- Sanjay Sanapoori | January 31, 2023 | 12:00 pm
When the previous generation fab five, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag, retired, the batting line-up suddenly had a new look. There was a lot of young talent in their and in a decent amount of time, India found a new core who could carry the team forward. From 2012 to 2018, Murali Vijay formed a core part of the line-up along with Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara.
In Cheteshwar Pujara, India had a new wall who could block out bowlers for hours on end. Virat Kohli brought with him an ability to accumulate runs according the situation of the game while Ajinkya Rahane bought flexibility and new was brilliant at handling pressure overseas. Murali Vijay, the fourth piece of the puzzle was an incredible leaver of the ball. His patience stood out as he left balls on end, while surprising bowlers by coming out and slogging them when they least expected it.
The name monk came up because of his ability to go silent and suddenly find a string of boundaries. With India facing nearly two years on tour as they visited all the SENA countries, Murali Vijay, along with the other young Indian batters went through their biggest challenge early in their career. Through the four tours, Murali Vijay made an impact in Australia, England and South Africa.
He held himself against a rampaging Dale Steyn on a challenging Durban track to make a mark in South Africa. In England, his leaving technique came into the spotlight as he patiently made his way to a 146 in Nottingham. He almost made the Honours Board in Lords a Test later as he made 95.
His best innings and probably the best series he had in his career was in Australia. With India heading their after a 4-0 whitewash in their last visit to Australia the pressure was on. MS Dhoni was out for the first Test and the new era began as Virat Kohli took charge of a very young core. In each of the four Tests, Murali Vijay came up with some significant innings.
His 99 at Adelaide kept India in the hunt as he built a strong partnership with Virat Kohli, taking the attack to Nathan Lyon. His untimely dismissal though led to a collapse as India fell short of what could have been one of their best wins overseas. A Test later, Murali Vijay played his best knock overseas.
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On a bouncy Brisbane track, facing Mitchell Johnson who terrorized the English batters a year before, Murali Vijay held his own. He went on to make 144 in an innings which saw the others barring Ajinkya Rahane struggle to go big. His innings took India to 408, and Murali Vijay received loads of praise for his efforts. That particular tour stood out for the performances of Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay though, stood up on his own. With 482 runs, he was the third highest scorer in the series, making his mark in the new look batting line-up.
With 12 centuries, and 61 Test Caps, Murali Vijay did enough to highlight himself in the side. He built some incredible partnerships too over his career with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, and was well known for his grit and patience. With Pujara in particular, the pair accumulated more than 2000 runs, frustrating bowlers with their patience. His style of play however remained odd. On his day, even the best of bowlers and the most bowling friendly conditions looked easy for him. He’d walk out with his own attitude and absolutely dominate.
However, on other days, Murali Vijay would look ordinary even on the flattest of tracks. He was a phenomenal player down the ground, and many a times resembled MS Dhoni with some of his hits down the ground. Enjoying a beautiful run in the Test squad, Murali Vijay was quick to be found out though.
Visiting South Africa for a third time, Murali Vijay struggled when he looked to play more balls than usual. For some reason, he decided to offer shots more, and the bowlers too attacked his stumps a lot more. His only decent innings in the first two tests was 46. That 46 too could have been a lot more with Vijay looking comfortable. Vijay however, in his monk like style fell going for a sudden attacking shot.
He still played a significant and character defining knock in that tour. His 25, though a very small score was huge considering the circumstances in the third Test. On a treacherous pitch, with the ball bouncing unpredictably, Murali Vijay went back to his leaving strategy. He faced 127 balls and took blows all over as he eased things out for the batter behind him.
The knock though did not give him the fluency he needed. Few months later, James Anderson found him out as Murali Vijay’s stumps were attacked. A pair in Lords sealed his faith as he was dropped for the Final three Tests in England. He did make it back in Australia but another round of poor scores resulted in the monk falling. He enjoyed a run from 2013 to 2018 as one of the key parts of the batting line-up.
A constant part of the batting line-up, Murali Vijay was always around while openers moved around him. He played his role of easing the game out for the middle-order to perfection as he consistently let deliveries go, while he also dented bowlers confidence with random blows down the ground. His career though, came to a quick end as Murali Vijay fell and could not compete with the new band of openers who were making their way in the squad.
Five years at peak form in the top though saw India find a crucial part of their battling line-up. As they found a new wall in Pujara, a run machine in Virat Kohli and a flexible batter in Rahane, India found a reliable and strong opener in Murali Vijay, who moves on as an underrated champion in a line-up that has achieved a lot in the last decade in Test Cricket. Once an asset in the top-order, Murali Vijay now moves on in silence, with his heroics over the years seemingly unnoticed.