NAGPUR: The Media centre at VCA Stadium is decorated with photog r ap hs of cricketers. Different countries and generations are re presented, except for an Indian all-rounder. Garry Sobers, Keith Miller, Ian Botham and Imran Khan can be found, but not Vinoo Mankad, Kapil Dev or Ravi Shastri. Somewhat symbolically, it reflects the state of this Indian te am , which is looking for that player who can make it to the XI for his abilities in both departments. Stuart Binny was unable to retain his place after playing six Tests. Hardik Pandya is promine nt among those at the forefront, and there are spinners who are mo re than handy with the bat.
The search continues nonetheless, more so with Pandya not around for this series. Having been in the India A setup under Rahul Dravid for two years, Vijay Shankar is the latest in the mix. Because he spent most of the time during nets on Thursday bowling or watching before batting towards the end, it wasn’t clear if the Tamil Nadu all-rounder will play in the second Test starting on Friday. But by including him in the squad in place of a specialist medium pacer, the selectors and team management have made intentions clear regarding what they are looking for.
“We wanted to look at another all-rounder, keeping in mind it’s a n important aspect for us going fo rward,” said Virat Kohli. “Obviously, Hardik is our first choice and we count the spinners as allr ounders because they have pr o ved themselves in different si t u a t - i ons and made valuable c o n tributions.
But we need to find out more people wh o m we can groom for that slot, wh ich is crucial when we play abroad.” Having scored runs in testing situations at the First Class level where he averages 49.14, Vijay has done decently in shorter formats as well.
Technically sound, he can operate in different gears. Numbers corresponding to his gentle medium pace are not as impressive, as 85.4 deliveries per wicket suggests. So it has to be seen if he can do the job with the ball at the top level, especially when he has to do more than restricting or relieving the specialist bowlers. “The idea behind bringing him in is to make him familiar with what’s going on here and making him understand what he needs to work on, and look at his game. He’s a balanced and composed cricketer, handy with the ball.
He can easily give you 10-12 overs a day and he is solid with the bat. I just saw him at the nets,” was Kohli’s assessment. Whether the skipper’s ackn o wl edgement of Vijay’s abilities will lead to a maiden Test cap at the venue where his state te a mmate Murali Vijay got his first (2008 vs Australia), that time will tell. But by having the 26-plus in the sch eme of th i n g s, the team has made the yearning audible. Not spinners who are go od batsm en, they want someo ne who can ba t and be effective bowling the quicker variety.