With confidence in his stride, Hanuma Vihari wants to be ‘the best in the world’
Hanuma Vihari bats on Test debut at The Oval last year. © Getty

From being a rather soft-spoken young man to being a rather confident yet soft-spoken young man, Hanuma Vihari’s career has given India possibly a reliable middle-order batsman in Test cricket for the future and has given the man in the picture, a lot of confidence. While his team Rest of India could not beat Vidarbha in the 2018-19 Irani Cup despite his twin hundreds, Vihari, the batsman, has made sure his stock continues to rise.

There was a bit of clamour when he was picked in the playing XI ahead of Karun Nair for the Oval Test last year. But the 25-year-old seems to have won the team management’s trust in his handful appearances for India – so much so that he was asked to open the innings in Australia alongside debutant Mayank Agarwal despite batting in the middle order in his first two Tests and now his eyes set to become the ‘best in the world’.

Vihari spoke with CricketCountry following the Irani Cup. (READ MORE: After three-year wait, Vihari aims to maximise IPL opportunity)

You became the first batsman to score a hat-trick of hundreds in Irani Cup and became only the second batsman to score two in an Irani Cup match after Shikhar Dhawan. How’s the feeling?

It is a great feat to achieve. Not many players have done it before. To be just the second player to do it after Shikhar Dhawan (2011). It is obviously a great feeling. But there’s a lot more to achieve.

Vidarbha still won the title. Where do you think the match went in their favour?

We lost it in the first innings. We should have scored more. But overall, they played good cricket and obviously, they are a very strong team.

Hanuma Vihari made 8 off 66 balls as opener at the MCG.
Hanuma Vihari made 8 off 66 balls as opener at the MCG. © Getty

What are your thoughts on the year gone by?

It is a great learning curve for me. Especially, getting experience of playing abroad. My aim is to keep improving every day so I will be the player that I want to be one day. I still have a long way to go but obviously, but the last one-and-a-half years has been fabulous on the personal front and from the team’s point of view. But there’s a lot more to achieve, personally and for the team also.

What did Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri tell you during those two overseas tours?

They showed a lot of confidence in me. Especially, for the Melbourne Test. It was a big call and showed they have a lot of confidence in my ability. That’s what they keep telling me “you have the skills to play at the highest level. We think you are ready and be confident about your game.” And I just kept doing that and (kept) contributing for the team in whatever way I can.

Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal and you have done well for India recently. How did your stints with India A under Rahul Dravid help you?

I think he has given us that freedom to express ourselves. The players, they know what they want do. He gives us that freedom and helps us grow. Especially, with his experience, the character, we always get inspired and want do well for our country. More than anything, his presence has helped us.

The ball to dismiss Marcus Harris in the Perth Test was a brute. How is your bowling shaping up?

I used to bowl for my state. Not regularly but yes, sometimes, I used to help my side. But I never thought I would be bowling for India one day. It happened very quickly. I don’t know how it happened but I was the lone spinner in Perth and I am fortunate to get those two wickets. I want to keep improving my bowling and help my side.

Hanuma Vihari's spin accounted for two wickets in Perth
Hanuma Vihari’s spin accounted for two wickets in Perth. © AFP

Do you aspire to play for India in limited-overs cricket too?

Definitely. I am improving my game in the limited-overs format, especially in the last couple of years. I am improving my strike-rate and my range of shots. I definitely want to play all formats for India. That’s a realistic goal in the future and I am sure I am not too far away from it.

From playing domestic cricket to playing for India, does your approach change?

Nothing changes when it comes to four-day or five-day cricket. I don’t like to give away my wicket easily. I just want bowlers to earn my wicket. And I know, after a while, if I get in, it is not easy to get me out. The bowler has to bowl a good ball to get me out. I just like to play my game and eventually I get those runs. And even after I get hundred, I don’t like to give away my wicket easily and try to get a big hundred

Have there been any changes in your game in the last year?

One year back, clearly I was not so confident as a player. I used to get big runs but the way I used to feel very different from what I am getting now. You can see the difference in a way I am batting. I just want to keep improving and my ultimate goal is to be the best player in the world. I am sure I am not too far away from it and I will keep striving for that.