India v Australia, 4th Test, Delhi, 2nd day March 23, 2013

M Vijay's remarkable turnaround

M Vijay's gritty 57 is just another sign of his remarkable transformation from a flashy batsman to a controlled, solid run-getter
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On a day when summer temperatures hit Delhi with a vengeance, Kotla's parched earth of a pitch did its best impersonation of a prima donna throwing a fit. Eleven wickets fell obligingly and sledging filled the air.

David Warner had a go at MS Dhoni, Aleem Dar ticked off Warner and asked stand-in Australian captain Shane Watson to rein in his men, James Pattinson had a go at M Vijay, and Vijay had a right go at those asking him questions after stumps.

For all of Cheteshwar Pujara's appetite for the big scores, MS Dhoni's Test-changing double century in Chennai and Shikhar Dhawan's jaw-dropping Test debut, it is Vijay who has scored more runs than any batsman on either team.

He began the series with scores of 10 and 6 in Chennai before leaping ahead of the queue with a run that reads: 167, 153, 26 and 57. He is the only batsman to score two centuries in the series (or "tournament", as he calls it) and has opened the innings for India with total composure and patience, every time India have batted second on pre-fab pitches made to aid the Indian spinners.

Top scorer in the Indian first innings in Delhi so far, Vijay was asked what had led to a tangible transformation in his batting. The question ended thus: "What have you done to make yourself go from someone who had a tendency to throw away his wicket to someone who is prepared to grind his way out for the team?" It is a question Vijay has been asked for two Tests in a row and he has talked about being shaken by his second innings dismissal in Chennai and batting for his life in Hyderabad. It is a question he will be asked by every new interviewer over the next few months because the change has been extraordinary.

In Kotla, he responded with a bark and bite that belonged to the pitch rather than the press conference room: "I think I have to approach you after the meeting, you have told me everything." Charming. And unfortunate, because it is this metamorphosis from a flashy shot-maker to a solid determined frontman that has marked Vijay's growth and progress in the series.

Before leaving the room he did rattle off, "It has been a good tournament for me, personally I am really enjoying at the moment. I just want to contribute to my team as much as I can." Vijay's contribution towards the Indian batting in the series has been enormous. It was a fact reflected yet again in the middle on Saturday, when his 108-run partnership with makeshift opener Cheteshwar Pujara was the meat and potatoes of the Indian response to Australia's first innings of 261. Vijay's 57 was an innings created from the sweat and muscle required of openers when faced with a track that makes bowlers burst into song.

The Australian seamers turned up in chorus. They had found existence of life that they recognised this morning at the Kotla and Vijay survived severe interrogation with the new ball.

Mitchell Johnson, who was wayward but produced gems that keep batsmen honest, was his strictest examiner. Of the 19 he scored off 46 balls from Johnson, three edges fell short and flew to the third man. The fourth boundary was clipped to fine leg at the first whiff of the ball tailing down leg.

Vijay's innings was an ideal example of not only trying to play the ball on its merit but wiping away the memory of the previous ball when either found pushing at air or producing an edge that fell short. He got behind the ball and, until his dismissal, kept body and bat away from the short stuff duly ducking and swaying. His short backlift worked for him as he got down on balls that kept low and when a bowler of Pattinson's pace got a few to climb, he was able to play comfortably on the bounce.

Run-making at the Kotla, he said, was hard. "It is very difficult to find the gaps. The wicket is getting slow, it is tough to judge the speed of the delivery. I could have stayed a little longer but got out at the wrong time, I guess."

He did play a shot, though, that belonged to a picture book. It came early in the innings against Pattinson and the new ball. To one swinging in, it was as if Vijay had flipped the ball over, like a cook does an omelette. Who knows what hands and what wrists caused it to fly adeptly in the vacant space available near the midwicket fielder.

The rest of the attractive parts of Vijay's batting, his screamer shots, were left in the dressing room. Only when Nathan Lyon turned up did he look slightly hungry for some post-lunch show-stoppers. Off his fourth ball from Lyon, he stepped out and produced the 'voila!' moment that had the Sunday crowd screaming as he played against the spin, over the in-field to the mid-off fence.

