Opener to part-time spin – the Vihari value

On return to India, India batsman Hanuma Vihari reflects on the glorious Australian tour that taught him life lessons.

Hanuma Vihari excelled as an opener in Melbourne and played his part to perfection.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Last September at The Oval, Hanuma Vihari became the first Andhra cricketer to play a Test match for India in 18 years.

Before he could wake up from the London dreams, the story moved to Australia. In two weeks, he witnessed history as India beat the Aussies 2-1 to clinch its first Test series Down Under.

Vihari’s numbers may not indicate a sunshine tour, but he was one of the characters behind the collective effort. As a solution to India’s ‘opener’ problem that surfaced after the first two Tests, he was sent up the order — from No. 6 — to brave the chin music.

The right-hander earned brownie points for agreeing to see off the new ball with debutant Mayank Agarwal at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground on the Boxing Day.

After returning to India, Vihari reflected on the glorious tour in an interview with Sportstar.

Q) What were your learning points? You batted, opened the batting at the MCG, and bowled as well...

A) You get to know the intensity how cricket is played in Australia. It is never easy. When playing international cricket, you have to be in the game throughout. You can’t afford to relax.

What was going through your mind when Mitchell Starc was warming up with the new ball at the MCG?

My only aim was to see off the new ball for the team. After that, if the team could score some runs, that would be a bonus. I did the initial part but later, I couldn’t cash in and get those runs. But I was happy that I could do the job for my team.

Many pundits said that the Australian bowlers weren’t as ruthless as they could be. How challenging were they?

They have one of the best bowling attacks in the world. They were bowling very well. The line was tight and they never gave anything easy. We had to work our way to the runs. I think we have played them better. Pat Cummins was outstanding throughout the series. He contributed with the bat as well. He was always in the game, fighting hard for his team. It was good to see someone so competitive from whom you can learn.

Now that you have earned an IPL contract for Delhi Capitals, how will you train to get into the T20 zone?

It is mostly about the mindset. I have the T20 game. You have to adapt quickly to different formats and that’s only in the mind. The skill-sets will always be there. I have to adjust quickly and play accordingly.

There will be no Test cricket for a while. How do you plan to maintain the flow?

I will keep working on my game. It is a good time to sit and think where I need to improve. I will look forward to the matches coming up. There will be a few domestic games (Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament), which will be a good preparation for the IPL. I want to take my game to the next level. Once the Test season comes, there should be a difference from what I was in Australia.

 

Do you see yourself in the India ODI and T20I squad in the future?

Definitely. I have done well in the one-day format in domestic cricket, and for India A. I will be looking forward to play all three formats if given a chance.

Any plans to work further on the off-spin? It got you wickets in England and Australia...

I want to work on my consistency and the areas where I bowl. It will be a good addition for the team if I could bowl those overs. I want to keep improving.

(Vihari in Australia: Tests 3  Innings 5  Runs 111 HS 42  Wickets 2 )

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