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India tour of South Africa: Murali Vijay quells fears of his ability overseas

Murali Vijay's 91 on Day 1 of the 2nd Test was a showcase of his improved temperament and determination to spend time at the crease © Getty Images (File Photo)
Murali Vijay’s 91 on Day One of the 2nd Test was a showcase of his improved temperament and determination to spend time at the crease © Getty Images (File Photo)

A well-compiled 91 not out from Murali Vijay on Day One at Durban sets him on course for being India’s preferred opener in upcoming overseas series. Abhijit Banare explains why a ‘matured’ innings from Vijay redefines his value in the opening slot.

 

In a country with abundant reserves of good batsmen, those representing India need to make a larger than life presence with big innings. There’s a Virat Kohli, there’s a Cheteshwar Pujara whose records and skills just reassure the talent India has. Amidst them, Murali Vijay isn’t a towering personality who scores tons after tons or creates a Virender Sehwag-like impact at the start to be the opener to watch out for. Yet, his roller-coaster ride with occasional big scores in Tests didn’t deter the selectors in backing him to be India’s best opener after Sehwag and Shikhar Dhawan.

 

There was much furore over his form when he was selected for the home series against Australia in March this year. His potential proved to be heavier than form for the selectors. Vijay made the opportunity count with a 167 in Hyderabad and 153 in Mohali. Those sparkling innings set him on course for a regular place in the team. The poor form of Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir just added more value to his ability at the top.

 

A different chapter awaited him in South Africa. The early dismissal in both innings of the first Test was just another addition to his low numbers overseas.

 

 

Before the start of second Test against South Africa

M

Runs

Ave

Hs

8

274

19.57

58

 

 

At 19.57 away from home, Vijay was nowhere close to be an ideal candidate for India to open overseas. His 58 came in his second away Test against Sri Lanka. Since then, he toured South Africa and West Indies where he couldn’t make an impact.

 

Thursday’s innings marked the start of a matured Vijay and it is yet to finish as his first overseas ton waits on Day Two. He squandered the opportunities in the Johannesburg Test. The wicket was not as convenient as Durban to bat on as well, but in those conditions Pujara and Kohli stamped their authority. At Durban, Vijay kept his patience and settled in, as the steam of the pacers spiralled downwards occasionally. It was the same strategy which Kohli and Pujara applied in the first Test grinding the bowlers down. The waiting game not just helped Vijay to settle in, but demoralised the pacers every time he negotiated the short balls and the incoming deliveries comfortably.

 

Towards the end of first session, Vijay had started to look like the batsman you saw him at home, driving elegantly and cutting the ball fearlessly. Facing Robin Peterson was only fuelling his confidence allowing him to continue driving the ball. His fourth Test fifty was only a little achievement in the quest for his first overseas ton. He managed to fend away the fiery Dale Steyn  reversing the ball regularly late in the second session and tested him with more short balls which Vijay looked technically sound while facing.

 

It is innings like these that will shape up Vijay into a reliable batsman. The Indian batsmen overall have shown that playing overseas is all about tweaking the mindset. Before the start of Test series, it was about salvaging pride. Just one century by Kohli showed what’s there to be achieved. Vijay has truly conquered that peak effectively. With enough experience behind him, he is sharp enough to manoeuvre through challenges. A part of it reflected in what he said before the start of the Test series.

 

“For me, it’s a feel good factor inside. It’s not about how many runs I score; it’s more about how I bat. If am in good touch and hitting the ball well, that matters to me more. In that respect, I am satisfied at where I am looking forward to whatever I can do in South Africa. This is another opportunity for me and that’s how I go about it in my life. I am concentrating on things I can do here, and take things out of it. I want to focus on the process, and not on what is going to happen at the end of the series,” he had said.

 

South Africa is just one of the many challenges that Vijay faced. With India set to tour New Zealand, England and Australia (late in 2014), Vijay needs to be consistent all through to keep the critics quiet. Though Sehwag isn’t around, MS Dhoni has already indicated that Gambhir is his third opener and any slip up by Vijay could virtually put his place in danger. At the same time, Dhawan’s struggle since his sensational debut won’t go unnoticed. If Dhawan continues to struggle, the selectors will continue to back Vijay further and get the Delhi left-hander to replace Dhawan.

 

South Africa vs India — Live on Ten Cricket

Catch online live streaming of India vs South Africa Test series here

 

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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