Hanuma Vihari has expressed his happiness over Ravindra Jadeja’s consistent performances by saying that the latter has grown as a player in the last couple of years. Vihari has also stated that Sanjay Bangar helped him a lot in terms of getting mental clarity and also from a tactical point of view.
2015 was a turning point for Ravindra Jadeja’s career. It was during that time when the Saurashtra lad was left out of the second-string ODI side that toured Zimbabwe in July 2015 and while many thought he was rested, the selectors came out to confirm that he was actually dropped.
Back to the drawing board, Jadeja had a mountain to climb and he answered it on the dust-bowls of Rajkot where he picked up six successive five-wicket hauls to force his way back to the Indian team. When he returned to the Indian team for the South Africa home series, he was close to unplayable and accumulated no less than 23 wickets at 10.82 to help India to a 3-0 series win.
In the process, he became the No.1 bowler in the world in 2017 and his batting also improved leaps and bounds to make him India’s first-choice spinner, a status that Ravichandran Ashwin enjoyed for long. He took seven wickets at The Oval, and five in a victory at the MCG while his eighties at The Oval and the SCG with the bat also helped India dominate those matches. If that was not enough, he did well to contain the Kiwis and his batting was one of the reasons behind India decimating the Windies at their home. It is that trait of Jadeja that drew a lot of support from the team management, and Vihari, in an exclusive interview with SportsCafe, joined the bandwagon.
“He possesses a good skill set, not only with the bat and the ball but also in the field as everyone knows. He has grown as a player in the last couple of years and I am happy that he is doing well,” Vihari told SportsCafe. “When he bats, he bats at number eight. It’s an important position, not only for him but for me as well. If I have to bat with the tail, it is important that he contributes and we have a good partnership together. So far it’s been good and hopefully, we will have good partnerships together in the future as well.”
Vihari, himself, had a series to remember as he went on to score his first Test century in the second Test after falling to the curse of the 90s in the first Test. His 111 while batting with Ajinkya Rahane was as good as it could get as he demonstrated the importance of batting with a straight bat. It was also important in a personal context for Vihari because his 60-average in first-class cricket was ridiculed big-time before he made his India debut. Stars aligned for him and he answered all the critics in style.
“It’s important to have a good mindset, first of all and then have a good game plan. It depends on the opposition and the wickets that you play on. Then, take it forward from there. As I said, it is important to be aware of the conditions, especially when I am playing at home, I am quite used to the conditions I play in. So it makes my job easier but at the same time, I have to have a good mindset as well.
“The situation was quite different. The first match, I was batting in the second inning and we were planning to declare so my mindset was different. This came in the first inning where I had time, so I could take my time and choose which balls to hit. So the situations were quite the opposite. I was not nervous at all, I knew if I can take my time, I would eventually get there.”
It helped the cause that he traveled to the Caribbean a few days early with India A team and got a chance to acclimatize to the conditions, which were in fact pretty different from what he experienced in Australia and England.
“I think the conditions were different from what we get in Australia and England that I was aware of, first of all. But it’s a totally different ball game, playing for India ‘A’ and India, of course. The challenge is different, the pressure is different but at the same time my mindset was clear, what I want to do in the situation I was pretty clear with that,” Vihari added.
The man who stood like a rock alongside Vihari was Ajinkya Rahane. The Mumbaikar was going through a bad run of form and even though he got off to a good start a few times in the last two years, big runs evaded him before he could finally raise his bat to score a hundred. What made his North Sound century more memorable was the way he paced his innings and Vihari showing restraint at the other end, it made things easy for him. Vihari echoed the same sentiment while speaking about the importance of the middle-order scoring runs for the team.
“It is important that the middle-order gels together and it becomes an important factor because we bat at such a position where the team will either be in trouble or in a good position. But both the times we have to consolidate or be in an attacking state of mind. So we were able to do that together and we had good partnerships in the last two Test matches. It is important for the team that we keep continuing, a lot of important matches are coming up in the future as well.”
The home Test series against South Africa will be Vihari’s first home series, having played all of his six Tests in England, Australia, and West Indies.
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