Hanuma Vihari has become a symbol of teamsmanship as he has never shown frustrations on being left out of the home matches while being asked to do the hard yards in overseas Tests. 12 of his 13 Tests so far have come in tougher, unfamiliar conditions away from home.
Former India fielding coach R Sridhar recently revealed that Hanuma Vihari himself had a part to play in his lack of home matches. Sridhar recalled that after his first home Test, against South Africa in 2019 in Vizag, Vihari had himself asked to be left out of the team so as to make space for an extra bowler.
India had gone in with four frontline bowlers in that Vizag Test and South Africa almost pulled off a draw until Mohammed Shami hit his straps on the last day to win the game. Seeing that the four bowlers had to work hard for taking wickets, Vihari suggested he be dropped for an extra bowler since the top-order was already doing bulk of the scoring.
Speaking to Cricbuzz, Sridhar revealed: “During that Vizag Test, I remember he came to me and said ‘Sir, I should not have played this Test’. Hanuma had played that Test because he had got a hundred in the previous Test in Jamaica. In India, we play with certain combinations… We still won that Test match on Day 5 but it took the class of Shami to get us there and took so much out of him.”
“He said, ‘Sir, next Test I shouldn’t play. We should play with an extra bowler because the way we are batting, we don’t need six batters’.”
The management paid heed to Vihari’s suggestion and picked Umesh Yadav over him in the next game in Pune on another flat pitch. This time, though, India managed a comfortable win with Umesh being among the wickets.
Sridhar hailed Vihari’s cricketing acumen, saying, “Hanuma Vihari is a terrific reader of the game. Tactically, he’s one of the best I have seen, he has such a good sense of the game. Even with the Indian team, when he was in the reserves, he used to come up with very good tactical inputs.”
Now Hanuma Vihari is all but certain to play in the eleven in the upcoming series against Sri Lanka as both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have been dropped. While Vihari has had success in the middle-order, Sridhar believes that he could be better utilized at and fits the bill for the number 3 position.
“I would ideally like to see him (Hanuma Vihari) bat at 3 in Test match cricket. He’s an ideal fit for that position, he’s cut out for that. He’s got the temperament of Pujara and has a slightly better technique. He can handle spin very well too,” Sridhar opined.