Vijay had crossed his 50 just before tea, having battled the wicket and the bowling. But Kotla was not about to give him any handouts in appreciation. Three overs into the final session, a ball from Peter Siddle hit a crack and shot towards his face. He stuck his gloves in the way to prevent himself from being beaned.

It is only the second day of the Test which he knew "could go either way." India will bat last and Vijay spoke manfully about chasing "whatever target they set." If he does produce an innings made of steel like the 57 on Saturday, he will once again be asked about his transformation. There's no hiding away from it or sledging at it.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mitty2 on March 24, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    @SSchigaco, look im sorry, but to be frank, you're so wrong it's not funny. These Indian pitches suit seamers, and only one type of batsmen; the wristy ones and those who are able to play spin. Sure, South african pictches are green, but even still, the majority still take spin, even before days 4 and 5. Just look at ajmal's 5. You can argue that pitches should be diverse between places, but not to the extent of completely eridicating the threat of a whole category/aspect in pace bowling

    Australian pitches are universally accredited as the best, with England's close to being as such. They provide something to everyone: assistance to pace on days 1 and 5 (variable bounce), flatten out on 2 and 3 for the batsmen, and there's assistance for the spinners on 4 and 5. These Indian pitches are pathetic. The idea of selective watering is so unfair it is not funny. You guys preach that all the non indian pitches are green, but the whitewash in aus, there was not a single green wicket. Not one.

  • realfan on March 24, 2013, 3:35 GMT

    i was the one who said vijay is not suited for test cricket, but he is slowly proving me wrong...... but its too early for him to be praised.... he is definatley improved when it coems to occupying the crease, and when it comes to restricting some shots..... but what i absorved in the last match he strugle against moving ball..... i hope he will improve on this and score big runs in SA tour.......

  • Nppinte on March 24, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    Spot on -Rajiv Rathinam. I think people forget that the Vijay they see now is actually the old Vijay, before IPL happened. Vijay 3.0 can bat for days, grits it out and can also go ballistic when he needs to. Dont judge him based on the WI series, when he was short on confidence from being in and out of the playing 11. I am not surprised that he got mad at the reporter who asked that question. Everyone thinks Vijay = IPL fireworks and forgets his first 100 against Aus (139 with Tendulkar's help) where he had a very low strike rate.

  • on March 24, 2013, 1:59 GMT

    Technique cannot change overnight. I have read most of them regarding Vijay as technically sound. It is hard to agree. He purely relies on timing and that could be useful. Ask Laxman.

  • sixnout on March 24, 2013, 1:58 GMT

    @SSChicago... I believe this is a wrong idea... They are just playing in grounds that suit their bowlers.... The Bouncy WACA to spinning and turning Kotla all present their own unique challenges... A test batsman needs to be able to handle the spin and pace alike... so I wouldn't agree with you.

  • Chris_Howard on March 24, 2013, 0:20 GMT

    I've been waiting for this article. Vijay's transformation in this series will be my lasting (positive) memory of it.

    As a cricket lover, I don't care who's succeeding or who's number 1, I just want to see great cricketers, great cricket and competitive (not one-sided) cricket.

    Vijay in this series has transformed himself into a Test batsman that people will enjoy going to watch. He has gained that most valuable attribute of all for a batsman: valuing your wicket.

    Well done, mate

  • on March 24, 2013, 0:01 GMT

    If Vijay can maintain this kind of application, it would be very, very useful. On the one hand we need another aggressive opener, like Sehwag in his prime and what we have now in Dhawan. To balance that we need an Alastair Cook type player who settles in for the long-haul.

  • Raj12345 on March 23, 2013, 23:56 GMT

    Why some give negative comments on him. These are typically - flat track bully, edged, ave attack... ok. i can accept all. just answer me one question. What our master (with 40k runs) doing with this same opponent. Accept new comers and encourage them.

  • on March 23, 2013, 22:49 GMT

    Test Match batting is lot of skill and lot more of the stuff between the ears and steel. Having said that Vijay had previously shown very little of skill and none of the other two key ingredients. But this series has been very refreshing and showed lot of maturity [shot selection/execution, determination to stay at the wicket] and some skills [playing with soft hands]. Just enjoy the show and hope that he will continue for some time. Don't jump too far ahead and come to a conclusion about his performance in SA. Good job Vijay and keep up buddy.

