The entire Indian team was in a jubilant mood, after a resounding win against the touring Australians at Chennai. The champagne would have flowed liberally in the dressing room, to celebrate the victory against a formidable opponent. But amid that euphoric celebration, Murali Vijay wouldn’t have been happy with his own performance in the 1st Test.
The dejection was written large on Vijay’s face, when for the second time in the 1st Test, he lost his wicket to Australia’s spearhead, James Pattinson. In his comeback Test, Vijay seemed to be a man full of nerves and jitters.
But in a stark contrast to the first Test, Vijay battled his inner demons to score a well-measured century in the second Test at Hyderabad. His brisk gait to the crease and his dogged determination, gave you an impression of a cricketer who wanted to prove a point.
At Hyderabad, Vijay was duly rewarded for his determined graft. He was a personification of calmness at the crease and approached the task with a serene approach. He was quick to judge the pitch and the bowlers, and modify his technique accordingly. As the track tended to stay low, he presented a dead straight bat, and left the ball well, to negate the threat of James Pattinson. It could be seen that essence of building an innings has been ingrained into his system, during his formative years. Only when the opposition bowlers got tired, did Vijay open his shoulders, and played expansive strokes on the up.
In the second session, Vijay played with a refreshingly positive attitude. He played some elegant shots, against the quicks as well as the spinners. The exquisitely played well-timed flick shot through the mid-wicket region of Peter Siddle was a sight to behold. It was Mark Waughesque in its style and elegance. Whenever both Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell came onto bowl, he showed excellent footwork, and played with flair. He unleashed a wide array of shots and picked the length quickly to be a picture of complete contrast that he was in the first session.
Vijay’s twin failures at Chennai meant that critics and fans were baying for his blood. In many ways, Vijay’s elegant display of batsmanship at Hyderabad was an eloquent riposte to his critics.
Back in 2008-09, when Vijay made his Test debut against Australia at Nagpur, it seemed like he had a bright future ahead of him. But instead of establishing himself in the Test side, what transpired was a stop-and-start career. He had to constantly live in the shadow of India’s formidable opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. Even when he got an opportunity to make a name for himself during the tour of West Indies in 2011, he flopped miserably.
Vijay didn’t have a good season in domestic cricket in 2012-13 either, as he averaged just 17.25 in Ranji Trophy. The tide soon changed for Vijay, as he made a gritty hundred in the Irani Cup against Mumbai. As the luck would have it, the selectors noticed that fine effort from Vijay, and he found himself in the Indian Test side.
After playing for Rest of India against Rajasthan last year, Murali Vijay told, “It’s not all in my hands, I can just take it in my stride and move forward, be a better cricketer. It was really a test for me. Initially I was disappointed and I accepted the reality. You have to work on your game, and this is a nice chance for you to analyse yourself and become a better cricketer.”
Hopefully, Vijay’s Test hundred at Hyderabad will kick-start his second coming in Test cricket. The Indian cricket team is going through a transitional phase. But there is hope for the die-hard Indian cricket fan, as the trio of Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli can become the fulcrum of Indian batting line-up in the near future.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
First Published: March 6, 2013, 8:24 am