Mumbai v Rest of India, Irani Cup, Mumbai, 1st day February 6, 2013

Vijay keeps himself in contention

M Vijay erased his poor form in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy with a free-flowing century in Mumbai, to boost his chances of being selected for the upcoming Australia series

The Irani Cup has proved a boon for M Vijay twice in the same season, and it has helped that India's regular openers are not in the best form for him to stay in the reckoning. His knock of 266 for Rest of India in September put him back in the spotlight after more than a year out of the Test team following a series of below-par performances, but the subsequent Ranji season seemed to undermine that achievement. In five games for Tamil Nadu, he managed a highest of just 42 and an average of 17.25, but his 76 for India A against England was a timely boost. He has followed that up with a century on a big stage ahead of a major Test series, albeit in a manner, and at a time, different from his 10-hour effort in September.

That innings was virtually flawless until Vijay had reached his double-century, and a result of a determination to bat big. His free-flowing 116 today came under circumstances that would find him under greater pressure. September was the start of a long season; this could probably be his final opportunity this season to make an impression, since he's not part of Board President's XI or the India A squads against Australia.

Vijay admitted his "motivational level was high" coming in to this match, and that he realised how important this game was for 'fringe' players like himself. Shaky to start his innings against the moving ball, he didn't hesitate to reach out to drive when deliveries were pitched up as he settled in, was harsh against the short ball, his stand-out flick through mid-on and midwicket flowed freely and brought up his century.

Mumbai's bowlers erred too often, provided ample width - one of Vijay's 18 boundaries was an upper-cut six over third man. The spinners were largely ineffective, and Shardul Thakur bowled a no-ball off which he Vijay was caught-behind on 79. The conditions, too, didn't necessitate any undue restraint, and Vijay's confident approach was not exclusive to him on a day his team dominated with the bat.

Vijay's batting makes for attractive strokeplay, but at the Test level he's shown a tendency to get out playing loose shots, and this was evident during the tour of the West Indies in 2011 after which he lost his Test place. He managed a highest of 45 in six innings then, partnering Abhinav Mukund, spooning catches to point, offering catches to the keeper while stepping out to play what appeared like a half-hearted push.

But it's precisely such an approach that has got him runs in the shortest format, and today those punches, firm pushes, clips off the pads, found their desired target. What was intriguing was he chose to play that way in a game - for which he was most certainly selected for his potential than his recent statistics - that could decide his immediate Test future.

"I enjoyed my batting here as I always do, I just wanted to see the ball and hit," Vijay said. He may have regretted doing that when he edged Thakur on 79, attempting an expansive drive against a moving delivery. The reprieve ultimately got him a century, but his eventual dismissal served as a reminder of his struggles in tougher times. "I was a bit lazy, I could have played a little straighter," he said about being bowled by a reverse-swinging delivery from Abhishek Nayar.

That laziness has cost him in the past. Has it done so again at a time when there were more runs for the taking, or has Vijay done enough for the selectors, who saw him bat at the Wankhede, to consider him seriously for the upcoming Tests? His second innings, and the warm-up games against Australia that don't feature him but do some of his competitors, could help provide a clearer picture.

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vishwas on February 7, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    @Raj12345 seriously dude? 12 tests isnt enough to test one's capability???? yes vijay got 12 test matches.... his average is mere 30.... and if you think its enough then you are wrong..... what i mean to say is i am not against Vijay or anybody... i mean these guys, RAHANE , TIWARY have to get there chances r8.... they have been benched for too long.... 5 years of benching isnt going to help any cricketer... any way any one who gets selected should play in the match , thats what matters.....and what everybody expecting in this series is a big win...i will be happy if vijay gets selected and PLAYED well.....

  • Swastik on February 7, 2013, 17:03 GMT

    Love how Tamil Nadu trolls have come out of their closet to support their pathetic fringe players -- Mukund, Vijay, Badri, et. al. who have *always* failed in whatever opportunities they got. Vijay, especially, does NOT deserve any chances at the test level whatsoever.

  • Deepak on February 7, 2013, 16:29 GMT

    ANYBODY's a better choice than Virender 'gift-my-wicket' Sehwag.

  • Raj on February 7, 2013, 16:07 GMT

    @28041991. No one is going to deny Rahane here, he is best middle order or can open test. No doubt it. But why you are comparing Vijay with Rahane. Vijay is far below than Rahane, no doubt it but Vijay never given chances like Raina or Yuvi, that is whole point. How can you prove then. If you comapre with Vijay & Rahane, I would say Rahane is very good that is why he is still in radar after failing so many ODIs. I am sure Rahane will click if CSK ( since India team is fully dominated by CSK) gives him 5 more ODIs. There is no chance for TN cricketers in Indian team, it is all about CSK, not a state. I wish CSK to loose badly in coming IPL so that indian cricket can change and newer can come into team. But sorry to say this Vijay will get into team since he is in CSK. there is a chance for Rahane.

  • RK on February 7, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    People in various forums have already started campaigning for Raina. hasn't he proved enough already that, he isn't made for it??? Think beyond Rainas, Rohits, Yuvis and Jadejas... They just do not have it in them to be a middle order test bat... They had a lion's share of opportunities already to prove that too. Give some deserving player a chance who can play here and as well abroad well and score consistently. After just one good knock, people have started talking of a place for him in the test team... how come places are taken for granted for a select few? how come the vested interests in the media start campaigning for certain players in unison and one voice???????? `wish, selectors ignore once in a blue moon performance of these players and look for fresh set of young and deserving players. May be, Badri deserves one last chance too....

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2013, 15:42 GMT

    Vijay and Jaffer should open for India in the forth coming series versus the Aussies , Jaf may be an old horse , but he is amongst flood of runs , may be he is a flop show outside the subcontinent , he can be worthy if selected . even also Vijay , we should look beyond Gambhir and Sehwag .

  • Kaushik on February 7, 2013, 15:35 GMT

    until vijay shows on an A tour that he can perform abroad, he should not be selected. he was miserable in the west indies, in conditions that were more batsmen friendly than what we will face in our next three tours - SA, NZ and England. there are at least five others who have higher claims than him to a test opening spot in terms of form and / or technique: rahane, jaffer, mukund, dhawan and jiwanjot. it will be a bad, bad move if the selectors pick vijay. it will show that their judgment is as poor as vijay's is around the off-stump!

  • thomas on February 7, 2013, 14:46 GMT

    Vijay should travel with A teams and show he can deliver abroad...there are others ahead of him including Rahane,

  • syed on February 7, 2013, 12:32 GMT

    To be honest Jaffer must be the first choice as Indian test opener. This season also he play well. I hope Mr. Sandeep Patil will not ignore him this time. All the best Jaffer.

  • Vivek on February 7, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    Seriously guys..just after one century u are considering Vijay as a pick for Tests....don't forget that he was facing 130kph bowlers of Mumbai...& in the past I have seen of Vijay struggling against fast bowlers....for TN fans IMO Mukund is a much much better choice than Vijay...I seriously feel that our new Test openers should be amongst Rahane,Mukund,Jiwanjot & Akshath Reddy. Vijay is another domestic bully like Badrinath, Jaffer, Majumdar, R Jadeja who will continue to haunt domestic bowlers....

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