Sitting on an armchair, 40 years later, when another Indian from another era wins a test match for India, we will celebrate the win just as we did today. Giving high-fives and celebrating every thing Indian about the victory. Yet when the euphoria goes down, the mind will travel back in time to another day when another mortal saved the day. The memory won't remember the runs he made, but the class he show-cased and the joy of having the privilege of watching it live.
For under the toughest conditions, he answers every challenge that is thrown at him not with a sledge-hammer but with a painter's brush. Watching him bat is poetry in making. The ball like words dance of his blade in divine rhythm. He does not play cricket. But he is an artist performing on a stage. A regal performance befit only for the kings, yet it is on display for public viewing. Batting in fourth innings is tough. Ask the other ten who were in the team. Australia was like an angry dragon. Every breath smelled of the fire within. The short-ball was their occasional fire-ball whose frequency increased as the innings progressed. They were determined and disciplined. The Indian chase started like the Chemistry practicals - effervescence of CO2 (virendra sehwag) which soon died out as during the practicals. Then the grind that a test match is began.
When he came out with India 5 down which soon became 8 down, it looked another golden opportunity lost for India except for the lone hope. The hope, that if anyone can save India against the marauding Aussies, it was him and that was a big honor which hardly any batsman can boast of in this world. Australians on their part knew their adversary very well not to lower their guard. After all he had bugged them more than any other had done before. (They call him the bugger.) Yet when you look up to see him play his shot, you don't see the past. You don't see the 167 or the 281. But only the natural order of the things. That the delivered ball had a destiny and when it hit the sweet spot of the bat it was on its way to achieve its destiny. Where is our hero in this natural order of things? Well he is there, neither to smack the ball nor to dominate the bowler. He is there to help the ball achieve its destiny. He is only the Guide.
No opposition would get intimidated by his demeanor on or off the field. The silken grace, the elegance all point towards a monk-like personality. Yet this demeanor becomes an unintended deception for the opposition. Beneath the lazy elegance lies the most disciplined warrior. A warrior hardened by the many wars he has fought, the pain he suffered (was unceremoniously dropped from ODI squad) hiding everything behind his smile. A fierce warrior, who holds his ground when the ground beneath him shakes. The opposition never gave an inch, but he drove the ball like he is driving on a 6-lane expressway.
He still misses out on lot of people's all-time best eleven even though he has saved or won test matches for India against the best in the world. But he shrugs-off it just as he would to a well-directed bouncer. After all, the Indian top-5 boasts of the bests that cricket can offer to the world. You have a butcher, who rips through bowling attacks tearing them and their plans to shreds, the wall who stone-walls everything right at his toes and the little master who is the un-official God of Cricket. Yet with all these Gods in, for his class, his big smile and his tenacity, he still remains Very Very Special. Hats off to Laxman!