M Vijay is "blessed" to return to the Chennai Super Kings fold and is looking forward to playing at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, his home ground, in the forthcoming IPL season. Vijay last played for Super Kings in 2013, and since plied his trade with Delhi Daredevils in 2014 and then Kings XI Punjab during the following two years before pulling out of last year's IPL with an injury. Vijay, who will turn 34 next month, said representing Super Kings was a dream come true for him.
"The brand of cricket CSK was playing before and now, it's going to be a fantastic opportunity for me to be back with CSK and contribute to the side. I'm blessed," he said at an event in Chennai. "To represent CSK and put up a show for them is always a pleasure. I'm good enough to do that. Hopefully, I can be consistent and put up a good show. I'm ready to go. I want April 7 to come early. It is a dream-come-true moment for me."
During Vijay's first stint with Super Kings from 2009 to 2013, he scored 1600 runs from 64 innings, including two hundreds and seven fifties, at a strike rate of 127.89. While he has been out of the national reckoning in the shorter formats, Vijay was a reliable opener for Super Kings. Vijay was one of the team's permanent fixtures at the top of the order, and along with Michael Hussey, the team's current assistant coach, he was instrumental in getting Super Kings off to a good start on a number of occasions. For his part, Vijay felt the team created the right environment for players to succeed.
"The one good thing about playing for CSK is that we always put the team ahead of individual performances," he said. "It is very difficult in franchise-based cricket, because outstation players and domestic players need to have the right rapport to help the team play at a competitive level. We did it with ease in the past. That is going to be important to do from the start of the season, and hopefully we can do it with more fun and flair.
"It is a proud moment to play for your home state and play in front of home. As [Dwayne] Bravo said, they have created a family atmosphere here for both locals and international players and it is something very difficult to achieve. We will do well this year. I have a lot of memories. The win against Mumbai [Indians] in Mumbai was special. Like that, I have lots of other memories. We are here to create more such memories and hopefully we can do that."
Vijay, however, hasn't had the best of times in the recent past. After an underwhelming tour of South Africa, where he managed only 102 runs from six innings at an average of 17, Vijay found himself in the middle of a controversy after he was left out of the Tamil Nadu squad midway during the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Vijay, however, felt he could use the time off from international cricket to get fitter.
"I always have had a free mind. It's just about getting opportunities. I'm blessed to have had this time off to get myself fitter and I'm really looking forward to his IPL stint," he said. "Hopefully, as a team, we can play the brand of cricket that we decide to play and accomplish that. It's going to be interesting times for us."
On transitioning from Test cricket to the shortest format, Vijay said: "we are professional enough to acclimatise and put up a better show. We will do that hopefully. [The] team is wanting to do well. In South Africa, we did a great job even though unfortunately we ended up on the wrong side. Effort level was fantastic from bowlers. The batsman let down initially and we could capitalise in the last Test match. If it had been a five-Test series, it would have been interesting."
Vijay was asked if he was open to the idea of playing for a county side ahead of the start of the England tour later this year. While he said a county stint involved a number of complex formalities, he also revealed that a number of teams had approached him after he went unsold on the opening day of the IPL auction in February.
"It is definitely going to help us ahead," he said of playing for a county side. "We are all looking for that and hopefully opportunities open up for us to play a few matches before the Test series. There is a procedure for it. You have got to wait. If they need outstation players, then you can get an opportunity to go and play. There is a lot of procedure involved in that and it's not that easy. Counties have approached me. After seeing the first day's auction, a lot of teams approached me."