A tally of 292 runs, at an average of 32.44, might seem to be quite average and ordinary numbers for a middle-order batsman in Test cricket. And that’s the number of runs Hanuma Vihari, one of India’s latest Test recruits, has amassed in his nine outings in the longest format so far.
While his returns might be termed as ‘middling’ or ‘mediocre’, the effort he put into his batting while churning out those numbers was always a herculean one. Returns of 56, 0, 20, 28, 8, 13, 42, 32 and 93 might not seem great for someone who came into the side while averaging over 60 in first-class cricket. However, what those numbers don’t reveal are the conditions he scored those runs in.
His knock of 56 on debut came in a dead rubber against England at The Oval. But he was under immense pressure to perform while coming into the match. He walked out to bat when India were 103 for 4 in reply to England’s first innings total of 332. From there on, he stitched a 51-run stand with Virat Kohli (read more Virat Kohli news here) and then a 77-run stand with Ravindra Jadeja (more on Ravindra Jadeja news updates) . He batted for 124 deliveries and spent over three hours at the crease when the top and upper middle-order had provided an easy passage to the English bowlers.
— SPN- Sports (@SPNSportsIndia) September 9, 2018
Although he went on to score a duck in the second innings, he had shown that he had more to offer than just his batting as he registered figures of 3 for 37 with the ball, which included the wickets of set batsmen like Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Sam Curran.
His next test came at Perth during the tour of Australia. Although he got starts with scores of 20 and 28 in both innings, he couldn’t kick on and get a big one. However, the conditions were testing and we have to say he did a decent job having faced a total of 121 deliveries and spent around three hours, once again, for those 48 runs at Perth.
But his biggest test of temperament was at Melbourne when he was made into a makeshift opener to make up for India’s shaky middle-order. The scorecard would suggest that he scored only eight runs in the first innings and it looked negligible when compared to India’s total of 443/7. But he faced a total of 66 deliveries, while batting for 80 minutes, and that suggested he had successfully weathered the initial storm from the Australian bowlers to set up the foundation for the middle-order batsmen. This was something that even skipper Virat Kohli had acknowledged in the post-match press-conference of that match.
So, these are just some of the instances when the numbers haven’t presented a clear picture of his contributions as released on Indian cricket team news in his short stint so far. And if there was any doubt left about his potential, he is clearing that out with his performances in India West Indies test match is consistent. He scored 32 runs in the first innings of the first Test and, thus, stitched a 82-run stand with Ajinkya Rahane when India were struggling at 93/4. Unfortunately, a lapse in concentration had seen him going back to the pavilion after he nicked a delivery from Kemar Roach straight into the hands of Shai Hope behind the stumps.
However, Vihari was found guilty of not converting his starts on as many as four out of his eight outings so far and that made him more determined to make a big leap in the second essay of the match. India required his services once again this time to set up a challenging target for the hosts. He walked out to bat when India were on a total of 187 for 4 and, from thereon, he went on to play a free-flowing knock. He looked all set to notch up his maiden international century but he was out caught behind once again on a score of 93. Even though he couldn’t score a century, he had succeeded in bettering his best score.
It might look like his progress has been slow. But we should not complain as he has looked pretty steady in his approach so far. More games under his belt will allow him to settle down in his role well. And since he offers the bowling aspect as well, that will always make him a preferred choice over any other specialist middle-order batsman in the reckoning. Vihari’s long-term aim would be to cement his place in the Indian Test setup once and for all. But, for now, his short-term goal would be to do even better in the second and final Test against the West Indies at Kingston.
Written by: Prasenjit Dey