Tamil Nadu allrounder Vijay Shankar has replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the final two Tests of the ongoing Sri Lanka series. Singled out as a bright prospect in the domestic circuit, the following lowdown on Vijay sheds light on why the selectors might have opted for him.
Who is Vijay Shankar?
Vijay is a batting allrounder who can bowl nippy medium pace. Since 2012-13, Vijay is one of six cricketers who has scored over 1500 runs and taken more than 25 wickets. His first-class batting average is an impressive 49.14 after 32 matches, while his bowling average is 42.81.
What has he done to merit selection?
Being an allrounder has worked in his favour. Although he was brought in as a replacement for Bhuvneshwar, Vijay has been brought in effectively as cover for Hardik Pandya, who has taken a break from the first two Tests of the Sri Lanka series. With the pitches for the last two Tests likely to assist fast bowlers, the team management and selectors could look at Vijay as a fourth bowler who can also double up as a batsman.
Did you know that Pandya actually replaced Vijay once?
Vijay missed out on India A's tour of Australia in 2016 and was replaced by Pandya, who cashed in on the opportunity and was fast-tracked into the India dressing room.
What are his strengths?
In the Tamil Nadu dressing room, Vijay is known as the 'tough runs man', a batsman with tight defence who is nonetheless capable of scoring quickly.
Is he a handy bowler?
His ability to swing the ball and bowl accurately has only added to his reputation, even though his first-class numbers - 27 wickets in 32 matches - hardly do justice to his bowling abilities. While his bare bowling numbers - an average of 42.8 compared to a batting average close to 50 - are far from impressive, Vijay has worked on improving his bowling under the guidance of L Balaji, the former India fast bowler who is currently Tamil Nadu's bowling coach.
"I started off with a gentle medium-pacer, but over the last two years, I've worked hard on my bowling," Vijay told ESPNcricinfo. "I've been fortunate to have the guidance of Bala. I'm now comfortable bowling long spells. Strength training has brought the pace up. Basically, I've tried to be accurate and keep up the pressure created by the new ball bowlers."
What is Vijay's domestic record like?
Vijay gained prominence in the 2014-15 season after helping Tamil Nadu finish as runners-up in the Ranji Trophy. Vijay scored 577 runs and had eight wickets. He captained Tamil Nadu to a title victory in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (domestic 50-over competition) in 2016-17, fetching198 runs and eight wickets. He struck a century for India A against the visiting Bangladesh A side in a two-day fixture in Hyderabad in February, and then showed his prowess as a finisher during a 133-run stand in a successful chase with Sunrisers Hyderabad captain David Warner in IPL season 10.
How has his form been this Ranji season?
In three Ranji matches this season, Vijay has managed one century and taken six wickets across 66.3 overs, including a four-for that gave Tamil Nadu the first-innings lead against Mumbai. Prior to the season, he was part of India A's limited-overs squad for the series against New Zealand A in Visakhapatnam in October, and also traveled to South Africa for the A team tri-series featuring South Africa A and Afghanistan A.