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49* - Murali Vijay

India opener set to play Test match number 50, says he is eager to make it a memorable one

By Anand Subramaniam in
The sun is beating hard here at the JSCA international stadium complex as Ranchi gears up for its first ever Test match. For M Vijay, it will be Test match number 50 once he walks out to the field in the third Test against Australia. It is match day minus one and India as usual have an early morning practice session. Vijay has his sunnies on and makes his way to the center wicket first up. He is shadow practicing – a few pulls, some imaginary cover drives and that elegant leave. No bat in hand, still very classy.

“It is something I do before a match. Just gets me into a zone,” he says. “Couple of days before the game, I like to get a feel of things around me and get my game as close to my basics as I can,” he continues playing an imaginary leg glance. From Test match number 1 to number 50 (if he plays in Ranchi) Vijay believes he has come a long way.

“It is a great feeling to be honest. I never thought I would play so many Test matches for India,” Vijay gushes about his upcoming landmark Test. “It has been a great journey and I would like to thank the TNCA and Chemplast – my club team for the immense support throughout my journey so far. It has been great and have enjoyed every bit of it.

“It was a great moment when I got into the team. I never thought once that I didn’t belong here,” he begins to rewind. “Every moment has been priceless. I remember everything about my matches till date – right from the time I walked into the Indian dressing room to now and each moment has been close to me. It has just pushed me to do better each time I get an opportunity to represent my country. The journey has been amazing and I can’t put it across in words. I am living my dream.”

Vijay’s ‘dream’ has come with its own share of struggles, highs and lows. But, Vijay is unfazed about the past. It is the future that he wants to embark upon. Numbers and achievements aside, Vijay insists his immediate focus is on the third Test starting Thursday.

He is coming off a shoulder injury that ruled him out of the second Test in Bengaluru. He insists he has put in the hard yards and feeling completely fine ahead of the Ranchi Test. “I had a problem with my shoulder which needed some attending. Because of that I wasn’t able to play my natural game. My game plan and strokeplay wasn’t up to the mark. I discussed it with the team management and told them I didn’t want to play half fit. I felt, playing with a niggle and not being able to give it all to my team would be unfair to someone on the bench who is a hundred per cent fit and available to play. The management understood this and supported me. I have done my bit over the last ten days and I am hoping for a good show in the last two games.”

Vijay further says missing out on the Bengaluru Test proved to be a catalyst for him to work harder and get back into the side. “I was feeling bad on missing out on the second Test. The match was fantastic to watch and it has driven me more and pushed me harder to get into the team. I am ready for the next Test and I cannot wait to walk on the field and take guard.”

Coming off an injury layoff – be it for a short period is difficult. All the more reason for Vijay to take it slow in the build up to the Test match and gauge his own injury status. For that, Vijay underwent a few training drills. “I start with a few rounds of underarm throws, just to get a sense of my body as to where it is at that moment. With my shoulder not being in a great place, I wanted to warm-up my shoulders with a few underarm throws and then get into a long net session. The shoulder has come off well over the last couple of days. I have been batting well throughout this season and it is just about getting a good start and cash on it from there. Hopefully, I can give the team a good start tomorrow.”

Vijay was in full flow in the nets. He started off with a few throwdowns from Sanjay Bangar, then moved on to the pacers’ nets and then finished off with a round of spin. A few more underarm throws to warm down and a good lap of the ground later, he gave a thumb up to the change room. “Your first Test or your 50th, nothing changes. I am hoping for a good show in this Test match and make it a memorable one,” he says making his way back to the dressing room. “It has been a great learning process for me as a person. I want to continue working hard and make my second half of the career a better one. I want to score a triple hundred, which I haven’t till date. Hopefully, I get one before I hang my boots.”