India vs England: Virat Kohli helped me at the start of my innings - Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari had a problem playing the incoming deliveries at the start of the innings, but skipper Virat Kohli gave him some cues on how to tackle them.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has inspired cricketers from the hinterland, but players from lesser towns or teams still feel they have a mountain to climb to get into the national team. India Test debutant Hanuma Vihari is the latest in that list.
A consistent scorer at domestic level and for India ‘A’, the Andhra batsman was picked two Tests after the debut of wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, who had a rough time as he chased his cricketing dream.
Vihari, 24, made a good first impression as he scored 56 and raised a partnership with Ravindra Jadeja (86 no) to help India fightback on Day 3 of The Oval Test. His hunger for success and confidence came through at his first media interaction as senior India player.
Asked if he wanted to play IPL – he got a chance for only one season – he opened up. “Not playing IPL is definitely not an option for me. If I get picked, I will play. But my only route coming into the Indian team is grinding through the domestic circuit. I have to score big runs to be recognised,” he said on Sunday.
“Also, I’m coming from Andhra. People don’t recognise those states as much as the other states. So in domestic cricket, I try to get big scores, I try to bat patiently. When you play for a smaller state, if you are the main batsman, you have to take a lot of responsibility.
“You face a lot of tough situations. So if you look at this match — I had a lot of experience. When I played for India ‘A’ too, I faced a lot of tough situations. I got used to those situations and I could handle them comfortably today.”
His first-class average of almost 60 is the best among current players worldwide. Vihari’s assured innings showed he belonged at the highest level.
He admitted to nerves on being informed that he would play. A phone call to India ‘A’ coach Rahul Dravid helped ease jitters. Skipper Virat Kohli then guided him through the initial tough phase batting on Saturday.
“Initially I felt the pressure to be honest, cloudy conditions and Stuart Broad and (James) Anderson bowling at you. Once I got in, it eased my nerves and it was an important partnership between me and Jadeja.”
England didn’t review a close leg before appeal and he successfully reviewed and got a leg before decision overturned in that early phase.
“Initially, I had nerves. With that I wasn’t good with my decision-making. But having Virat at the other made my job a little easier I guess… Yesterday, I definitely had problems facing the incoming delivery, but Virat gave me some cues so that I could play it comfortably,” he said.
Ben Stokes also had a go at him after he twice top-edged hooks. “I tried to ignore all the things which were coming at me, just focus on my game. Virat is very aggressive as you all know. He also had a go at him, and that’s how the game is played nowadays.
“But my aggression is something which I want to do with the bat. Obviously if it gets personal then I might say something back at him,” he said.
Vihari was aware the debut innings was only the first step. “It’s just the start. I know I have to do a lot of things to cement my place in the Indian team, which I definitely want to do. Getting a 50 on debut is just the start. Going forward, scoring a lot of runs for India is my main goal,” he said.
His mentor Dravid too made his Test debut in England and motivated Vihari. “I called him the day before I made my debut and told him. He spoke to me for a couple of minutes and gave his inputs and it eased my nerves a little bit because it’s coming from a legend and you know that you belong here.
“‘You just told me that you have the skill set, you have the mindset and the temperament, just go out there and enjoy yourself’. That is what he told me before the game, and I tried to do that. I would like to give him a lot of credit for that because my journey with India ‘A’ was very important for me to come here. Not only that I performed there, but the way he gave us inputs, that made me a better player,” he said.
First Published: Sep 10, 2018 09:23:45