Inspiring Chennai duo

Stellar performances... R. Ashwin and Murali Vijay.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

M. Vijay and R. Ashwin have done themselves proud and hopefully they will continue to do so for a long time.

The recently concluded Test series against Australia has provided a lot of positives, with the gen-next cricketers performing consistently and that too in an imposing manner. There have been quite a few standout performances, but two cricketers withstood the pressure better than the others to establish themselves in the team for a while at least. Both hail from Chennai. And what makes their stellar display even more heartening for me is that it has been a while since two players from Chennai have played a full series together.

Murali Vijay was making a comeback. After a disastrous start on his home ground, he changed tack to occupy the crease and grind it out to accumulate big hundreds. The sudden shift in approach is easier said than done and that being the case, Vijay’s change of game-plan in a matter of a few days is appreciable.

He has given the impression that he carries excess baggage upstairs but appearances can be absolutely misleading. His way of expressing delight can be misunderstood for arrogance, but then he is not a trained actor to emote well to win over people. The talent was always there but it needed to be translated into numbers when and where it mattered. Vijay’s back-to-back hundreds certainly proved he has the temperament. His convincing knocks will cease the search for openers. Besides, his sharp reflexes and catching ability around the bat will provide a much required close-in fielder for the Indian team. Now that he has succeeded in the most trying format, it is imperative that he does not get into overdrive during the IPL. He needs to realise that runs can be made in that format by employing conventional methods.

Like Vijay, Ashwin had his own pressures leading up to the Test series against Australia after an ordinary series against England. The inclusion of Harbhajan Singh was a hint that he had to perform and not rest on his past laurels. Of course, threats of this kind will always be there at that level, but nonetheless a threat is a threat. His performances while bowling in tandem with his senior partner settled the issue in his favour. However, the most important point is that Ashwin has fine tuned his bowling technique which enabled him to bowl a lot more consistently during this series. In addition, the avarice to deliver a wonder ball every time seems to have evaporated — an indication that temperamentally too he has made a few adjustments.

For one who is on his early rounds in Test cricket, Ashwin has picked up enough five-wicket hauls to justify the claim of being the lead spinner for India. I am rather glad in a way that he did not do well with the bat as that can sometimes induce a bit of complacency in a young man. Not for one moment am I suggesting that I am against Ashwin getting runs, but patience in his bowling was perhaps brought about by the lack of runs.

It is no mean feat to be nominated the Man of the Series thrice in the four series he has played at home. Ashwin now needs to remember this series in terms of patience being a virtue. Being a more than average student of the game, he will figure out a way to do his job in a balanced manner sooner rather than later.

Vijay and Ashwin have done themselves proud and hopefully the Chennai duo will continue to do so for a long time. I, for one, know, as would Srikkanth, as to how difficult it can be not having someone in the team to talk to in the Chennai lingo for months!