Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town
M Vijay has had to wait a long time to move from an understudy to a main act as an Indian opener in ODIs, with 16 ODIs spread over more than five years since his debut against South Africa in 2010. When he wafted Brian Vitori to second slip in the opening match of this series, it appeared he may have fluffed his chance once again, but his 72 in the second ODI - a career-best score - was the undergird to India's unassailable 271 and their series win.
"I've been there or thereabouts in the one-dayers and have been the third opener for quite some time, so this is a good opportunity for me to establish myself as a one-day player," Vijay said. "I always wanted to play this format and play all three formats. So it's just around the corner. You've got to wait your turn. I'm not in a hurry, but when I get an opportunity I'm keen to score runs."
It's hard to fathom why it's taken so long for Vijay to settle in this format - he averages over 40 in List A cricket and was one of India's most consistent batsmen in Test cricket in 2013 and 2014. "[There are] a lot of variables. I don't want to think about it now because it's done and dusted - for me this is a new beginning and I'm looking forward to the opportunities coming for me. I think I'm batting well, which is more important, and I'm enjoying my cricket, so whichever format doesn't matter to me so long as I'm batting."
Before today, he had scored 25 or more six times without passing 33, but while he was pleased to pass fifty he felt that he should have scored more than his 72 today."It's not really [a good return] but I'm enjoying my game so I'm not looking too far ahead. As long as I'm enjoying my cricket I think everything will fall into place. To be honest I was not playing at my best, but according to the conditions we decided not to give early wickets because then the team is under more pressure. We thought 260 or 270 was a good score on this wicket because it was getting slower and lower."
Ultimately, Vijay's opening stand with Ajinkya Rahane was the tonic which allowed India to reach that score, and though he couldn't push on to a maiden ODI century he was pleased to have stuck to the gameplan. "You saw in the first game we had a bit of a collapse, so we thought rather take time and play our game, so that we give the middle order an opportunity to come and do their job. We did that," he said