Laxman Sivaramakrishnan – The Most Valuable Right Hand in India

Every New Year’s Eve, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan celebrates his birthday. When the world waits for midnight, to ring in the New Year, Siva is one year older. He was born on December 31, 1965, the fourth child of Mr. T. Lakshmanan, a Madras businessman dealing in edible oils. Nineteen years later, ‘LS’, as he is known most often, and ‘Siva’ sometimes, is a national hero. After Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, there was the first girl in the family, which consists of five children, and she has been the favorite from the time she arrived.
But Laxman Sivaramakrishnan is naturally the family’s hero. What does the ‘T’ in your father’s name stand for? ‘I don’t know. It must be the village where my forefathers came from.’ It was quite understandable that he did not know. But family sources confirmed that it stands for Tranquebar (in Tamil, Tarrakampadi), which is near the town of Mayavaram. Thimble-sized, he still looks very much like a schoolboy in an arena where only men play Test cricket. Except that he holds his own, and with the ball, in his fingers, he can be lethal, as a present lot of England batsmen — with the possible exception of Mike Gatting — would readily confess.
The truth is, it cannot be easy to be a successful spin bowler in Indian cricket unless one is exceptional. Midway through the first Test of the series, in Bombay, England’s captain David Gower said that he did not put Siva quite in Abdul Qadir’s class. But after the defeat, Gower was magnanimous in his praise, saying: ‘Now I am not so sure, as Abdul Qadir has not taken 12 wickets against us in a Test.’ An admirable quality in this young lad is that he is extremely realistic about his bowling: ‘Any bowler knows when he has been gifted a wicket. But then there are so many occasions when the deserving balls do not get wickets. It is a sort of compensation.
One regrets bowling a loose ball when it gets punished. But regret changes to happiness when a bad ball gets a wicket. I will be honest. I have not bowled a bad ball deliberately. I am not sure anybody does.’ In Madras the followers of the game are legion. They are statistically-minded generally. Yet the discerning among them is quick Sivaramakrishnan: national hero to appreciate and also quick to criticize. Siva made his mark in school cricket, bowling outsides in a trice.
At that stage, he was a flattish type of finger-spinner, not using the wrist sufficiently. A Tamil Nadu batsman of today who played him then said: ‘He was remarkably accurate for one so young. But he did not have a potent googly. He never gave anything away, though.’ Remarkable performances in the national under-15 tournament for the Vijay Merchant Trophy brought him into national prominence. There were also occasional glimpses of an ability to bat. And in the field, it was clear that very soon he would be one of the outstanding ones.
Laxman Sivaramakrishnan without a doubt the best close-in catcher in the side — slips and leg-trap — but is not being placed there because the national selectors and the captain, Sunil Gavaskar, cannot risk him being injured. Selector Hanumant Singh said: ‘In Indian cricket today, it is unlikely there is a more valuable right hand.’ His trips to Sri Lanka with the India Under-19 side led by Ravi Shastri and another to England with the Young India side, also led by Shastri, helped. He played only two games in Sri Lanka, gaining four wickets.
In England, in seven games, he tallied 22 wickets. With the Indian School-boys, there was a trip to the West Indies, where in the company of Test left-arm spinner Maninder Singh he ran amok; he and his partner claimed 40-plus wickets each and were regarded as unplayable. Tours to Pakistan and West Indies with the national side in 1982 and 1982–83 gave him valuable insight into international cricket.
He played the final Test in Antigua (0 for 95 off 25 over’s), hampered by a hand injury, and had Gordon Greenidge miss early. He batted with supreme confidence, though, handling Malcom Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, and Winston Davis easily. His last overseas trip was to Zimbabwe with the Indian Under-25 side, under Ravi Shastri again. For someone so young, he has a much-traveled personality. He was not picked to tour Pakistan earlier this season because the selectors and the captain felt that the tour would dent his confidence. The grapevine had it that he was being kept in readiness for the England batsmen.
More difficult: How good is he? Siva says: ‘I am a long way from being a complete bowler. It is becoming more and more difficult to take wickets against the same England batsmen. When I picked up 18 wickets in three successive innings, it looked like a cakewalk. I accept that sooner or later, a stage is going to come when batsmen will make it harder.
That is the test for a good bowler.’ In Tamil Nadu, people think of the world of a leg-spinner, V. V. Kumar, who played only two Tests for India and took seven wickets in his first. Kumar was an outstanding practitioner of his craft. He and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan chat occasionally. He is grateful to a coach, M. R. Baig, for teaching him the fundamentals. But most of all, he is grateful to his parents and to his family for all the encouragement. ‘Without them, I would never have come this far. Siva, the destroyer, is supreme among the Iyers among the Brahmins. This Siva is surely a destroyer of England’s batsmen.
EVERY- New Year's Eve Laxman Sivaramakrishnan celebrates his birthday. When the world waits for midnight, to ring in the New Year, Siva is one year older.
Every New Year’s Eve, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan celebrates his birthday. When the world waits for midnight, to ring in the New Year, Siva is one year older.