'Nothing beats playing at home'

'Nothing beats playing at home'

Post by StraightDriv » Fri, 12 Nov 2010 17:36:35


'Nothing beats playing at home'

Four*** years into his career, VVS Laxman is finally set to play his first
Test in Hyderabad

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

November 11, 2010

As kids we all grow up with dreams such as scoring a century or destroying
the opposition with the ball. An essential part of these dreams is the

My first experience of playing in an international ground was at the
Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. It was an Under-16 match but it was a
phenomenal experience. To play in a ground which you see only on television,
where Test matches are held, was plain exciting.

But nothing beats playing in the place where you grew up. You might ask,
what is so special about playing at home? For me it is the familiarity.

Having said that, after having played at all the venues in India for more
than a decade, many of them multiple times, the feeling is relative. Still,
playing in a place where I was born and brought up, playing in front of my
well-wishers, my mentor, my family, friends - to play in front of these
people who encouraged me and were instrumental in me becoming what I am
today is a very special feeling. I hadn't experienced that feeling all these
years and so I was a little hurt, but now I can't complain.

The first time I watched a big match live in Hyderabad was in 1981, between
South Zone and Keith Fletcher's England, Fateh Maidan (Lal Bahadur Shastri
Stadium), which was just a five-minute walk from my house. I sat with my
brother and the family of my neighbour, who was a member of the Fateh Maidan
Club, in the stands. A few years later I watched an India-Pakistan one-dayer
from the corporate box because my grandfather was the chairman of Andhra
Pradesh Sports Council. Those were the two big matches I watched live before
I made my international debut.

I was always a regular at Ranji and domestic matches, right from my Under-13
and Under-15 days. I remember, one time Bombay came to Hyderabad for a Ranji
Trophy match played at the Gymkhana grounds. It was the first time I saw
Sachin Tendulkar in person. He was the talk of the country, having made his
international debut so young. We kids were practising in the adjacent nets
and I managed to take a peek at him and other stars like Dilip Vengsarkar,
Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri, Mohammad Azharuddin and Arshad Ayub. They
were players you normally only saw in newspaper pictures or on TV, and
suddenly to see them in person was exciting. That e***ment has always
stayed inside me. It used to give me a thrill to be in the Fateh Maidan.
Going there and soaking in the atmosphere contributed to my dreams of
playing for the country one day.

Raja Krishan Mohan, my uncle and mentor, has always been an avid fan of
cricket. He used to watch a lot of cricket and had seen West Indies and Tony
Greig's England play in Hyderabad when he was a youngster. There were a lot
of cricket pictures in his house and he had a lot of stories to narrate
while I was growing up. He evoked a hunger in me and helped me achieve my

For a visitor Hyderabad and Secunderabad might be twin cities, two different
places. But there were no differences in the cricket in both cities. Like
Mumbai has Shivaji Park, for us it is the Parade grounds, on which there are
multiple matches happening simultaneously. During my days there were 14
wickets and it chaos all around.

For me, the two most important grounds in addition to the Parade one were
the Gymkhana ground and the St John's Academy. I was groomed here and
realised my talent here, and it was here that I became the cricketer I am

The Uppal Stadium is new even to me, a local, but I'm more than eager to
perform here. It is a brilliant stadium, and having played around the globe
I have no doubt it is one of the best. Shiv bhai [Shivlal Yadav] has done a
lot to set up this world-class venue, which has all the amenities. During
the IPL games here, overseas players asked why the stadium was not a Test
venue yet.

This match will be a test for both the venue and myself. I hope the crowds
will come in in big numbers to watch. On the personal front, I have some
unfinished business. Last time I played an international match in Hyderabad,
it was against the same opponent, New Zealand. It was November 15. I had
walked in to bat towards the end of the innings after Sachin and [Virender]
Sehwag had scored a big opening partnership. I got out in single digits. But
I have got a double-century at Uppal [224 against Rajasthan in the 2008-09
season] and I hope I can bring the same form to this Test. After the
exciting draw in Ahmedabad it is an important Test match in the context of
the series. If I can contribute in a win, it would be really special.