'Mature' Vijay eager for overseas success
M Vijay has played each of India's last six Tests, which is more successive matches he has played in the national team in any format since his international debut more than five years ago. The prolonged dip in form of established Test openers, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, allowed him a look-in and a couple of big hundreds against Australia earlier this year have, at long last, earned him something of a sustained run in the longest format.
"I'm more mature now," Vijay said in Meerut, when asked to explain his Test success in 2013. "I know my game better. It's about being consistent in all forms of the game. "
Firmly established as a batting star in the IPL, where his strokeplay can be both brutal and easy on the eye, Vijay showed he could shelve the flashy strokes in the Tests against Australia.
"It is very tough mentally to tune to formats, playing Test cricket to suddenly teeing off from the first ball. But, as a professional, that is my challenge," he said. "Hopefully I can transform my game accordingly whenever required."
He will have to make changes to succeed over the next year or so, as India are set to tour South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia - four countries where conditions differ drastically from the subcontinental tracks Vijay is most comfortable batting.
"I have a long way to go but I've learnt a lot of things," he said. "I want to do well abroad, I'm working hard on my game and hopefully I'm on the right track."
Things haven't quite gone to plan since the Australia Test series for Vijay, as he struggled to establish himself in the one-day squad and couldn't make much of an impact on the tour of South Africa with a strong A team. Vijay was in the squad for the Champions Trophy in England, but couldn't get a game. He played three ODIs in the tri-series against Sri Lanka and West Indies, featuring in a one-day game after nearly two years. On India A's tour to South Africa, Vijay scored 48 runs at an average of 16 in the two unofficial Tests. With India not playing Tests for eight months after the Australia series, Vijay said he did feel the pressure going into the recent West Indies series.
"Personally yes, because I knew I was going to play the next series (against West Indies), I had that much confidence," he said. "From my expectation, I let myself down, I tweaked a lot of things (mentally) and it didn't come out properly, I didn't get to play the longer version in between. It's good that I'm getting back to playing a few."
Vijay played just one first-class match in the lead-up to the West Indies series, but should get three rounds of Ranji games before heading to South Africa next month. The fact that he will open the innings with Shikhar Dhawan, a man in red-hot form across formats this year, will also help Vijay.
"He's on a high - high on confidence and batting at his best. We're good friends both on and off the field. It's great to bat with him," Vijay said. "Whenever we're out there, it's like two friends batting together. Pressure situations get lighter hopefully we can continue to do this. You sense it inside, when he is striking the ball well, you can't go with a pre-planned notion. If you think your partner is batting well, you can take time and not take risks. If he's struggling, I try to get going and push singles so that I can help him out."
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo