CHENNAI: There is a phrase that Murali Vijay often uses with his close circle of friends. “Nothing comes easy. You have to earn every bit of it. If you become a superstar overnight, you’ll never understand the value of it.”
It might sound a bit cliched, but take a look at this app called “Cricket Career 2016” on Google Play Store. A new venture of Vijay, it is like any other app-based game. But, there is a catch. If you are looking to don India’s colours, even though it is just on a mobile, you cannot! You have to begin as an U-13 player and gradually move up before playing for India. Because, “nothing comes easy...”
That is how Vijay’s life has been. Before cricket became serious, on one Sunday morning at the Somasundaram ground, Vijay waited patiently for his chance to bat. As he kept wickets, he said to his much-amused teammates, “I’m better than most of you. One day, an opportunity will come my way. And when I hold on to it, nobody will get a chance.”
Then came a low period where he failed in Class XII exams. He entered a world where he did nothing apart from playing snooker. This is was the time when he stayed away from family to learn life the hard way. It is also the phase during which Vijay chose who his friends were.
Vineet Padmanaban is one among those friends, who has known him since he was a ninth grader. In the last 15 years of knowing Vijay, a lot has changed in the cricketer’s life, but five friends have remained constant. There is an unwritten rule when all of them meet in Vijay’s balcony.
“After a few hours, when we walk out of this balcony, we should go back having learned a new thing. He will insist on us asking him about what he learned on tours, and he too will ask what is going around. When one is struggling, nobody needs to tell about it, but he will come forward and help. From the time I’ve known him, Vijay has never ever asked for any help. He is a self-made guy, and wants to do everything on his own,” says Vineet.
From being the reserve kid in school whose only verbal exchange with teachers use to be “I want to play cricket”, Vijay has come a long way. Considering that he was always a reluctant speaker in class, his friends now find it surprising that he picks up the microphone. Behind that shy boy there now lies a determination that one day might see the opener enter the field of politics.
“I like people who have leadership qualities. I’m just excited. Whatever it takes, I would love to pursue it. I’m following whatever is in front of me. If it is challenging, I’ll take it up,” he says. Bharath Reddy vouches Vijay can definitely be one. “He’s always in the forefront if one of his friends has a problem. Even when he is away, he makes sure that he follows up what is going around.”
The right-hander is a huge admirer of J Jayalalithaa, whom he has admired since college. “I always like people who change the life of others around them. That is what a leader is all about. She used to fight for our rights in Delhi, and you felt confident as a Tamilian.
Look where Chennai is now. The city is always moving forward. Not just her. I admire whoever takes the city and state forward, be it Kamal Haasan, AR Rahman or Ilaiyaraja. I even like MK Stalin, because he too has struggled during his way up.”
A big-time fan of Kamal, the question naturally shifted to the Jallikatu protests across the state, which the actor gave full voice to. “I’m a person who supports Jallikatu. It is a Tamilian tradition, and people are passionate about it. I’d love the sport to be seen, but when I have not even tried it, there is no need for me to speak out in the open. There are more qualified people, like those who participated in it, who have a better understanding of it, who can talk about it. I’ve no right to do so. Why should I take the spotlight by just saying a few things?” asks the 32-year-old.
From being an innocent boy who used to — and still does — get trolled by friends, Vijay has come a long way. He likes his PlayStation, loves surfing, goes for long drives. There is one other thing that Vijay has particular fondness for: the sea.
He is a frequent visitor to Kovalam beach and whenever on tour, he likes spending as much time as possible on the beach or on islands. The reason is simple. “When you are on land, there is so much distraction around you. If you are in a room, there is a music player, a table or a fan that will disturb your focus. But when you are out there in the sea, there is nothing to disturb you. It automatically gives way to positive thoughts and makes you look at the bigger picture. That is what I enjoy the most,” he says.
Unlike many contemporaries, Vijay is a hesitant talker in front of the media. He doesn’t like making outlandish statements and prefers to let his bat do the talking instead.
Even in life, that seems to his way. Vineet points out, “He might be a man of few words, but when he talks, he makes sure people listen to him. He is more of an observer, and one remarkable thing about him is that he is a doer. He has become a superstar, but he never believes that he is one and likes to live a normal life.”