  • blink182alex on March 23, 2013, 22:36 GMT

    whilst Vijay has played very well in this test and the last 2 test, i think you have to resolve a bit of judgement about him until we see him facing the new ball in Eng/SA/Aus. As of yet he has scored all his 100's in India and hasn't got a run, in any form of the game away from the sub continent.

  • Mitty2 on March 24, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    @SSchigaco, look im sorry, but to be frank, you're so wrong it's not funny. These Indian pitches suit seamers, and only one type of batsmen; the wristy ones and those who are able to play spin. Sure, South african pictches are green, but even still, the majority still take spin, even before days 4 and 5. Just look at ajmal's 5. You can argue that pitches should be diverse between places, but not to the extent of completely eridicating the threat of a whole category/aspect in pace bowling

    Australian pitches are universally accredited as the best, with England's close to being as such. They provide something to everyone: assistance to pace on days 1 and 5 (variable bounce), flatten out on 2 and 3 for the batsmen, and there's assistance for the spinners on 4 and 5. These Indian pitches are pathetic. The idea of selective watering is so unfair it is not funny. You guys preach that all the non indian pitches are green, but the whitewash in aus, there was not a single green wicket. Not one.

  • realfan on March 24, 2013, 3:35 GMT

    i was the one who said vijay is not suited for test cricket, but he is slowly proving me wrong...... but its too early for him to be praised.... he is definatley improved when it coems to occupying the crease, and when it comes to restricting some shots..... but what i absorved in the last match he strugle against moving ball..... i hope he will improve on this and score big runs in SA tour.......

  • Nppinte on March 24, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    Spot on -Rajiv Rathinam. I think people forget that the Vijay they see now is actually the old Vijay, before IPL happened. Vijay 3.0 can bat for days, grits it out and can also go ballistic when he needs to. Dont judge him based on the WI series, when he was short on confidence from being in and out of the playing 11. I am not surprised that he got mad at the reporter who asked that question. Everyone thinks Vijay = IPL fireworks and forgets his first 100 against Aus (139 with Tendulkar's help) where he had a very low strike rate.

  • on March 24, 2013, 1:59 GMT

    Technique cannot change overnight. I have read most of them regarding Vijay as technically sound. It is hard to agree. He purely relies on timing and that could be useful. Ask Laxman.

  • sixnout on March 24, 2013, 1:58 GMT

    @SSChicago... I believe this is a wrong idea... They are just playing in grounds that suit their bowlers.... The Bouncy WACA to spinning and turning Kotla all present their own unique challenges... A test batsman needs to be able to handle the spin and pace alike... so I wouldn't agree with you.

  • Chris_Howard on March 24, 2013, 0:20 GMT

    I've been waiting for this article. Vijay's transformation in this series will be my lasting (positive) memory of it.

    As a cricket lover, I don't care who's succeeding or who's number 1, I just want to see great cricketers, great cricket and competitive (not one-sided) cricket.

    Vijay in this series has transformed himself into a Test batsman that people will enjoy going to watch. He has gained that most valuable attribute of all for a batsman: valuing your wicket.

    Well done, mate

  • on March 24, 2013, 0:01 GMT

    If Vijay can maintain this kind of application, it would be very, very useful. On the one hand we need another aggressive opener, like Sehwag in his prime and what we have now in Dhawan. To balance that we need an Alastair Cook type player who settles in for the long-haul.

  • Raj12345 on March 23, 2013, 23:56 GMT

    Why some give negative comments on him. These are typically - flat track bully, edged, ave attack... ok. i can accept all. just answer me one question. What our master (with 40k runs) doing with this same opponent. Accept new comers and encourage them.

  • on March 23, 2013, 22:49 GMT

    Test Match batting is lot of skill and lot more of the stuff between the ears and steel. Having said that Vijay had previously shown very little of skill and none of the other two key ingredients. But this series has been very refreshing and showed lot of maturity [shot selection/execution, determination to stay at the wicket] and some skills [playing with soft hands]. Just enjoy the show and hope that he will continue for some time. Don't jump too far ahead and come to a conclusion about his performance in SA. Good job Vijay and keep up buddy.

