When Shikhar Dhawan reached his ton, he was the first to congratulate him. Dhawan was in a rarefied zone on Friday. But not once did he try to compete with him. Rather, he was only appreciating the better batsman that day. Fair to say that his willingness to rotate the strike was helping Dhawan in keeping the flow going.That’s what happens when you bat with M Vijay. ‘Monk’ is his pet name.
Never mind that he derives this appellation not just for his calm attitude!
And so on Sunday, it was Vijay’s turn to post his second consecutive 150-plus score. He displayed the same qualities of unwavering concentration and discipline that we associate him with. Vijay was dismissed after a painstaking 153. Wou-ldn’t the three national selectors here be relieved? The debate on India’s right opening pair for the tough tour of South Africa seems settled for now.
Dropping Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag is never an easy decision. Only a commendable performance in domestic cricket will bring them back in reckoning.
India’s domestic calendar in the next eight months is replete with ODIs and T20s. How will the selectors assess the Delhi duo? We’ll let that pass for now.
Back to Vijay, it hasn’t been an easy journey for him ever since he made his Test debut His two innings, 33 and 41, impressed everyone in India’s dressing room. It’s another matter that these scores were not enough to extend Gambhir’s stay out of the team. Gambhir, we may recall, was serving a one-match ban for his face-off with Shane Watson.
Gambhir again paved the way for Vijay’s inclusion in the XI against Sri Lanka in Mumbai (in 2009). Gambhir had to attend his sister’s wedding. Although Vijay seized the moment and made a compact 87, it was Sehwag who hogged the limelight with his swashbuckling 293 just like Dhawan did on Friday.
Gambhir was back to reclaim his place. He hit two consecutive hundreds which meant Vijay had to wait again. The Tamil Nadu opener got his next chance against Bangladesh in 2010. This time he batted in the middle-order as VVS Laxman’s replacement. A modest 30 was never going to be enough to secure a permanent place.
It wasn’t entirely his fault. India’s Test composition was such that Vijay would always be a back-up option. Finally, in 2010, he got his first Test ton — a 139 against the mighty Aussies in Bangalore. Vijay’s next nine innings — eight of those in South Africa and West Indies — yielded just 137 runs. He was labelled as one who didn’t have the game to succeed abroad.
He was not in news until he scored that 116 in the Irani Cup against Mumbai this year. Yes, his inclusion for the ongoing series against Australia did fan a debate. After all, he totalled just 138 runs in eight innings. His twin failures in the Chennai Test only made the sceptics more vocal.
But MS Dhoni gave him another chance. Boy, didn’t he make it count!