Indian Cricket Team
Australian Cricket Team
By Sidharth Gulati
With India including three openers for the 2018-19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy and Cheteshwar Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane almost sure to bat at their regular spots, Hanuma Vihari wouldn’t have fancied his chances of getting a look up the order.
When Prithvi Shaw suffered an ankle injury in the practice game against a Cricket Australia XI and was ruled out of the tour, India decided to open with KL Rahul and Murali Vijay in the first two Tests at Adelaide and Perth. The move backfired with the duo failing to make any significant contribution. Same had been the case in South Africa and England.
With the series 1-1 heading into the Boxing Day Test, India had some tough decisions to make. Both Rahul and Vijay were dropped and the visitors promoted Vihari to open alongside Mayank Agarwal, who was included in the squad for the last two Tests.
Vihari’s solidity and comfort level at the crease in Perth might have prompted the management to have him as the makeshift opener. Although he managed just 21 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), the 25-year-old saw off the new ball -- 18.5 and 12.6 overs in the first and second innings respectively -- which helped Agarwal, Pujara and Kohli play their natural game.
“In domestic circuit, I’m used to playing at the top of the order. It wasn’t completely new for me and I was confident of facing the new ball,” Vihari, who scored a half-century on his Test debut against England last year, said in an interview.
“I relished that opportunity. A little disappointed that I didn’t get big runs but I’m happy that I contributed to the team’s cause.”
India won the Test by 137 runs before a draw at Sydney helped them seal their first-ever Test series win (2-1) in Australia.
“(After the 146-run loss at Perth) We treated it (the Melbourne game) as the biggest game of our lives, like a World Cup final. We displayed great intensity and luckily the result went in our favour,” Vihari, who scored 111 runs in three Tests, said.
“It was an emotional win, the best of my career till now. Hope there are many to follow.”
Asked about his upcoming stint with the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Delhi Capitals – who bought him for Rs 2 crore -- Vihari said: “You have to adapt quickly to different formats. I need to make some improvements in my white-ball game and hopefully playing in the IPL will be of great help."
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