Hanuma Vihari: We looked at it as a three-Test series after Adelaide

In a chat with Sportstar, Hanuma Vihari relives his SCG rearguard with Ravichandran Ashwin and reveals how India bounced back after the Adelaide drubbing.

Hanuma Vihari and R. Ashwin smile as they walk back after securing a draw for India in the Sydney Test. - AP

India’s middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari was happy to have rescued India from defeat in the Sydney Test against Australia but was disappointed not to have been part of India’s historic Test win in the subsequent contest in Brisbane.

Vihari was ruled out of the fourth Test with a hamstring injury.

“I feel happy and proud to be involved in a stand with [R.] Ashwin which saved the Test for India and kept the team’s hopes alive in the series (scores were one-all before the final Test). But, at the same time I feel gutted that I was not there for the final Test and was not part of the Indian team which recorded a historic series win,” the 27-year-old Vihari explained in a chat with Sportstar on Wednesday.

Speaking from Bengaluru, where he will be reporting at the NCA for his injury, Vihari said when he looked at the big picture, he was glad to have contributed in his own way to the team’s eventual success.

'Great feeling'

“Pressure will always be there at that level. But when you look back, it is a great feeling to play such an important innings with the hamstring injury causing acute pain. Yes, it was one of those efforts from my side which has a greater value than a Test century for me, given the circumstances we were in. For our effort ensured that India went to Brisbane with hopes of winning the series,” he said.

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“It was wonderful to have Ashwin as my partner. He is such a nice human being, always making you feel in the comfort zone. His mix of Tamil and Telugu ensured the communication channels were open always, which was so crucial under pressure,” he said.

“Yes, there was a lot of banter which is expected of the Aussies and which is part of the game too,” Vihari added with a smile.

'Determined'

Reflecting on the whole series, Vihari said the team didn’t lose self-belief despite being bowled out for 36 in the first Test in Adelaide. “We always knew it was one of those freak performances. All we told ourselves was to look ahead, give our best. We are thankful to the entire support staff and the captains for their wonderful support,” he said.

“Essentially, after the first Test debacle, we looked at the series as a three-match series to be mentally fresh for the bigger challenges ahead. We didn’t feel nice then. But, we're never down mentally, determined to showcase our best,” he added.

Vihari felt the series win was one of India’s best, given the injuries to some of the team’s key players.

“I think, Indian bowling in the first innings of the Melbourne Test - when we bowled out Aussies for less than 200- was decisive. And then Ajinkya’s hundred which I feel is one of the best ever. Full credit to the way the young bowlers performed, apparently drawing from their experience of playing so many India-A games. They know how to bowl with the red ball at this level because of those India-A tours,” he explained.

'Match winner' Pant

Commenting on the efforts of India’s batsmen on the final day in Brisbane, he said, “With [Cheteshwar] Pujara at one end, it is not just the number of runs that count. When he is there, the others feel free and confident to play strokes.”

“[Rishabh] Pant played his natural game in the final Test so well after [Shubman] Gill set the tempo. If you have noticed, Pant batted like that through the series. If he plays like that, he is a match-winner and he proved that in such trying circumstances,” Vihari said.

Looking ahead, Vihari said he was yet to know about the schedule of rehab for the injury but when fit and raring he should be ready to grab the opportunity if given a chance to play in any home series.

“I don’t want to comment on any selection issue. Right now, my focus is on getting back to full fitness level and then think about my game later on,” he concluded.