NAGPUR: There’s a universal way of venting frustration, when batsmen feel disappointed after getting out. They smash air with the bat, often harder than they would while actually hitting the ball. It’s usually seen following failure to live up to expectations. Murali Vijay did that repeatedly after being dismissed on Saturday. Head down and expression on face not visible because of the helmet, he kept clobbering the air with his bat while walking back. Not that he had not lived up to the expectations of his team, or of the crowd.
He was displeased with himself, despite getting out for 128. So annoyed, that he hardly noticed an incoming Virat Kohli acknowledge his effort when he crossed him. Ostensibly, the century or the 209-run partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara was not enough. It would have been, for most other batsmen. Not for Vijay, who is suddenly under scrutiny. The way he bats, constructs innings and goes about business in general, earns plaudits from opponents and pundits.
The same can’t be said of his own team, which has for some reason sent signals that his place is not certain, no matter how solid he looks against the new ball or how effective he can be once he gets past that early phase when fast bowlers are fresh. That’s why India’s most accomplished opener in recent times — he has scored runs everywhere on his first trip to those places — is dropped to accommodate Shikhar Dhawan, who in comparison is a less safer bet with more loopholes in his game.
And that’s why Vijay feels he could have done better despite hitting a century. To banish thoughts of dropping him he has to score more. On a day that saw Pujara bat throughout for his 14th century, Vijay notched his 10th, which was his first 50-plus effort at the venue of his Test debut in four appearances. It was not his best, considering the attack and the lives he got on 19 and 61. But it did send out a message that he is game for a fight for his place.
“It can be difficult, but I have got used to it,” said Vijay, asked how it feels to know that his place is not certain irrespective of how he does. “As a professional cricketer, you got to be ready for these situations. Everybody wants a chance and it’s important to make it count when you get one. We know that playing for India is difficult. So whoever gets a chance has to perform. I’ve always wanted to contribute to the team’s cause and it felt good today to have done that,” said the opener. Vijay looked seriously annoyed with himself after an attempted sweep off a full toss took the top edge and resulted in a catch.
Till then, he was showing restraint outside off, driving elegantly when the ball was in his zone, hitting the spinners over the top with a straight bat. Most of the traits that define him were on view, with some less seen ones, like the reverse sweep. “I really wanted a big one. I’ve been looking for it for a while and today I was mentally and physically fit for it. It should have happened in this match. That’s why I reacted like that (after getting out). Maybe in the next one....” said Vijay. Now, that ‘next one’ is a dicey proposition in a set-up where strike rate seems to get more importance than skill and value of runs in the evaluation of players.
Lankan fined for ball tampering Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka was fined 75% of match fee for “changing the shape of the ball”. The ICC said that he was reported by the umpires. Shanaka was seen “picking an area of the ball near the seam”. He admitted the offence to match referee David Boon.
Stat of the Art
Was Murali Vijay’s 10th century in Tests — first vs Sri Lanka. 72.10 The average partnership between Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. They have amassed 2668 runs in 37 innings, including 10 century and eight 50-plus partnerships.
The average of Pujara-Vijay pair at home. Their average is the third highest among the pairs with 1500 runs at home — the top two being Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting (96.72) and Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe (93.04).
200 Pujara and Vijay have registered three double century stands in Tests. Only three Indian pairs have more such stands to their credit — 4 — between Dravid and Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar, Ganguly and Tendulkar.