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Third-choice opener? Not anymore

Friday, 27 December 2013 - 9:27am IST | Place: DURBAN | Agency: DNA
Vijay's measured performance will go long way in changing perceptions about him.

Gautam Gambhir wants to attend his sister’s wedding. Call up Vijay. Virender Sehwag is injured. Call up Vijay.

For the better part of his career, Murali Vijay was India’s third-choice opener. If nothing, this series will go a long way in changing that perception.

With two scores of 150-plus and an equal number of half centuries including the one on Thursday, the right-hander from Tamil Nadu has made 2013 a year to remember. He may have scored just 6 and 39 in the Wanderers Test, but what the scoreboard doesn’t tell us is this: Vijay consumed a total of 136 deliveries in the game. In other words, he saw off the new ball and set the base for the others to build on. India’s dominance in Johannesburg had a lot to do with the defiance and discipline Vijay showed.

On Day One of the Boxing Day Test, Vijay got it all right: he left a whole lot of balls alone and punished the bad ones. In the process, he caressed his way to an unbeaten 91 in a little over two sessions.

This tour will also help us unlearn a few things about Vijay: that he is no longer a stop-gap opener, that is not just a flashy stroke-player and that he does not belong to the big league. Over the past several months, starting with the four-match series against Australia at home, Vijay has established himself as a solid and patient accumulator of runs. But that has not deprived him of the ability to change gears at will.

Prior to the series, Vijay had said, “I personally think you have got to keep it simple because already there is a lot of talk going around. You have got to go out there and be free in your mind, and just see the ball and play. That’s the basic plan, as simple as that.” Vijay has executed his plan.

“For me, it’s a feel-good factor inside,” he had added. “It’s not about how many runs I score, it’s more about how I bat. If am in good touch and hitting the ball well, that matters to me more. In that respect, I am satisfied at where I am. Looking forward to whatever I can do in South Africa.” Sehwag and Gambhir are also watching.

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