TIRUNELVELI: There’s a sense of vibe about Murali Vijay. When Vijay is on the field, you know it. He owns the stage like it’s his world and there’s no one else in it. Whether it was the early 2010s for Chennai Super Kings or in the phase where he was one of the best Test openers in the world.
However, in the last year and a half, he was nowhere to be seen. The last competitive game he played was in the 2020 IPL for CSK. Due to personal reasons — not being vaccinated for a while included — he was unavailable for any of the teams he was playing. The buzz of the ‘Monk’ was missing.
As the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association launched the 2022 edition of TNPL, Vijay was back. At 38, he was realistic about where he was in his career and what he wanted to do going forward. “I’m going to play cricket for as long as possible. Just took a personal break, I have a young family and got to take care of them. I am enjoying cricket, feeling fit and hopefully, I can do my best for my team (Ruby Trichy Warriors),” he had said.
And, when he got back to the cricket field for the first time in almost two years in Trichy’s first game against Dindigul Dragons at the ICL Ground in Tirunelveli last Friday, it felt like he hadn’t left at all.
He was vibing along with the music on the ground while knocking off few balls before the start and while fielding. He made everyone at the venue feel like he owned every moment of it all. With the bat, the rustiness did show in his brief stay before he was run out for a 13-ball 8.
On Monday, too, the vibe was the same ahead of the toss against Idream Tiruppur Tamizhans. But as he walked out to bat having asked to bat first, it seemed like he had rolled back time. He started with an inside-edge single off the first ball off Aswin Crist. But in the last four balls off that over, Vijay went 4, 4, 6, 4 — all featuring his trademark flick off the hands with a firm front-foot plant, walk-down loft over mid-off, and a hitting through the line over covers.
A couple of overs later, Vijay hit left-arm spinner Maan Bafna through the off-side for consecutive boundaries. Against M Mohammed, he waited till the last moment to upper-cut him behind the stumps. He raced to 34 off just 15 balls, taking Trichy past 50 in just five overs. Off the very next ball, a short-pitched delivery outside off-stump, he got out to Mohammed, who did a ‘John Cena celebration’ before receiving a high-five from Vijay on his way back to the pavilion.
Although Tiruppur chased down Trichy’s 157/6 in the penultimate over, thanks to Tushar Raheja’s unbeaten 26-ball 42, Monday was all about how vintage Vijay was on display. For as long as he was in the middle, he batted like he owned the world.
Brief scores: Trichy 157/6 in 20 ovs (Vijay 34, Mathivannan 27) lost to Tiruppur 158/6 in 18.5 overs (Tushar 42 n.o; Saravana Kumar 3/44).