The Indian cricket team has enjoyed a solid home season and skipper Virat Kohli will be pleased to see most of his team’s attributes paying off.
Under former coach Anil Kumble and now Ravi Shastri, an all-round show has seen the side win Test series against Australia, England, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The two away series to West Indies and Lanka saw some good moments as India look to stake their claim with more glitz and appeal.
India’s batting has reached a new level with some vivid contributions from Kohli and its opening scenario has seen a blend of mix in the batting. KL Rahul has stepped in and has been consistent. Shikhar Dhawan has been an able replacement for Murali Vijay when the latter was injured. Now with the return of the veteran master, Kohli has his hands full with the situation at his disposal atop.
In the ongoing series against Sri Lanka at home, one often wondered why Vijay did not have his regular spot in the offing when asked to be benched at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Making a comeback to the side after a lengthy 8-month spell with a wrist injury, the onus therefore was handed over to Dhawan and Rahul as Vijay looked on from the pavilion. But things changed drastically thereafter.
The 33-year-old Vijay has taken his game to a new level altogether and so often he has highlighted his consistency in both at home and away conditions. The Nagpur Test was no different against a transitional Lankan side. The stylish right-handed batsman slammed a solid 128 runs to mark a return that players often dream to have in international cricket.
India won the 2nd Test comfortably and as the batsmen piled on the massacre, Vijay’s solidity was a dream affair. What makes him so pleasing to the eye is his ability to play at his own tempo with switching the guard whenever he pleases. Vijay’s key to success has been stitching partnerships atop and at Nagpur alongside Cheteshwar Pujara, the classy batsman laid on the platform.
It was a brilliant 10th career Test ton and as the other batsmen too got glaring centuries, Vijay’s innings is worth remembering. His 209-run partnership with Pujara showed the confidence he shares whilst batting and the trust he bodes on his partner. The grandeur continued with another milestone partnership with skipper Kohli in the ongoing 3rd Test at Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
Vijay smashed another successive ton to show why he is the side’s best bet as an opener. His 155 runs in the 3rd Test blended with a double ton by Kohli has given India the tempo as they eye another Test series victory. The duo added an impeccable 283-run stand to take the game away from their opponents. The management will now have to decide between Dhawan and Rahul to partner him in the upcoming Test series against South Africa.
What has kept India strong here is the opening conundrum looks heavy at the moment no matter whether Dhawan or Rahul stays as the 3rd choice. India have a packed touring schedule starting next season. After touring South Africa, the Indian team have another stern away Test series against England starting in August 2018. For now it is safe to say if Vijay stays injury free, he will be the side’s go to man in both of these series.
The fact of his consistent approach has seen Vijay scoring tons last year against England that was a huge achievement in terms of setting the platform. Against both the Kiwis in 2016 and the Aussies this year, Vijay scored some impressive fifties before also notching a hundred against Bangladesh in an one-off Test. This shows his immense contribution towards India’s success in recent times.
What he brings at his forte is a level of calmness and trust that has eased off the pressure in India’s batting. There is a positive sense of comfort and solace that Kohli’s men are enjoying at the moment. The fight will be against South Africa against a powerful pace bowling attack. Vijay’s earlier success in England and Australia will give him the confidence backed with the recent surge in scoring a gluttony of runs.
What the team hierarchy did well against Lanka is tinkering with the opening batting with the trio getting their chances. For now his emphatic opening role has ticked the box for India.