Murali Vijay’s batsmanship is a blend of technique and temperament. He adapts to conditions, reads situations and builds monuments.
The 31-year-old opener has been in top form at the top of the order for the country. Vijay has been India’s most consistent batsman in Tests from the tour of England in 2014. He has been solid and dependable, often making runs in adversity.
The Chennai opener’s knocks of 75 and 47 on a turner against South Africa in the just concluded Test at Mohali confirmed his rising stature. The manner in which he picked the length and used his feet was exemplary.
Earlier in his career, Vijay had a tendency to get squared-up occasionally, particularly to deliveries around the off and middle stump, and spinning into him from off-spinners bowling round-the-wicket. He then attempted to whip the ball away with his powerful wrists or muscle it without his body being properly aligned.
Now, Vijay’s left shoulder is leading the way and he has been gloriously still-headed in defence and offence. Resultantly, he has been in control.
Against pace, Vijay belongs to the classical school. He can play or leave in the corridor or cope with those short-pitched deliveries from pacemen in a manner that is correct. Crucially, he is proficient off his back foot.
Vijay’s numbers in Tests are creditable. He has 2542 runs in 34 Tests at 42.36 with six hundreds and 12 half centuries. A Test career that got underway in 2008 has blossomed in the last two years.
His judgment in the corridor exemplary, Vijay notched up 402 runs at 40.20 in the five-Test series in England, 2014. When the ball swung and seamed in the Old Blighty, Vijay was gloriously side-on with the bat, read the extent of movement, and judiciously chose deliveries to strike.
Vijay’s innings of 146 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, was high on quality. He picked the swing early and played the ball late.
When India journeyed to Australia in 2014-15, Vijay handled the extra bounce on pitches down under with belief and clarity of thought.
The Gabba is among the most challenging pitches for a batsman from the sub-continent. The ball can climb menacingly or move off the seam with pace. Vijay was up to the challenge, getting right behind the line or swaying away from the short-pitched deliveries with his eyes on the ball.
He also figured out the line and the bounce capably to leave deliveries just outside the off-stump. On other occasions, he shifted weight on to his back-foot for some telling strokes.
The manner Vijay blunted a fiery Mitchell Johnson on Day 1 at the Gabba has to be among the better exhibitions of batsmanship by an Indian in recent times. His first day 144 in Brisbane – the pitch was at its freshest – underlined the precious attributes in Vijay’s batting.
When given width, he cut. Vijay chose his moments and deliveries to essay the pull. And much of his cover-driving was an amalgam of feet movement and timing. Then there were strokes that highlighted his soft hands and deft touch.
There were other valuable contributions from Vijay down under; 99 in Adelaide and 80 in Sydney. He had not just survived probing spells with the new ball but kicked on.
Then, in his only Test in Bangladesh, Vijay notched up an innings of 150. Although fitness concerns restricted his Test appearances to just one on the tour of Sri Lanka this year, Vijay’s second innings 80 in Colombo was a match-winning one.
Vijay has made runs across conditions for India from 2014. And things promise to get better for this dedicated cricketer with loads of ability.