India v Australia, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 3rd day October 11, 2010

Patient Vijay scripts a lead role for himself

In his few Test appearances before Bangalore, M Vijay had largely been restricted to playing Virender Sehwag's sidekick, but today he carved a bigger role to remember him by

M Vijay opening with Virender Sehwag is a bit like Rajnikanth - a regional-language superstar, unequalled in his domain for his style and swagger - making a guest appearance in a Hollywood film featuring the industry's undisputed superstar. It is mostly a walk-on part but Vijay leaves us something to remember the role by - one line, one shot.

Vijay doesn't often get to work with Sehwag, but as usually happens with important sidekicks, he gets an important enough introduction. He tries to create impossible run-outs from forward short-leg, takes a few good catches without bothering to run too hard, and Sehwag even trusts him enough to let him take first strike.

Vijay hasn't been completely forgotten eiither, which sometimes can happen with the best of batsmen when batting with Sehwag. To manage to make an impact of your own when Sehwag is batting with you is not easy. The 87 Vijay scored off 121 balls against Sri Lanka at the Brabourne Stadium was superb, but in comparison with Sehwag's ultra-cool 293 it was but a footnote. We don't remember much of the Brabourne innings, but we do remember that Vijay brought up his fifty off 79 balls by hitting Muttiah Muralitharan over his head for a six. Sehwag was obviously proud, and hugged him. We don't remember much of what Vijay did when Sehwag was attacking yesterday, but we remember the drive he played between the bowler and the umpire.

In a way, the things Sehwag is known for can be said of Vijay in domestic cricket, the IPL and the Champions League. He may not be as cool as Sehwag - well, not many can be - but there is a clear emphasis on style. When it comes to Test cricket, though, Vijay is in a new place, in front of audience that doesn't necessarily know him. And his opening partner is obviously the big draw. At times the big stage overwhelms Vijay, and when he does put in a performance, it is in a scene dominated by Sehwag.

Some time after Sehwag's dismissal yesterday, though, Vijay must have realised that all these guest appearances full of swagger are fine, but they are not transforming into roles in future films. He made compromises with style, but he also got himself a bigger role. When the last 20 minutes yesterday were played in dodgy light, Vijay shut shop and let Tendulkar take most of the strike. This morning he didn't even try to compete with Tendulkar, who hooked, pulled, lofted and cut his way to hundred. Slowly, unnoticed almost, Vijay added runs, scoring just 31 off 88 in the first session. Most of the time was spent getting out of the way of bouncers, with wrists dropping early. Ducking was not the smart option because of the low bounce.

Vijay swaggered out in the second session, flicking Ben Hilfenhaus for four, and charging down to Nathan Hauritz for four and six. That just drew the bad guys' attention towards him, and they went after him. Bouncer after bouncer followed. Now he was saving his ribs, now he was getting his gloves out of the way. Slips, gully, short leg and leg gully waited for the lame poke. Vijay refused to budge.

It took him 54 balls to get from 87 to a maiden hundred. In going from 98 to 100, Vijay negotiated 13 back-to-back short balls from Peter George. Before that, Hilfenhaus gave him a working over, and came close to getting him out.

Vijay, though, was not getting anxious to get it done with. He waited and waited before the single presented itself. Then he jumped in jubilation. Then an equally overjoyed Tendulkar came to hug him. This was something entirely different. Not some golden cap at the Champions League. Not a hundred in first-class cricket. This was a hundred in front of a packed and loud crowd, in a Test that could have gone wrong for his side had he not buckled down.

There was grudging respect from the opposition. "We saw that he didn't really like playing on the back foot," Mitchell Johnson said. "We tried to do something about it by bowling short. And getting close fielders behind the wicket. He played extremely well and he was very patient. It was a good hundred by him, what more can I say?"

