Rajasthan v Rest of India, Irani Cup, Bangalore, 3rd day September 23, 2012

Vijay starts season on a high

Irrespective of how easy the conditions were, Vijay's 10-hour arduous effort should help him in the race for an India Test spot

For a batsman ignored by the national selectors, nothing helps make a case like a big hundred. M Vijay scored the biggest in the Irani Cup's 53-year history, a career-best effort that deflated the Ranji champions Rajasthan.

There will be carping about the blunt Rajasthan attack - three quick bowlers bowling at an amiable 115kph, and two spinners with career averages over 50 - and the featherbed at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on which each of the specialist Rest of India batsmen scored at least a half-century.

The combination of a weak opposition and a flat track might seem a perfect fill-your-boots formula for a batsman, but the trouble is that a failure will be greeted with a, "he can't even score against these guys?" response, and any runs scored will be pooh-poohed.

The sheer magnitude of runs Vijay accumulated, though, should help almost completely sidestep that conundrum. A small century in Bangalore, and it would have grabbed no one's attention, but sticking around for more than ten hours is arduous, irrespective of how easy the conditions are.

There was plenty to admire about Vijay's innings, not least the endurance and concentration of a batsman who has made the headlines in the past year and a half more for his IPL performances. There was no slogging either, the bulk of his runs coming through orthodox drives down the ground and through cover.

"My conscious thing was the wicket was getting slower, so I didn't want to play across the line," Vijay said after the third day's play. "I just wanted to keep it straight, maybe if the ball swings a bit I can use the flick because that is my strength."

Till he had almost reached 200, it was a flawless innings as well - he was hardly beaten. The only blemish was the lackadaisical running between the wickets at some stages.

Another highlight of the performance was Vijay's fitness. Even after a day-and-a-half in the middle, he didn't look tired, and when Rajasthan came out to bat late in the evening, Vijay didn't choose to rest up after his batting exploits, coming out to take his place in the field.

He could have even gone on to a bigger score. "Not really thinking of a triple-hundred then, not really, I just wanted to get close to it and if it is my day… now that I have missed it, I feel bad."

Vijay was also pleased that he had scored in the season-opener. "I was just preparing for this game, after a long time I was playing a five-day game, after Ranji Trophy I hadn't played any five-day game, more or less 50-50 or Twenty20, so I just wanted to get my flow going in the longer version, because that will help me a lot."

Finding his form in the five-day game is crucial for Vijay, who had an intermittent three-year spell as Test opener before a disastrous tour of the Caribbean pushed him out of his position as back-up opener. A year on, he has fallen so far down in the selectors' estimation that he wasn't even considered for the A squads.

How badly was he affected by the axeing? "It's not all in my hands, I can just take it in my stride and move forward, be a better cricketer," he said. "It was really a test for me, initially I was disappointed and I accepted the reality, you know, you have to work on your game, and this is a nice chance for you to analyse yourself and become a better cricketer."

He began the Ranji season poorly after being dropped from the national team, and though he started turning in better performances in the second half to help Tamil Nadu reach the final, he was firmly behind both Ajinkya Rahane and Abhinav Mukund in the race for the opening berth. With Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir not having as firm a grip on their spots, opportunities are bound to arise for the chasing pack. Vijay's 266 is the perfect start to the season, at least to keep him in the openers' race.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • yuvraj on September 25, 2012, 16:58 GMT

    Consistency, bro!! That's the key. I wish such great talents like you shouldn't be unnoticed and unused. Stop worrying about T20s, IPL and shoter formats. You could become the opener that India is looking for quite some time.

  • prasad on September 25, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    @ scintilating guy - When sachin scored double ton, many of them laughed while saying it will be beaten by sehwag. Records are meant to be broken, and still M.vijay has to prove some more domestic series, as he wasted his opportunities given before.

  • Mohan on September 25, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    Vijay should replace GG/VS as opener in upcoming Eng Tests.He is the best available open batsmen to bully popgun attack

  • Arul on September 25, 2012, 8:46 GMT

    Mukund, MVijay, Badrinath and Rahane - all are treated unfairly by the national team. Rahane at least very young, he will get his chance. MVijay - used as a back up, waiting for 4 match and suddenly get one off, still he has showed a great composure in test matches. How can he be consistent. Mukund - used only in England, where he made his debut. That was a very tough ask even for a senior batsman. Badri - Poo man,unlucky. Been with the team for over 4 year played only 2 test matches.

  • Dummy4 on September 25, 2012, 8:17 GMT

    Vijay wasted several good opportunities came to his way. With the current situation in the Indian team, he may have to wait for a long period of time before any Selector will look at him since the bench strength is pretty strong at the moment.

  • TR on September 25, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    Those who have seen Vijay's century in the prev year ipl, would never suspect his hitting abilities. Yes I agree, if there is a player to beat Sehwag's score, it could be Vijay. I still remember Gavaskar's comments praising Vijay. Vijay gave quite a few good opening partnership with Sehwag for India when he got his first chances. His foundation is strong in terms of patience, staying power at the crease, etc. and has all strokes. I rate opening batsmen higher than the middle order players always because they have to play the swinging balls. Especially I rate those openers who also play spin well such as Vijay.

  • Alex on September 24, 2012, 23:14 GMT

    He should be playing T20 world cup instead of Gambhir.

  • Raj on September 24, 2012, 19:21 GMT

    @Scintilating Guy. When shewag making joke on us, just hit runs when he has interest and take rest, why not Vijay too.

    Vijay foot movement is problem, he need to change. Only worth indian cricket is non-stop Kohli.

    When RG getting chance after chance why not Vijay. RG failed last 10 ODIs, got chance in T20, he is proving his worth.

  • Dummy4 on September 24, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    @ mohamed azrudeen: nice joke that vijay is the only person who can beat sehwag score of 219 in odi's....

  • adithya on September 24, 2012, 12:55 GMT

    vijay is treat to watch when he gets going but he is bit like sehwag who is inconsistent.when vijay fires he takes the game away from the opposition,but he needs to be consistent.....vijay will be playing clt20 in sa this year,hope he performs well there on fast pitches....

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