HYDERABAD: It has been a long wait for VVS Laxman, a wait that spanned all of 115 Tests and today he's as excited as a kid about to get his favourite toy. His dream will come true on Friday when India engage New Zealand in the second of the three-match Test series.
After having played against all Test nations, the first Test match to be held at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium will be Laxman's first in front of his adoring home crowd.
It's a strange coincidence that all the Tests Hyderabad has hosted - at the Lal Bahadur Stadium - featured New Zealand. While the late ML Jaisimha was part of the team led by Bedi, Mohammad Azharuddin and Arshad Ayub figured in the team of 1988.
Now, Laxman and Pragyan Ojha are set to be part of the team that will end Hyderabad's 22-year Test hiatus. Laxman, fresh from his exploits in Ahmedabad, where he and Harbhajan Singh rallied to save the Motera Test, waxed eloquent: "It is every sportsperson's dream to play in front of home crowd. I had the opportunity to play an ODI at the Lal Bahadur Stadium. The Gymkhana is where I played most of my cricket. Having said that, I must confess that the feeling of playing a Test match at home is different and will be immensely satisfying.
"This is the city that has given me everything and it's a special feeling to have my coaches, well wishers, HCA officials - it is they who promoted me - and all those who matter to me, watch me play. It is a game of uncertainties but I'll give it my best shot. Come what may, I'll remember this Test match forever," Laxman told ToI on Tuesday.
The elegant right-hander has been in prolific form in 2010, scoring 704 runs from seven Tests and if he was hurt for having waited this long to play at home, he disguised it well. "It was a bit difficult in the beginning. Hyderabad is a big association and has always been known for its cricket culture. It hurt a bit that Sachin (Tendulkar) could play in Mumbai, Rahul (Dravid) in Bangalore and Virender (Sehwag) in Delhi but not me in Hyderabad. And I think the whole credit for this should go to Shiv bhai (Shivlal Yadav). Of course, the government gave land but it's due to his effort that we have the best ground in the world, without doubt. The facilities for the players are fantastic and the initial disappointment has now turned into pride that we will be one of the best Test centres in the country," said Laxman.
How an adverse report from a match referee sealed Hyderabad's fate as a Test venue is well known. But like always, a door slammed shut opened a window of opportunity and Shivlal turned that opportunity, rather a barren patch of land, into a theatre of dreams.