M Vijay was all class during that 87-run knock in the Brabourne Test some three years ago. That contest is, however, remembered for Virender Sehwag’s pulverising 293 and India’s climb to the top of the ICC Test rankings.
That match, against Sri Lanka, was only Vijay’s second in white flannels. He had just two 50-plus knocks — one of them a hundred — to show in 19 Test innings since that innings in Mumbai. To be fair, Vijay was never treated like a first-choice opener. The Tamil Nadu bat was often called up when the regular ones were indisposed.
After having a forgettable Ranji Trophy season — he averaged around 17 — but two very successful Irani Cup outings, Vijay was picked for this series because the selectors had had enough of Gautam Gambhir.
The right-hander, who was done in by a scorcher from James Pattinson in the first innings of the Chennai Test, played a loose shot in the second dig to finish with 16 runs in the game. Understandably, he was dying for a big knock in the second Test. “To be honest, I was under pressure. I made a mistake (by throwing it away in Chennai). Today, I just wanted to stay as long as possible and give my wicket away,” Vijay said.
And that’s exactly what he did throughout the day. Vijay mixed prudence and belligerence in equal measure as India dominated Australia all day long. In the company of Cheteshwar Pujara, who was even more attacking during his undefeated 162-run knock, Vijay fought the demons to come up trumps. He scored runs everywhere, except the ‘V’, and tackled the pacers before feasting on the spinners. In all, he hit 17 fours and two sixes.
“I don’t know about that, but I am really happy right now. I am glad my knock helped the team big time,” he said when asked if he had stabilised his place in the side. Vijay and Pujara added 294 and they are still not done. “Partnerships like this don’t happen all the time. Pujara batted really well,” he said.
Vijay’s knock means Sehwag would spend a few sleepless nights. The 103-Test veteran is going through a very bad patch and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan take over the opening duties for the last two Tests. Sehwag clearly needs a break.
Vijay’s maiden hundred had also come against Australia, but that was in 2010, and he hoped the “connection continues”. He and Pujara fought fire with a cool head, adding only 49 in the first session before turning it on in the afternoon. They scored 106 between lunch and tea and a further 151 in the last period of play. “We took session by session. It was a conscious effort,” said Vijay.
A word on the wicket and he said it was aiding spin. “Some balls were turning, some were not. But you can’t take any spinner lightly. We played well and didn’t give them chances,” he said. When asked how it felt to be in the XI as an opener in his own right, Vijay said, “Every innings in international cricket is important. I am pumped up.” The Aussies would agree.