West Indies v India, 2nd Test, Barbados June 26, 2011

The problem with Vijay

Great to watch but equally frustrating to watch get out, M Vijay needs to get rid of the notion that he is a loose batsman before other openers displace him
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M Vijay can be a good batsman to watch. At times his skill even makes you gasp. There is this shot he plays, when he just pushes at a length delivery, on the up, and the ball speeds past the bowler to the boundary. You think that mid-off, if not the bowler himself, will cut it off for it was just a mere waft. The ball, however, keeps accelerating. There is a classy elegance about that shot. That class is there in Vijay's flicks as well.

Yet, after 10 Tests and average of 34.06, there is a feeling that Vijay is not doing justice to his talent. Since his style is so easy on the eye, his dismissals look tame; a bit soft, like they were brought about by a lack of focus. He resembles a young Mahela Jayawardene when he gets out. He grips the bat near its top and just hangs it out to deliveries straightening outside off. It's not a stab, it's not a defensive prod inside the line; it's a limp push. Jayawardene used to do it. Sometimes, the ball cuts in past this weak prod to trap him in front. Most times, he has been out caught or lbw. Occasionally, as he did in a Test in Bangladesh, he throws it away, going for a big shot.

Vijay's batting appears loose at the moment. Yet, in his impressive debut innings, he was anything but loose. He, in fact, looked quite secure. There were no lapses in concentration, there was a determination in how he guarded his off stump and there was a sense of an ambitious young man knowing how crucial it was to grab his opportunity. You can still see some of that resolve. When he enters the ground for pre-match training, he cajoles a few more players to join him on laps around the ground. He seems to have gelled well with the team; he seems to be one of the boys.

It is evident that Vijay has worked hard on his batting. He used to be a defensive player in his early days. His captain at club level, Diwakar Vasu, the former Tamil Nadu bowler, recalls him being strong on the back foot, and keen to improve his attacking game. Then came a stage where, for a while, Vijay was either defensive or too attacking. He is now trying to find a middle ground and perhaps in doing so the shot selection is going awry.

MS Dhoni, the India captain, didn't have a straight answer when asked about Vijay's form but there were sufficient hints to make Vijay take notice. "You may be a very good opener, but till you are tested at the international level it's very difficult to say whether you can adapt from playing domestic cricket to Test conditions," Dhoni said. "So it's very important to have a pool of openers and they should be given games. [Abhinav] Mukund looked positive."

This isn't a call for Vijay's head. It's merely a look at a situation that is slowly becoming a worry for him. He is 27, and the third-choice opener after Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. The competition is catching up. In the West Indies, he has his friend Abhinav, and the gutsy Parthiv Patel with him.

Vijay took up cricket at the late age of 17, moved quickly up the ranks, surprised a few when he got his Test cap, silenced a few by doing an admirable job, and then allowed them to wag their tongues about some of his subsequent knocks. Ian Bishop, the former West Indies bowler, put it succinctly. "Vijay is a problem. I saw the Indian journalists getting into a huff every time he gets out. It's because he has the propensity to look good before he fritters it away." Vijay will do well to correct that perception quickly.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shekhar on June 29, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    @ ABP235 Vijay is a failure and u cann't compare him with Fab 3 or 4 (sachin, saurav, dravid and laxman) in any form and in any situation as it will be insult to them and their class. Vijay is good but only fit for ipl and to a certain extent test cricket, but is a complete failure in ODIs. I think his test strike rate will be better than his ODI strike rate. He simply get chances due to some regionalism involved in our selection otherwise Rahane, Rohit and Pujara are far better and talented player than him. Rohit may be sloppy at times but Rahane and Pujara are most consistent performers in domestic arena and deserve a place in the test line-up than vijay.

  • Mohan on June 29, 2011, 0:06 GMT

    This is neat! After I and a fellow reader pointed out that there was a mistake in the article regarding Vijay's age, it gets promptly corrected. Good job Cricinfo! It's small things like these which add up to aid in Cricinfo's unabated rise as the largest single sports website in the world.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2011, 14:28 GMT

    I think Vijay is a promising talent. Seen highs of IPL too soon in his career. Now has no determination of perform at international level.

    So time for him to go back to the barracks and play some good couple of Ranji Seasons before we pick him next time.

    Bye Bye Vijay So long...

  • kanishka on June 28, 2011, 13:35 GMT

    since Vijay picked up attacking shots to suit T20, his Test playing mentality got diluted, T20 really destroys a players concentration, he needs to realize Test cricket should take priority over T20

  • Madhu on June 28, 2011, 13:34 GMT

    i remember ghambhir had so many chances and he didnt fully utilize.. but look where he is now.. i think we have to be patient with all talent.. not saying dont try out others.. but dont leave folks in wilderness.. vijays batting is pleasing to watch.. the second innings delivery he got (stayed so low), not much chance for any batsman. VVS also failed.. so have to be patient..

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2011, 9:11 GMT

    Ajinkya Rahane must be dre .......

  • Senthil on June 28, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    @CricFan78 - TN bias? Sinking India? What are you talking about? #1 is not counted from the bottom like a lift! Wake up.

  • Agnel on June 28, 2011, 7:22 GMT

    How quickly we jump to conclusions after just 2 failures and how soon we forget the good deeds. This applies if you are a young cricketer coming in, but the old war horses get many opportunities to fail! For me, Vijay is in the most elite company of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in terms of adapting to all 3 versions of the game with great ease, according to the merit of each version. He can bat in tests at a strike rate of 50, in ODIs at a strike rate of 90-100 and in T20s, he can play murderously to up his SR to well above 125. Vijay has proved to be a very good batsman in all of the tests he has played before, but may perhaps have spoilt it due to our crazy scheduling of IPL. Many a good bowlers and batsmen have lost their rhythm continuously switching between formats. I only hope arm-chair critics dont phase out this young talent. As such, this guy gets just a one-off test or series when Sehwag and Gambhir are not available, so its unfair to judge on just a few failed knocks.

  • Arun on June 28, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    I think the problem Vijay faces is HIMSELF...his attitude. I think that coupled with overconfidence has landed him in the situation he currently finds himself in.

    As veera rightly pointed his batting was "Secure" in his debut innings. What follwed was the IPL adulteration & unwanted hype to many "pyjama" innings where he emerged a class apart. That made him believe he had arrived. What he forgot however was to take a leaf from Sachin, VVS & Dravids books to stay grounded.

    Take a look at his actions when he either took a catch or got out in the IPL. It said it all. Compare it with the Current Indian Fab 3 & I then we have the answers.The conclusion is....." Vijay....Keep it Simple Silly & stay grounded". Once you do this I see no reason why your average should not do justice to your talent.

  • Kairavan on June 28, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    This may be the last test match for Murali Vijay. Mukund looks to be a better opening batsman than Vijay & if Vijay fails in Barbados test also, Parthiv Patel will be asked to open in the last match. With Gambhir & Sehwag set to return for the English tour, Vijay international career is sadly all but over.

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