At the start of 2013, very few would have thought that Murali Vijay will be the first choice opener for India, in Tests. When he was picked, many believed that Vijay was fortunate enough to get selected, ahead of some consistent performers(in domestic cricket). He didn’t have the requisite runs at the domestic level to stake his claim for that spot. In fact, when he was selected for the home series against Australia in 2012-13, it was termed as a biased move by the selection panel, when they had some consistent performers in the domestic circuit, still waiting for their turn. Vijay’s selection was based more on his potential and flamboyance, and not his statistics. When Vijay first came to the international arena, he was pre-dominantly a front foot player, and this flaw in his technique led to his downfall, and he was send back to domestic cricket, to work on his basics.
At the start of his career, Vijay was considered as a “Test specialist,” but after good, consistent performances for Chennai Super King in the IPL and CLT20, he was picked to play in the ODIs and T20s, but he couldn’t succeed. Vijay developed an over aggressive mind-set and this mindset had a very negative impact on his “Test game.” In the Test series against West Indies in West Indies, Vijay got out playing extravagant drives, on more than one occasion, and questions were raised about his temperament. But, Vijay worked hard and answered his critics brilliantly in the home series against Australia, where he scored back to back hundreds.
In his last 10 innings Vijay has scored 618 runs at an impressive average of 69.
In the first test against South Africa at Johannesburg,Vijay batted brilliantly against the new ball, but couldn’t convert the start into a big one.This innings improved his confidence and he was in full venom when he came in to bat in the second Test. At the end of first day’s play he was not out on 91. He departed for 97 the following day, but this innings will stand out and give him confidence as an opener. It was an innings of grit, determination and confidence. He also worked out his strategy against Steyn and Morkel. He knew he didn’t have the inputs in his batting arsenal to counter these two quickies, and all he did was leave, leave and leave. Any width on offer outside the off stump and Vijay was quick to lash onto it. It was a knock that can help Vijay to establish himself as a good Test batsman. Although, he failed in the second innings, his knock of 97 will give him a lot of confidence, ahead of New Zealand tour.
This year will end with Vijay answering all his critics on his selection and coming out of the casted shadows of his celebrated team mates. Vijay needs to continue the form because there’s still a tough competition for the opening slot. Also, MS Dhoni had stated that he considers Gambhir as his third opener. Gambhir will be putting pressure on Vijay for the series to follow.
By Jithu Jose Parackal