M Vijay April 13, 2010

'Don't call me Murali'

Interview by N Hunter
The Chennai Super Kings opener on how he should be addressed, his most embarrassing moment on the field, what he can do that Dhoni can't, and more

There seems to be a lot of confusion about your first name.
My name is Vijay. Many South Indians don't have surnames as such. So I hate it when people address me as "Murali" [his father's name]. I usually start a press conference by making that clear.

What about your nickname, Monk? How did that come about?
It is a little too personal.

Tell us.
Maybe people feel I am a calm person. Maybe because I shaved my head once.

Have you ever tried meditation?

You were born on April 1. You must suffer a lot of April Fools' jokes?
I pull a lot of them myself. But it is a good date [to have as a birthday], since everyone remembers it.

What is the best compliment you have got from a team-mate?
Recently Matthew Hayden said he really appreciates the hard work I've been putting into my cricket. Even Mike Hussey mentioned that. Those were big pats on the back.

What is the one thing you can do that MS Dhoni cannot?
I can walk on the streets any time I wish. He can't.

Which Tamil Nadu cricketer speaks Hindi fluently?
No one. That is what the Hindi-speaking players on the circuit feel. Only Dinesh [Karthik] can manage some Hindi.

Whose autograph did you desperately want as a youngster?
Kamal Hasan [Tamil cinema icon] was one actor I really wanted to meet when I was young. I am not a movie buff but I haven't missed any of his movies since my teen years.

You started playing cricket at 17?
Do you think it is late?

Your dad is your best friend, we are told?
I don't normally interact much with people. I have learnt a lot from my dad, especially how to handle tough situations in life. He gives me a lot of strength. He is a simple guy who doesn't need much.

What is the biggest thing you have given your parents?

Is there a game from cricket history where you wanted to be the player who turned the match?
Sachin Tendulkar's 136 against Pakistan in Chepauk in 1999, in the second innings. He had a back spasm, but the intensity with which he batted was a great learning experience. It was the first time I watched a Test in a stadium. His balance, his concentration levels on a wicket that was turning square, the way he applied himself against a quality bowling attack, were unforgettable. Every time I watch the innings, I learn something. I still recollect when Saqlain Mushtaq got him out, caught by Wasim Akram - I walked out of the stadium because I could not bear him being dismissed.

"I still recollect when Saqlain Mushtaq got Sachin Tendulkar out in the Chennai Test of 1999 - I walked out of the stadium because I could not bear him being dismissed"

Do you collect anything?
I used to collect Sportstar magazine posters. Recently my photo was on the cover page and it made me really happy. I also keep all my bats - at the moment I have about 50-plus in my storeroom.

We hear you flunked your class 12 [senior year] in school?
How did you get that information? Yes, it is true. But then I went on to get an MBA, so I am not embarrassed about it. I haven't got anything easily, and that has always motivated me to do well.

Do you have any tattoos?
I have got three. One, on the inside of my left bicep, has my Test number inked on it. I don't want to reveal where the other two are!

If you were playing in a World Cup final, what would you write on the white board in the dressing room on the day of the game?
"Take the challenge head on. Enjoy the moment."

What's the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on the field?
In my debut first-class match, Ishant Sharma, who was also playing his maiden Ranji Trophy game, managed to hit me in the box. It was very chilly at the Feroz Shah Kotla and I was cramping badly for the rest of the day. And the worst part was, I could not tell anybody about the discomfort.

Is there a bowler, from any era, you would like to face?
Glenn McGrath and Curtly Ambrose - unfortunately both are retired.