  • blink182alex on March 23, 2013, 22:36 GMT

    whilst Vijay has played very well in this test and the last 2 test, i think you have to resolve a bit of judgement about him until we see him facing the new ball in Eng/SA/Aus. As of yet he has scored all his 100's in India and hasn't got a run, in any form of the game away from the sub continent.

  • TRAM on March 23, 2013, 20:47 GMT

    I have a strong feeling he is going to destroy the opponents in the coming IPL much more than he did in the previous IPLs. Reason being, his success in the tough test conditions, (viz., no individual bowler's over limit,no fielding restrictions, liberal bouncers and wides, etc. ). All the aggression he had controlled in his mind this test series might explode in the coming IPL.

  • on March 23, 2013, 20:19 GMT

    On this evidence I'm quite glad he wasn't playing against us. One innings apart, Sehwag was a walking wicket. It's good to see. A strong India is good for the game as a whole, I feel.

  • AjaySridharan on March 23, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    Why sing praises so soon after performances against an average Aussie attack low on confidence in familiar conditions?! A little too premature to sing the "transformation" song. Let the guy enjoy his form and the moment.

  • Anubhav-the-Experience on March 23, 2013, 19:54 GMT

    All the while watching Vijay play solidly, I was afraid that Vijay might loose his determination some day. He might get influenced by his T20 aggressive game and feel that his game currently is not glamorous itself. However, till now I have seen an improved Vijay and I hope for India's sake that he stays their till he retires. Also I was afraid that Rahane's inclusion might create added pressure on Vijay to play fast game which however was understood and treated well by team management. Rahane should now be working hard to make a place in middle order.

  • kgaw on March 23, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    The opening para is a classic. Reminded me about my daughter. Nothing to get the tempers up on both sides than such a person -- oops pitch.

  • on March 23, 2013, 19:33 GMT

    Correction, it was a Saturday Crowd

  • yoohoo on March 23, 2013, 19:10 GMT

    @ SamRoy - The reason the edges did not carry to the slips was because vijay was playing with soft hands. VVS did this all the time. On tough spinning wickets, the trick is to play with soft hands so that even if you edge it never goes to the fielder. That is just good batting.

  • on March 23, 2013, 19:10 GMT

    Did anybody understand that this turnaround article for Vijay's temperament change not technical change... He hasn't changed his technique, just trying to play more cautious according to the merit of the ball rather than going behind everything. He adapted well to the test arena by applying himself and his talents. According to me he can handle the pace, swing and seam if the bounce is uniform unlike Kotla pitch. All the best Dude. Do well.

  • sweetspot on March 23, 2013, 18:57 GMT

    Here we go, with people mentioning that tour to SA as the be all and end all of any Indian cricketer ever born! It's just another Test tour! Today's cricketers have to perform well in all forms of the game. The IPL starts in no time and CSK fans will want the dashing Vijay back. The same guy who scored 127 in 50 odd balls, not the "sound defence"Vijay we're seeing now. Sharda is absolutely right. The transformation, contrary to all expectations is a remarkable one indeed. Vijay has done well in SA - check out his heroics in the Champions League which CSK won. The conditions don't really test him that much. If anything he will enjoy the ball coming through nicely. But all that is so far into the future. Let's enjoy Indian cricket's current Mr. Fantastic right now!

  • kingcobra85 on March 23, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Vijay has been super. He is going to help India win overseas again. A good opener is the backbone of any side that wants to win overseas and he has finally found his balance. Happy for him.

