IND vs SL: Vijay all set for Test return

Having recovered from a wrist injury, the Tamil Nadu opener is set to feature in the second Test against Sri Lanka.

Glad to be back! M. Vijay gestures at training ahead of his return to Test cricket.   -  PTI

The tried and tested M. Vijay is all set to return to Test cricket after a break of eight months.

The 33-year-old Tamil Nadu batsman, who wore his 50th Test cap earlier this year, has opened the innings 82 times and that’s where he has felt comfortable, having scored 3306 runs at an average of 40.81 with nine centuries and 15 half-centuries. He has batted at Nos. 3, 5 and 6 and scored 102 runs.

But more than the impressive numbers, it is his technical soundness in dealing with the new-ball attack in India and abroad that has compelled the national selectors and the team management to place faith on him for nine years.

Automatic selection

Vijay has been an automatic selection since he established himself, but India has still taken the field without him 37 times after his debut in the fourth Test against Australia at the same venue here in November, 2008. On that occasion, he was rushed to Nagpur from Nashik where he and Abhinav Mukund had taken heavy toll of the Maharashtra attack in a Ranji Trophy match. The right hander got the opportunity for India after Gautam Gambhir was banned for a match by the International Cricket Council for elbowing Shane Watson in the third Test at Feroz Shah Kotla.

On Friday, he will replace left-hander Shikhar Dhawan, who has been released from the team for personal reasons.

Though Vijay was part of the squad for the first Test at Eden Gardens, the team management made the right choice of naming Dhawan as the opening partner to K. L. Rahul following his 190 in Galle and 119 in Pallekele in the previous series against Sri Lanka. He made 94 in the second innings and would have made Vijay wait had it not been for his request to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to give him a break from the second Test.

Read: No. 6 is a flexible slot, says Wriddhiman

Incidentally, Dhawan was not in the original Indian team for the series in Sri Lanka. However, he was recalled after Vijay had to pull out immediately after the fourth Test against Australia at Dharamsala, citing the need for a surgery on his right wrist.

Keen to make it count

Vijay would obviously be nervous when he goes out to bat with Rahul in the second Test against Sri Lanka here. He batted for more than half an hour on Wednesday afternoon at the VCA practise nets, facing Vidarbha’s Under-23 seamers, the Indian spinners and throwdowns.

The Indian team management would like Vijay to get into groove very soon and garner some useful runs under his belt before the tour of South Africa where he had made 39 and 97 at Wanderers and Kingsmead in the winter of 2013.

Read: Vijay Shankar excited about India call-up

In the packed home series of 2016-17, Vijay did reasonably well, scoring 186 against New Zealand, 357 against England, 115 in the one-off Test against Bangladesh and 113 in three Tests against Australia. He admitted to having played the series against Australia with a broken wrist.

When asked about the status of his injury not long ago, he had said: “I don’t want to get too much into the status of the injury, but I was playing with a fractured wrist. It was a difficult situation to be in, but the team always comes first. I was not able to bat freely because, as the injury aggravated, I couldn’t play certain shots and when I went out to bat, I had to grind it out. Especially against pacers, it was difficult at times to even defend off the front foot because it was my bottom hand that was injured.”

Vijay has proved his fitness playing the Tamil Nadu Premier League, the Duleep Trophy, and three Ranji Trophy matches against Andhra, Mumbai and Odisha (against whom he scored 140). A quirk of fate - Dhawan’s absence - has given him a chance to appear for India in whites. He will be keen to grab it just as he did it in the previous 51 times he was capped.