After a strong start to his international career, with fruitful outings against England and Australia in Tests, Hanuma Vihari is hoping to ensure a strong season in the Indian Premier League (IPL), a stage he has never shone brightly in.
The top-order batsman from Andhra excels in multi-day cricket, but in Twenty20s, his career has not really taken off. In 71 matches, he averages 20.71 with a strike-rate of 111.92.
Vihari, though, is keen to start on a fresh note. He hopes to utilise the confidence gained from his experience as an India cricketer to do well in the IPL this time.
“When I played the IPL before, I did not have the strength or the exposure to clear the boundaries. Now, I feel I have the strength. Whenever I want to, I can clear the boundaries. Even if I play conventional shots, it does not matter.
"Players like [Kane] Williamson or even Virat [Kohli], they play conventional shots but still are able to perform in the IPL, so, I look up to them [for] the way they play and I just have to plan my innings accordingly.
"Now I feel I have more experience than I what I had before when I played IPL and obviously, this year would be very challenging for me because people look up to me, especially the franchise because now I have done well in international level.
"So, people will look up to me where I got to in the T20 format and it’s a great opportunity for me,” he said at an open media session here on Saturday.
Although comfortable batting in the top-order, Vihari was open to batting anywhere, according to the needs of his club – Delhi Capitals. “There’s no preference but ideally I would like to bat at the top of the order. That’s where you get most of the time to bat. You can bat 20 overs, but again if the management decides to bat in the middle order, I don’t have any problem with it because I’ll learn how to adapt to the situations and play accordingly. But you don’t choose in the IPL; you can only adapt to whatever the team gives you,” he reasoned.
Back-to-back wins key
Delhi Capitals – earlier known as Delhi Daredevils – has never won the IPL in the 11 seasons. Commenting on the lack of success of the club, Vihari said, “When you are down, the only way you can go is up. You can’t go down from there, but Delhi doesn’t perform to the expectations - that’s always there. We’ve got a good team on paper. This year we have got a very exciting team; a young team which can win against any side on its day, but again that consistency is very important.
"We will look to win games back-to-back; that is where we can get to the playoffs so, again, how we start is also very important. Come [March 24, 2019] in Mumbai, against a good team, [we will see] how we start; then that’ll set the ball rolling. But again, if we have too many expectations on ourselves, it’ll take us nowhere. It’ll depend on how we start in Mumbai.”
The team seems more balanced on paper than in previous years, according to Vihari. “We have got more balance this year than any other IPL. We have got a good mixture of foreign players and the Indian players as well. If you see, we’ve got [Chris] Morris, who can be a destructive player on his day and in the bowling attack, we have got [Kagiso] Rabada and Sandeep Lamichhane who are match-winners on their day.
"We have got a good mixture of experience and youth, it’s important how we gel together. Again, with Shikhar [Dhawan] coming; it’s a great added value for us. The experience at the top is very important. If Prithvi [Shaw] and Shikhar can have a good partnership at the top, it’ll give the middle order that freedom to express ourselves,” he said.
'Not thinking about World Cup'
How prepared was he to play the finisher’s role if the team needed it? Vihari was confident he could adapt to any role given to him. “It’s all about adapting to the situation and the position you get. I know that you should have the skills to play in the situation. If you have the belief, no matter where you go [you will do well].
"We’ll just have to read the situation and play accordingly. For me, [regardless of whether] I bat at the top of the order[or at] No. 5, I’ll just go there and express myself and do whatever best I can do for the team. If you have the will and hunger to score runs, then no matter what the situation and position [is], you go in, you’ll do well.”
With a good IPL performance, Vihari would be elated to be in contention for a spot in the World Cup squad. However, he admitted he doesn’t unduly bother about it.
“That’s one thing you dream about; when you’re young, you want to play the World Cup. But now, for me, a challenge is to perform in this IPL first, so if I can do that then at least I have done my job.
"Rest depends on the management and the selectors – what they want. In the last couple of years even with the white ball, I have done well so it’s not that again I have to prove what I’m capable of in one-day cricket or T20. IPL is a big stage. A lot of people will be looking at it. It’s a great opportunity,” he said.
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