VVS Laxman © Getty Images
VVS Laxman (above) was mentored and coached by ML Jaisimha © Getty Images

New Delhi: Remembering the late ML Jaisimha, one of the most stylish batsmen to play for the country before he succumbed to cancer in 1999, former India cricketer VVS Laxman said it was the ex-Hyderabad captain’s advice which paved the way for his success in the national team.

“I was always amazed by his simplicity,” recalled Laxman of Jaisimha, who passed away on July 7, 1999. “When attending the Nutrine under 13 cricket coaching camp that he conducted, I remember he would come to the Indira Gandhi Municipal Corporation stadium in Vijawayada on a bicycle. That was something incredible for a legendary cricketer about whom we had heard so much,” the batting virtuoso told PTI.

Laxman’s affection for the Jaisimha, in fact, extended well beyond the field when his appeal to the TVS Motor Company resulted in ‘My way — the biography of ML Jaisimha.’ The book was launched in 2005 by Sunil Gavaskar, who considered Jaisimha, who led Hyderabad for 14 consecutive Ranji seasons, his all time hero.

“A purist when it came to the game, one would always see him in immaculate whites,” Laxman said. Among all his interactions with Jaisimha, Laxman’s fondest memory of the man was his understanding of the game. “‘For India you may be an opener, but for Hyderabad you can come one down’,” Laxman recalled the Hyderabad coach telling him.

The advice stood vindicated when his ward, coming in at No. 3, scored 281 against Steve Waugh’s Australia at the Eden Gardens, billed by Wisden as the ‘Innings of the century.’ “A great strategist and excellent man manager, the way in which he instilled confidence in each Hyderabad player was fantastic to see,” said Laxman. “Although Jaisimha Sir was afflicted with cancer in his last days as Hyderabad’s coach, he never made it known, showing his ability to endure severe pain. I was also inspired by his passion for and knowledge of the game,” he added.

Jaisimha’s unassuming ways were echoed by former India spinner Venkatapathy Raju. “What made him a phenomenon was that anyone could approach him. So it was not surprising that the Marredpalli Cricket Club, Hyderabad’s own MCC, which he led in the local leagues, comprised mostly of school and college students, including myself,” said Raju.

“The guidance he gave was sound. What he made as minor changes went a long way for us. A six wicket haul during the Challenger Trophy against the who’s who of Indian cricket was a direct benefit of his advice and sealed my place for the 1991-92 tour of Australia,” he remembered. “Take care of him Buggy,” Jaisimha told Abbas Ali Baig, his buddy and coach of the Indian team for that tour Down Under, the tweaker reminisced, referring to his mentor’s protective nature.

For all his gentle ways off the field, he was different on it. “He liked a fighter, who never gave up,” said the seasoned spinner. Jaisimha played 39 Test matches during his 12-year cricketing career from 1959 to 1971, scoring 2,056 runs, including three centuries and 12 half-centuries.