Hanuma Vihari keen to embrace challenges

The Andhra captain has gone about his business since his Test debut in England with an uncluttered mind.

Combative spirit: Hanuma Vihari in full flow against Hyderabad in the Vijay Hazare Trophy quarterfinal on Monday.   -  Sudhakara Jain

There was much debate on how Hanuma Vihari was fast-tracked into the playing XI for the fifth and final Test in England ahead of Karun Nair. But the Andhra batsman, who scored a typically gutsy half-century on debut, has gone about his business since then with an uncluttered mind.

The fluent 95 he scored against Hyderabad in the Vijay Hazare Trophy quarterfinal on Monday, albeit in a losing cause, just a day after returning from the Indian Test squad which faced the West Indies, was evidence of the same.

“Making a debut against England in England is not easy, especially facing those two bowlers [James Anderson and Stuart Broad],” said Vihari. “But I like challenges. Even against Hyderabad, I knew if I attacked and demoralised them, we could win. But some things don’t go your way.”

Setbacks

Vihari knows this as well as anybody, for, his career has been replete with setbacks. The 25-year-old lost his father in 2005 and at a tender age of 12, he was dropped from a State U-13s side. Though he was part of the title-winning team at the 2012 U-19 World Cup, he was only last-minute replacement for the injured Manan Vohra.

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Also, he hasn’t turned out for an Indian Premier League (IPL) side in four of the past five seasons, including the last three. As much as the purists may scorn, success in the IPL is a crucial barometer, especially in the way it captures people’s minds.

“Setbacks have made me a better person,” he said. “They will make you more humble. If you are strong enough, it can make you stronger. Otherwise, you will crumble. That is the choice I had [to make]. Everyone playing international cricket will have a story and this is my story.”

‘Talented’

Sanath Kumar, his coach at Andhra during the run to the semifinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy last year, said it was just a question of motivating him. “He was talented and he always scored runs,” he said.

“But there came a time when he was not getting recognition and he started doubting himself. 'Give yourself three years, you will definitely play for India,' I told him. And he did. In the longer format, he was the right player to get into the Indian team.”

Now that the first hurdle has been crossed, Vihari wants to add an extra dimension to his game — aggression. Monday’s stroke-filled innings against Hyderabad was scored at almost a run-a-ball and comprised four monstrous sixes, including a hook which nearly deflated paceman Mohammed Siraj.

“I have a formula in the four-day format, which I don’t want to change,” he said. “But in the ODIs and T20s, I want to be more expressive. I want to create some fear in the opposition. I know I have the shots. I want to be the X-factor in the team.”