Those who have not seen Vishy in action, sing paeans of V V S Laxman because he bats differently than most of his contemporaries in an era dominated by one-day and Twenty20 cricket. He just caresses the ball and produces the same effect that a Virender Sehwag or a Kevin Pietersen creates with their slam-bang methods. But, all said and done, even Laxman cannot hold a candle to Vishy.
Vishy was seldom or never seen labouring for his runs. Never did he play with sterile negation because he knew the secret of artistic independence of effort. His eyesight was brilliant, footwork lightening and wristwork amazing. His confidence, his ability to see and judge the ball early and his hand-eye coordination enabled him execute his shots with feather touch and sweet timing.
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An improviser at the crease, he possessed a rich repertoire of shots and excelled in not just one or two but in a wide range of them. It was just that he played his favourite square-cut, square-drive and flick so often that people did not remember his other shots. Despite his lack of height, he was a master of hook and pull, too, but the Indian team depended so heavily on him and Sunil Gavaskar that he had to curb these risky shots.
Vishy was a genius; period! He could cut late from flexible wrists to the ecstasy of cognoscenti and the chagrin of fielders. For six balls apparently alike in pitch, or pace, or spin, he could produce at least six different strokes. If his square-drive was a jewel fit for display in a museum, his late-cut, square-cut and flick off the toes deserved to be treasured in an art gallery.
At times bowlers were seen applauding the charm and glory of his shots. He would put them, with the rest of the spectators, under a spell. The free uplift of his bat, the lissome poise and rhythm of his delicate shots were enough to lift anyone out of his utilitarian self and send him or her straightaway into raptures. To aesthetes and connoisseurs, who go by art and beauty and perfection, Vishy's batsmanship bordered on the sublime.
Like Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji before him, he lifted cricket to an atmosphere of freedom of personal expression. When Vishy was at the crease, the scoreboard hardly told you more than half the truth about what he was doing. The touch artist in him was a law unto himself. Though never careless or irresponsible, he went about his unburdened and unbridled way to enthrall the true cricket votaries.
The little big man was not just an enormously gifted batsman but one under the sway and in the thrall of incalculable genius. His cricket was always young, fresh and spontaneous. Batting came quite naturally to him. To a fundamentally sound technical foundation he added an unpredictable inspiration as though grace descended on him.