DINDIGUL: It’s been a while since those manning the desks of newspapers have scratched their heads to come up with new variants of “Old Monk” and “Operation Vijay” to splash across pages as headlines.
Murali Vijay hasn’t been on the media radar for a while; since the end of last year, to be precise. Two axes during two big Test series do tend to send you slipping through the cracks after a while, the occasional “looking back” interviews notwithstanding.
Vijay’s curriculum vitae may look white in colour, but there’s a good bit of yellow courtesy the things he’s done for Chennai Super Kings. And here he was the 35-year-old veteran, the newly-acquired crown jewel of Trichy Warriors for this edition of Tamil Nadu Premier League, one meant to shore up a batting line-up that hasn’t really fired over the last three seasons.
Their opener, against Karaikudi Kaalai at NPR College ground on Saturday, wasn’t going their way. No Baba Indrajith; R Sai Kishore had stepped in as the skipper. They’d won the toss, elected to field on a surface that did show signs of sluggishness, and ended up conceding at least 30-odd extra runs over par. Srikkanth Anirudha and his batsmen had thrown all the kitchen sinks they had on Trichy’s pacers, setting up a tough chase of 172.
Trichy were already a batsman down inside four overs. Vijay himself seemed to be coming to terms with the slow-ish nature of the strip. There were nurdles, mistimed shots, and apparent struggles to cope, even a reprieve with his score in single digits. But Vijay hung on. But the asking rate had climbed up. Karaikudi’s left-arm spin duo of Mohan Prasath and Maan K Baafna had garroted their scoring. Chandrasekhar Ganapathy was trying to biff Trichy out of trouble, but they still needed 79 off the last six.Vijay had pottered to a 38-ball 31.
As mentioned above, Vijay has more gears than people like to acknowledge; just ask any person who’s kept track of Super Kings’ doings over the years. That switched on in the next over; announced with a checked flick off a slower ball that skimmed a bit of moondust before landing way over backward square leg. Such was the ferocity that was unleashed left Sunil Sam’s and R Rajkumar’s figures mangled. Six, four, six, dot, one, four, wide, four, four, four, one.
An amalgam of those silken wrists, premeditative shuffling in the crease, sheer timing, and a perfectly-extended forehand had brutalised the winning equation to only 35 off 18. By the time Vijay walked off for a 56-ball 81, he’d lugged Trichy to the cusp of the finish line, one that the rest toed after a lot of huffing and puffing.Though Anirudha’s through-the-line swats won Karaikudi the match in the Super Over, it was Vijay’s class that had won hearts in Natham on Saturday.
Brief scores: Karaikudi Kaalai 171/5 in 20 ovs (Srikkanth Anirudha 58, R Srinivasan 32; Saravan Kumar 3/32) bt Trichy Warriors 171/5 in 20 ovs (Murali Vijay 81) via Super Over. Tuti Patriots 124/8 in 20 ovs (Akshay Srinivasan 55; Kiran Akash 3/16, R Mithun 3/17) lost to Madurai Panthers 128/1 in 12.2 ovs (KB Arun Karthik 65 n.o, A Sarath Raj 33).