That wait when Australia peppered him with the bouncers was the most impressive part of Vijay's innings. It said a lot about his temperament. Of course a few stylish shots followed after his progression to hundred had left the bowlers exhausted. The wait said a lot about his temperament. He will need to use that patience some more, for he might have to relinquish his place to Gautam Gambhir when the latter is fit. At least a determined hundred, as opposed to a stylish 40, will make the selectors give it a thought before leaving Vijay out.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sravan on October 13, 2010, 3:47 GMT

    "Rajnikanth - a regional-language superstar" - Where are you sid? The second highest paid actor in Asia, The second biggest movie launch and arguably the largest fan following in the world. You are too lost in cricket, better stick to it :). M.Vijay is a classic act, and has an unseen confidence in himself. His shots are a pleasure to watch, technically correct and he is probably one of the best candidates for the Indian middle order that would be up for stakes next year. Last but not the least, my girlfriend lets me tune into cricket because of him.

  • Dummy4 on October 12, 2010, 14:28 GMT

    wel done m.vijay very well done....he transformed his batting style well from t20 to test in such a quick time...awesome...very patient nd cool........

  • Dummy4 on October 12, 2010, 4:58 GMT

    Congrats VIJAY , atlast your hard work paid off , keep going , Dont mind about some guys foolish comments , i am an INDIAN , i love your knock SOME GUYS will not change thier attitude & show thier rationalisim

    CONGRATS TO MR SRIKANTH & OTHER SELECTORS FOR KEEPING FAITH IN HIS TALENT , BAD LUCK PUJARA , Hope BADRI / Rahane get thier turn when Mr Dravid / Mr Laxman hang their boots

    Biased guys stop praying for VIJAYS Failure , you prayer will not be answered BCCI & Srikanth dint stayed for 5 hrs only VIjay did by himself

  • FAISAL on October 12, 2010, 4:48 GMT

    Hold on guys and dont just think about one inning.....he has to do alot to prove himself to open an inning with what gambhir has done the moment no one can take his place in test as well in one day...let him grow more with this class players in present team india.....he played very good ...but you can just say him come and play in place of of luck for Vijay and well played.

  • James on October 12, 2010, 4:31 GMT

    Vijay provides a fitting reply to Srikkanth & Co. who have ignored him for the opening slot for long by persisting with the sub-standard Dinesh karthik. At the same time, too early to make generalizations- or looking at him to replace either Gambhir or Dravid. Pujara (like Rahane) has proved himself to be far superior to many others (including Vijay) in the domestic scene; hence it may be useful to give him a few more chances before writing him off. In fact we may need both Pujara and Rahane to fill up some middle order slots in the near future- and they need to be prepared as back up for this slot (just as Vijay can be a back up for the opening slot). Along with Vijay, Pujara, and Rahane, we should also take care of our other batting potentials like Manish Pandey, Saurabh Tiwary, Badrinath, Utappa, Rohit Sharma, Rayudu, Yuvraj, Raina, Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan etc, for meeting the heavy workload of the Indian team in all the three formats.

  • Runster on October 12, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    @D.Sharma Mate, chillax u jealous fan. I wud pick murali vijay over pujara anyday. Stop breaking the mighty fan base of the indian cricket team. Pujara was a poor batsmen and shud not be in the team :D Murali vijay, u are a son of a gun

  • Michael on October 12, 2010, 3:35 GMT

    Vijay should be retained, and Dravid dropped when Gambhir is fit. Dravid is out of form, whereas Vijay has shown himself to be in form and able to produce a good Test match innings.

  • anil on October 12, 2010, 3:29 GMT

    Actually Selector were wrong in picking an out of form Ghambir in the first test against In-Form Vijay in all format of this sport. They should know that Country has paid enough dues to Dravid as well. Can they take any lessons from the outing of Hayden from the Oz's team

  • anil on October 12, 2010, 3:22 GMT

    @"M Vijay opening with Virender Sehwag is a bit like Rajnikanth - a regional-language superstar, unequalled in his domain for his style and swagger - making a guest appearance in a Hollywood film featuring the industry's undisputed superstar" - I smell some inihibition on the author's part. Did he actually meant RajniKanth roll in Bollywood film against Big B. lol

  • Vipul on October 12, 2010, 2:19 GMT

    I wonder why do we need to bring in North-south divide. As Indians, why don't we rejoice at his good innings? And while praising him, we don't need to berate other Indian players either.

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