Home > Features >

Murali Vijay’s altered approach has helped him reap rich dividends

Murali Vijay's altered approach has helped him reap rich dividends

At Hyderabad, Murali Vijay bludgeoned the Australian attack, scoring 167 in an innings that spanned over seven hours © PTI

By Karthik Parimal

In the November of 2008, India met Australia for the fourth and final Test at Nagpur for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The series was 1-0 in favour of the hosts, but there were a few factors that presented a fair chance for Australia to draw level. Gautam Gambhir, India’s most dependable opener back then, was suspended for a Test, owing to an altercation with Shane Watson, paving the way for 24-year-old Murali Vijay. The Test was Sourav Ganguly’s last appearance in international cricket.

Amidst the distractions, Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and opted to bat. Out walked Virender Sehwag alongside newbie Vijay. The former was renowned whereas the latter was still an unknown entity.

Vijay handled pressure with commendable nonchalance, as he cut and drove when scoring opportunities came his way, and left alone good deliveries with the poise of a seasoned campaigner. In his innings of 33, he scored just two fours — a lovely cover-drive off Brett Lee and a lofted shot over mid-on off Jason Krezja. However, he displayed a demeanour that revealed quite a lot. His monk-like concentration, watertight technique and a pleasant personality made him an instant hit with the team.

Two years later, he compiled an arresting century against the same opponents, but between his debut and this knock, there were hardly any scores off his blade that were worth a mention. Against Bangladesh, at Dhaka, he replaced VVS Laxman at No 5 and appeared to be oozing with self-confidence, until, at the score of 30, he let his instincts get the better of him. In a needless attempt to clear the boundary, the ball was safely deposited into the hands of a fielder waiting at mid-on. There were no gaping holes in his technique, nor did the hunger subside, but the frequent lapses in his concentration became evident.

This problem persisted when India toured West Indies in the summer of 2011 as well. Some of the big names in Indian cricket had not made the tour, which presented young the blood to make an impact. In trying to switch gears, Vijay became overtly defensive. He remained unsuccessful in his attempt to find the right balance while shuffling between the three formats and, as a reason, was duly discarded. One felt for Vijay, considering his calibre, but, if statistics were anything to go by, an average of 30.45 from 12 Tests hardly presented a formidable case, especially with the kind of competition breathing down his neck.

After almost an 18-month hiatus, he received a knock on his door to replace an out-of-form Gambhir, owing to a few blitzkriegs at the domestic level. A long rope was certainty, provided Vijay displayed grit to score big. At Chennai, he showed anything but that, throwing away his wicket in a rather regrettable manner. The mistakes that led to his ouster two years ago were repeated. And, by his own admission, the least he could have done is remain unbeaten while chasing a small fourth innings total of 50. The mental side of him went back to the drawing board after that Test, and he decided to “stay at the wicket for as long as possible” from the next Test onwards.

At Hyderabad, he bludgeoned the Australian attack, scoring 167 in an innings that spanned over seven hours. He refrained from going into a shell despite affirming to just “stay” and not throw his wicket away. The good deliveries were given due respect, bad ones treated with disdain, and he gleefully played second fiddle to Cheteshwar Pujara. There were no alterations to Vijay’s approach even when a coveted landmark approached. If there was an opportunity to loft the ball at 96, he duly took it. Xavier Doherty will testify to that.

Then Mohali presented another marvellous dimension of Vijay’s newfound approach. Debutant Shikhar Dhawan took the Australian bowlers to the cleaners, smashing 33 fours and two sixes in his innings of 187, while constantly maintaining a strike-rate of over a hundred. Vijay’s love for big hits is well known, and there is little doubt that the temptation to follow suit would have occurred on more than one occasion.

Yet, he remained unflustered. Had he been wearing a Chennai Super Kings (CSK) jersey, there was every possibility that Vijay would have participated in a race to the finish with his batting partner, but the fact that he realised the importance of having equilibrium in the longer format of the game speaks volumes of his growing maturity. “It’s a Test match, so you’ve got to take time and play,” said a smiling Vijay after the game.

He went about his knock in a no-nonsense manner and finished with a score of 153, off 317 deliveries.
The remarkable turnaround in his methods, and his ability to curb his natural instincts, has been heartwarming and his attitude exemplary. “Whatever target they set will be chased. No two ways about it,” said Vijay after the end of second day’s play at Delhi, with the elegance of his trademark cover-drive. It was difficult to imagine an Indian opener make such a valorous statement, leave alone backing it up, a few seasons ago. Let us hope this one’s for the long haul.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Hamilton

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 72 runs

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai

Videos

AB de Villiers praises team after win in 1st ODI

Pakistan hold advantage at stumps on Day 3 of 1st Test against Australia

Asad Shafiq emerges as dependable No 6 for Pakistan

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Mitchell Johnson shows signs of effectiveness on unhelpful surfaces

South Africa vs New Zealand 2014: Vital for Brendon McCullum to find form quickly

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Duleep Trophy India New Zealand New Zealand vs South Africa New Zealand vs South Africa 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of New Zealand 2014 South Africa vs New Zealand South Africa vs New Zealand 2014

Duleep Trophy 2014: Central Zone lead by 81 runs as North Zone bowled out for 457

Laxmi Ratan Shukla to lead Bengal ODI team

David Warner feels lucky to have equalled Don Bradman’s record

Kapil Dev’s Dev Musco Lighting accused of inflated costs by GCA

VVS Laxman advises budding batsmen to score big hundreds

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Spin hunt continues for visitors

Sarfaraz Ahmed may have trumped the Akmals as Pakistan’s wicketkeeper-batsman across formats

Don Bradman — even if every chance he ever gave in his career was accepted, he would still remain head and shoulders above the others

Len Hutton’s hundred gets reported as illness

Viv Richards’ 6/41 bowls West Indies to a thrilling victory over India

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

Student dies in Finland high school stabbing

Google partners Oxford University to teach machines to think

How to make tamarind or imli packs for hair and skin

Laxmi Ratan Shukla to lead Bengal ODI team

School girl gang-raped in Bengal

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Pavitra Rishta to air its final episode tomorrow

Top Sex Positions: Frog Princess

NGOs pursue education for all

Nokia turnaround since handset unit sale continues, reports $950 million Q3 net profit

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here