all of us they belong to international cricket, also deserve kudos.”
About Rohit Sharma, he said, “He is capable of being a match winner in Test cricket, it’s just about getting his game plan right.”
Talking about vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, Laxman said, “Rahane is a role model for first class cricketers because he has come through the grind of first class cricket. He has got a great technique and temperament and, above all, is a great teamman. He is one of the best.”
Laxman is impressed with the opening combination of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay.
“Healthy competition really impressed me. KL Rahul was ideally suited for Test cricket but the way he has improved his skill sets in other formats it shows that he is very hard working, very matured, introspecting and wanting to improve his game, hope he gets a long run in the playing XI,” he said.
Laxman called Wriddhiman Saha the country’s best glovesman at the moment.
“Since Dhoni left Test cricket Saha has been the best keeper, he is a gritty character, very determined and is the best glovesman we have at the moment. If he can start contributing with the bat the way he batted in the West Indies it will be great for Indian cricket and himself,” he said.
Asked about off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Laxman said, “He is the most valuable player, he is a spinner but technically and mentally equipped to play as a batsman.”
He also congratulated the BCCI for arranging 13 Test matches in the home season.