    And for people complaining you cannot satisfy some people whatever you do. Just ignore them and score more runs

  • borninthetimeofSRT on March 23, 2013, 18:15 GMT

    The perception of 'tailor made pitches to suit the Indian Spinners' must change. Today, test cricket is looked through the lens of an even play-field, where everything is standardized, most visible example being the Ashes. Australia, England and SA have won in familiar conditions outside their dens, with quality seam bowling. It is frustrating for these teams to play in conditions that do not suit seam bowling. India is a different territory. There's a parallel to the 'even play field' theory, the 'alien condition' theory, which must be acknowledged. Its a different kind of rivalry. We've witnessed the former theory change the dynamics in Hockey, with astroturf. There's no fun, the game has become fast, but requires lesser skills - perfect for the western idea of sport. Indians slow down the speed of the game to their advantage, make it more skill based than speed based. This is unfamiliar to western sporting culture. I believe the bias towards promoting one form of culture must change

  • SamRoy on March 23, 2013, 17:54 GMT

    Vijay has edged so many balls behind the wicket without the edge not carrying. Today he edged at least 7 times. Except for Mohali none of the other surfaces had enough bounce to the slips/wicketkeeper on a consistent basis. Don't think that will be the case in SA.

  • phunny_game on March 23, 2013, 17:47 GMT

    Vijay has really been very good in this series... what stands out is his temperament, which i never saw before, not even in domestic matches. I think he himself knew that he has got a lot of talent so he used to play shots, or try and be more dominant, a bit like Rohit Sharma. But here he is more cautious and cool with his approach, willling to grind out time, Wear the bowlers out. But a much harder test awaits him in SA, which will test his technique.If he can be successful there, then technique + temperament usually produce great players...

  • on March 23, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    Without taking away anything from his exploits in this series, M. Vijay will lay his claims to the start of greatness if he is able to reproduce even 50% of what he has done here, against SA this winter. Till then, lets just remember the scenes of the series in WI where an average pace bowling attack on slightly spicy pitches had Vijay all at sea. And hold our judgments on the so called metamorphosis!

  • Dhanno on March 23, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    Vijay's performances need to be applauded, I am not his biggest fans but I would put up my hands and say he has taken the opportunity when presented (if he deserved it, thats for another time). This is very inexperienced australian attack but you have to out and get those runs. He appears to have cut some of his flash/ extravagance which was display earlier. He is still tentative against genuine quicks, not so much when the ball is pitched up (the good hand-eye + wristy strokes). But lil short of length and a far more consistent line supplemented by bounce (which is what we will see in SA). That will test his technique. Pujara has lot more footwork, which is necessary to get in good position against quicks overseas, Vijay will have to adapt and adapt quickly. If he does that and performs I would not be the one to begrudge is position in the side.

  • on March 23, 2013, 17:01 GMT

    hi, Vijay has certainly played well but it might be a little too early for a turnaround article after just 4 good innings at home against an average attack...

  • on March 23, 2013, 16:58 GMT

    Very happy for Vijay, good to see hard work paying rewards. I just hope the IPL does not set him back to playing loose drives outside off and throwing his wicket away like the Vijay of old. He was a pretty composed solid opener at the start of career and T20 cricket did not do his technique any favours. It remains to be seen of course how he fares in South Africa we will know more about him there. But he (and Dhawan) has earned the right to open for India for a few series more. We now need the middle order scoring runs ...

  • See_the_obvious on March 23, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    Vijay will be and should be rated as a Quality batsman let alone an Opener only after the coming up AWAY series.. Till then, Fingers crossed... BTW Transformation is a very technical word which should be used carefully. 1 Series is not a benchmark for that.. Only player who comes close to this 'Transformation tag' in the recent times is Dilshan..

  • Cpt.Meanster on March 23, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    Not an easy pitch to bat on and both Pujara and Vijay have been exceptional. The key for India this series has been the partnerships at the top of the order. The lower half of the batting has been weak and that's the way it should be in general. Your top order players make all the runs, the bottom dwellers get you all the wickets. In the case of Australia, it has been the opposite. Their top order players do NOTHING and their bottom dwellers bat, bowl, and field which is the way cricket shouldn't be played. I see both Vijay and Pujara having wonderful careers for a long time for India. Most importantly, both their techniques put them as favourites to succeed in overseas conditions along with Kohli.

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  • Cpt.Meanster on March 23, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    Not an easy pitch to bat on and both Pujara and Vijay have been exceptional. The key for India this series has been the partnerships at the top of the order. The lower half of the batting has been weak and that's the way it should be in general. Your top order players make all the runs, the bottom dwellers get you all the wickets. In the case of Australia, it has been the opposite. Their top order players do NOTHING and their bottom dwellers bat, bowl, and field which is the way cricket shouldn't be played. I see both Vijay and Pujara having wonderful careers for a long time for India. Most importantly, both their techniques put them as favourites to succeed in overseas conditions along with Kohli.

