Vijay could be forgiven if he was in awe of the history and his illustrious compatriots.
Bengaluru: Eight years ago, when Murali Vijay made his debut against Australia at Nagpur, the team had the Fab Four — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly — who revolutionised Indian cricket in the late 90s and early 2000s. Vijay could be forgiven if he was in awe of the history and his illustrious compatriots.
Cut to the present, Vijay, set to play his 50th Test, is one of the seniors in the side, second only to Virat Kohli’s 55 matches and third to Ishant Sharma, who’s been there longer and done 75.
By a strange coincidence, Vijay and Ishant are the only survivors of the 2008 series on either side. Added pressure on the senior, then?
If Nagpur in 2008 was an anxious event for Vijay, come Saturday, Bengaluru will be even more. And no, it isn’t the landmark on his mind. The 32-year-old stylish opener, like his team, were sent spinning, pun intended, by Steve O’Keefe, bringing to an end a run of 19 unbeaten Tests.
Bolt from the blue? You bet, but it was their own doing as Team India fell into the grave they had dug for the visiting Australians.
The Aussie personnel of 2017 may not be a patch on the Class of 2008 but it’s exactly the reason why probably a complacent India shot themselves in the foot in Pune in under three days time.
Vijay, who’s had a decent run in the last 12 months, realises that the visitors have drawn the first blood but doesn’t necessarily agree that the momentum has shifted.
Prior to the first Test, given the manner in which Australia were annihilated in Sri Lanka, focus was on how the Indian spinners would have them dancing to their tune in these conditions, but in one fell swoop, the hunter has turned the hunted.
“Not really. We have accepted the fact and now we want to move forward,” said Vijay, after an earnest practice session at the National Cricket Academy ‘B’ grounds in the environs of the Karnataka State Cricket Association.
Vijay, who’s career average is just under 40, realises that a job well begun is a job half done and as an opener, it makes it all the more pertinent. A return of 10 and 2 from the first Test where India’s combined total in two innings didn’t match Australia’s low first of 260 tells a tale of embarrassment.
But little can be gained being stuck in the past. Kohli & Co. understand this better than most. Shaken out of their 19-match blissful reverie, the hosts are back on even ground.
“We are eager to start fresh and put the pressure back on the Australians. It is a good test of character for our team and it is going to be a good challenge for us. That’s what we are playing cricket for. Hopefully, we can play the way we have to play and the way we have played before and hopefully, it is going to help us,” explained the Tamil Nadu opener.
Traditionally, Indians are reputed players of spin, having grown up on a diet of batting-conducive turfs. Asked on his thoughts on the capability following the debacle against O’Keefe, Vijay was forthright: “I cannot think too much about my technique currently because I have tried couple of shots and it came out my way. So I cannot question my intent as well. It’s a one-off game and I just got to get it out of the system. There are lot of things to learn. Once I got out I thought how I could have played better while watching the game.”
The Indian fielding, which has generally been of high standards in recent years, took a nosedive in Pune with several catches, costly at any given point of time, and more so given Steven Smith’s match-defining second innings hundred, going abegging.
“We had the opportunities and had we grabbed those we could have put pressure on the Australians. Unfortunately, it didn’t and we have got to take it on the chin and move forward. Hopefully, we can come in with a better frame of mind and start with a positive frame of mind from ball one.”
Game 50 for Vijay will be all about positivity. And then some more.