Murali Vijay and I aren’t enemies.
He hasn’t disturbed my office routine. He never blank-called me. He’s never picked up a cheese sandwich from my plate from the breakfast table.
He never did silly stuff like borrowing a car from me only to return it in several pieces. Nor has he shown an interest in knowing my bank details as if they were pointing skywards.
Still, I hold a grudge against Murali Vijay.
Thank god, he ain’t my cousin or someone related to me in a way. I wouldn’t have exactly sung a sermon in his praise, I can tell you that.
Here’s why he’s left me gutted and probably any Indian cricket follower.
Murali Vijay hardly looks the part of a batsman remotely inclined in scoring runs.
In fact, does he even realise, he’s far better equipped to score runs than Yuzvendra Chahal is?
Did he find himself on a YouTube video playing the square drive and the elegant flick, inarguably executing the strokes better than a Kuldeep Yadav or Wriddhiman Saha?
In the quintessential literary parlance, a phrase that’s often used rather poetically is “English Summer”.
It won’t make you an Einstein to know or quote that Murali Vijay’s enduring possibly his worst ever English summer. He looks the part of a man coaxed to attend a gala function, someone forcibly made to sit on a dining table, hence, that remarkable fall in his ability to chew down bowlers akin to papadums.
When he arrived in England in 2014- his Test average was 42. Today it stands a realistic risk to fall below 40.
It’s rather bizarre that at this very point in time, Murali Vijay’s played the exact same number of Test and innings that he played the last year.
In here lies evidence of Murali Vijay’s spiral fall
Mr. Gavaskar was probably right in condemning the Indian side for dropping Shikhar for the Lord’s Test. Perhaps it makes sense too. Why pick a man for a series when he’s to be dropped after a solo Test?
But while a failure in 2 innings may not justify an axe, what does a failure in 3 back-to-back innings suggest? The latter is attributed to not the most savage blade going around in Test cricket right now; one held by Murali Vijay.
In 2017, Murali Vijay batted in 6 Tests and faced the red ball in 10 innings.
He scored 520 runs and collected 3 fighting hundreds. His batting average was 52, the most it had been in a calendar year, since 2009.
Had his runs been test results on a medical report, the doctor would’ve gladly signed him as possessing the pink of health.
But that was then?
What’s become of Murali Vijay in 2018?
So far, Vijay has played exactly 6 Tests and batted in 10 innings. Of these, he’s collected 233 runs, his average being barely modest at 23.
What on earth is going on?
It won’t require you to possess the keen eye of a Scotland Yard detective to sense that the hunger to score runs has dried off.
Additionally, his strike rate has been the poorest since 2013. But he could be overlooked for the strike rate factor.
Often, Test cricket warrants that the lesser a batsman’s strike rate, the more his score in the runs column. One of Murali’s compatriot, Rahul Dravid, boasts of a similar phenomenon.
Here’s what’s most worrying.
Thus far, from 3 innings, of course, morbid failures, the opener has stayed on the crease for 67 balls. Moreover, he’s not been able to hang around for over 101 minutes.
Do the math.
That’s 11 overs and an additional delivery and comfortably under 2 hours spent at the crease. You’d much rather have given him a ticket to watch some circus at Piccadilly instead.
You and I have seen Devendra Bishoo and Kagiso Rabada, night watchmen for the West Indies and South Africa, respectively, hang around for larger portions of time.
Probably, if its a night watchman position that he wishes to get better at then it might help to phone a certain Jason Gillespie. Oh, hang on, why bother with an international call- call up Anil Kumble instead.
Back in 2007, Kumble had scored a 110 not out in the Third Test at The Oval. In his tour de force, Kumble spent 217 minutes at the crease.
A few months later, playing his final Test, against Australia, Anil Kumble went on to score 45 runs from 73 balls and 84 minutes. Interestingly, his strike rate was better than Dravid and Sachin’s in that inning. This is when Kumble’s strength was leg-spin, not batting.
Sadly, Murali Vijay, whose current focus seems to be growing his locks, is a frontline batsman. At least, that is what his captain and coach are backing him on. Moreover, he doesn’t have the luxury of a Pandya to play all 3 formats, so there’s little probability in Murali failing in Tests but making a comeback to runs in India’s next T20 series.
The lies of woes don’t end here.
At 34, Murali Vijay isn’t getting younger. Surely, though, his alacrity and readiness to score and take on bowlers seem dubious. Matt Hayden, an opening batsman like Vijay, was a year younger than the Indian bat’s current age when he broke Lara’s record.
Of course, Lara moved at seeing his epic reclaimed, would come back 6 months later and score 400.
In 2004, Lara was 34, about the same age as Murali.
So what does this tell?
Age is often not a factor where zeal is concerned.
What’s equally disappointing and yet indicative of hope is Murali has scored nearly 800 of his 3900 Test runs against the same side that’s exposed chinks in his armour. Against England, Murali Vijay as fired 3 of his 12 Test hundreds.
There’s no better time than now to wipe away his hitherto vapid, lacklustre form against England. A big positive is, there are 3 Tests yet to be played. The only problem, however, is, should he fail 1 more time, he may be giving company to his good friend Dhawan.
True to its unique style of giving a victim one final chance to seize a desire, Test Cricket is asking Murali Vijay to oblige.