  • See_the_obvious on March 23, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    Vijay will be and should be rated as a Quality batsman let alone an Opener only after the coming up AWAY series.. Till then, Fingers crossed... BTW Transformation is a very technical word which should be used carefully. 1 Series is not a benchmark for that.. Only player who comes close to this 'Transformation tag' in the recent times is Dilshan..

  • on March 23, 2013, 16:58 GMT

    Very happy for Vijay, good to see hard work paying rewards. I just hope the IPL does not set him back to playing loose drives outside off and throwing his wicket away like the Vijay of old. He was a pretty composed solid opener at the start of career and T20 cricket did not do his technique any favours. It remains to be seen of course how he fares in South Africa we will know more about him there. But he (and Dhawan) has earned the right to open for India for a few series more. We now need the middle order scoring runs ...

  • on March 23, 2013, 17:01 GMT

    hi, Vijay has certainly played well but it might be a little too early for a turnaround article after just 4 good innings at home against an average attack...

  • Dhanno on March 23, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    Vijay's performances need to be applauded, I am not his biggest fans but I would put up my hands and say he has taken the opportunity when presented (if he deserved it, thats for another time). This is very inexperienced australian attack but you have to out and get those runs. He appears to have cut some of his flash/ extravagance which was display earlier. He is still tentative against genuine quicks, not so much when the ball is pitched up (the good hand-eye + wristy strokes). But lil short of length and a far more consistent line supplemented by bounce (which is what we will see in SA). That will test his technique. Pujara has lot more footwork, which is necessary to get in good position against quicks overseas, Vijay will have to adapt and adapt quickly. If he does that and performs I would not be the one to begrudge is position in the side.

  • on March 23, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    Without taking away anything from his exploits in this series, M. Vijay will lay his claims to the start of greatness if he is able to reproduce even 50% of what he has done here, against SA this winter. Till then, lets just remember the scenes of the series in WI where an average pace bowling attack on slightly spicy pitches had Vijay all at sea. And hold our judgments on the so called metamorphosis!

  • phunny_game on March 23, 2013, 17:47 GMT

    Vijay has really been very good in this series... what stands out is his temperament, which i never saw before, not even in domestic matches. I think he himself knew that he has got a lot of talent so he used to play shots, or try and be more dominant, a bit like Rohit Sharma. But here he is more cautious and cool with his approach, willling to grind out time, Wear the bowlers out. But a much harder test awaits him in SA, which will test his technique.If he can be successful there, then technique + temperament usually produce great players...

  • SamRoy on March 23, 2013, 17:54 GMT

    Vijay has edged so many balls behind the wicket without the edge not carrying. Today he edged at least 7 times. Except for Mohali none of the other surfaces had enough bounce to the slips/wicketkeeper on a consistent basis. Don't think that will be the case in SA.

  • borninthetimeofSRT on March 23, 2013, 18:15 GMT

    The perception of 'tailor made pitches to suit the Indian Spinners' must change. Today, test cricket is looked through the lens of an even play-field, where everything is standardized, most visible example being the Ashes. Australia, England and SA have won in familiar conditions outside their dens, with quality seam bowling. It is frustrating for these teams to play in conditions that do not suit seam bowling. India is a different territory. There's a parallel to the 'even play field' theory, the 'alien condition' theory, which must be acknowledged. Its a different kind of rivalry. We've witnessed the former theory change the dynamics in Hockey, with astroturf. There's no fun, the game has become fast, but requires lesser skills - perfect for the western idea of sport. Indians slow down the speed of the game to their advantage, make it more skill based than speed based. This is unfamiliar to western sporting culture. I believe the bias towards promoting one form of culture must change

  • kingcobra85 on March 23, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Vijay has been super. He is going to help India win overseas again. A good opener is the backbone of any side that wants to win overseas and he has finally found his balance. Happy for him.

    And for people complaining you cannot satisfy some people whatever you do. Just ignore them and score more runs