Keen to seize his chances

Keen to seize his chances

Opener M Vijay says he has realised the importance of playing the waiting game.

Murali Vijay is a treat to watch when he is on song, playing some audacious shots effortlessly. But that also has been his undoing in the past; preventing him from converting some good starts into bigger knocks. However, a welcome change in that trend was visible from the series against Australia early last year when the Tamil Nadu right-hander notched up two centuries on the trot in Hyderabad and Mohali.

More than the number of runs, he showed a willingness to occupy the crease for a long time, evident in the cumulative 2002 minutes he spent in the middle during his last 15 innings starting from the Chepauk Test against the Aussies.

Vijay touched base with Deccan Herald during the KS Subbaiah Pillai Trophy and expressed his urge to become a more consistent batsman among other things. Excerpts: 

You made a successful return during the series against Australia last year. What were the reasons behind it?

Before that series, I played an Irani Cup game (2012-13 season) and I told myself that I had not got a big hundred for a while because I didn’t get to play too many longer version matches. So, I wanted to use it as a chance to bat as long as possible before the Australian series, and that really helped me, and I think I got a 266 in that match. So, I got the rhythm of batting longer and I just wanted to continue in the Test matches as well. I knew if I get to settle down I could get a big score. Eventually, it came my way.

Your next big test came against South Africa in December last year. Was there any pressure on you – external as well as internal?

There was pressure, no doubt about it. I thought that was my opportunity to seize because that was the only time I was going to open for India. That was the first time I was selected for India as opener and that itself was a great feeling. The first match (in Johannesburg) didn’t go my way and there was a bit more pressure going into the second game (in Durban). I told myself that if I get a good ball I couldn’t do much about it. So, all I could do was to be positive, stay for long time at the crease, and back myself, and that game came my way.

Can you describe how did you go about your preparations in South Africa?

I was there in South Africa during the previous tour (2010-11) and I had played a game in Durban. So, I had some idea about the conditions. This time we went 10 days ahead of the Test series, and it really helped me to assess the conditions. The game plan was simple — I wanted the bowlers bowling at me rather than I going for the ball. I couldn’t do that in the first innings of the first Test, and I was really upset. But I recovered quickly and wanted to give it my all in the second innings and got a 40-plus in the second innings, and I just wanted to continue with it in Durban.

I was also watching the ODIs and the way wicket was behaving, not the way we played but the way the wicket was behaving. The information I gathered was that the wicket in Johannesburg gets faster on the second and third days -- so the first day will be good for batting and the second and third days will be a little faster for the batsmen. So, I wanted to work on those strategies.

Two things in your game seemed to have changed – you’re trying to spend more time at the crease and you seem to be more confident about your back-foot game. Did you made any conscious effort?

I still feel I need to spend more time at the crease because personally I think I can bat even longer and get my natural game into the picture. So, I am now concentrating on batting longer and hopefully it comes off.

I have always been confident about my back-foot game, and confident about playing back-foot strokes like the cut and the pull. So, of late I am not restricting my pull shots and hopefully I can make further improvements.

But the New Zealand tour was a bit of a letdown for you, what went wrong in that series?

In New Zealand I was batting well from day one at nets. I was confident and my legs were moving well. The first innings I got a good ball and then came that caught down the leg side dismissal. It was really frustrating because I was getting out in the 20s and 30s and I don’t want it to happen. I want to play longer. I was not being able to do it in New Zealand, and I am a little upset about it.

Overall, you had a good year and a bit, so do you feel now that you belong at this level? Or are there any lingering doubts in your mind?

That feeling is going to be there till people get the confidence in you. Personally, I believe I belong there. I just want to make every opportunity count and be more consistent and that’s when I can create an impact. It is not happening at the moment because I am in and out of the team. Now, I am coming to the domestic tournaments and working out so that I can go to the international matches with a better mindset.
You have to play matches to be consistent and understand your game and if you don’t play matches then you will miss out on rhythm. I think getting consistent chances will make a player better. I need to be mentally ready when my opportunities come and that was my goal before the series against Australia, and, hopefully, I can do that in future as well.

You have all the attributes to be a success in one-day cricket, but till now you haven’t made an impact in that format. What has gone wrong?

There is no doubt that I want to play all three formats of the game. I have played 10-11 one-day games (14 to be precise) so far. I am not using this as an excuse but I have not got 3-4 games together. In the last two ODIs, I played at number 3 and 6 and what I feel now is that I could have made it big. But it didn’t happen. So, I want to make those things count next time. Even in one-dayers, I want to bat longer and give the team a steady start.