Hanuma Vihari, who batted at No.4 in both the warm-up games against Australia A, has revealed that his domestic experience helps him in batting up the order, but asserted that he has no issues batting at No.6. The absence of Kohli could see Vihari move to No.4 for the last three Tests.
In his 9-match Test career, Hanuma Vihari has already batted at three different positions, and if the warm-up matches against Australia A are any indication to go by, then he could potentially be looking at a fourth new position in the last three Tests versus the Aussies. Promoted to No.4 in the practice games, Vihari struggled in his first three digs, posting scores of 15, 28 and 15, but produced an otherworldly performance in his fourth, scoring an impeccable 104*. Vihari’s ability to adapt has stood out in his young career, and this quality of his has seen many champion him to be the No.4 batsman for the last three Tests of the series, which India will have to play without their skipper Virat Kohli.
Speaking in the press conference post the pink-ball warm-up game, Vihari revealed that he is familiar batting up the order due to batting at No.3 for Andhra Pradesh, but asserted that he is ready to bat anywhere for the side.
“No.4 you always have more time than you think. Because I’ve batted No.3 in domestic cricket, I’m familiar batting up the order,” Vihari said in the press conference.
“But coming in at No.6 is a totally different equation altogether because you have a job where you have to bat with one batsman, keeper and then the all-rounder/bowlers. I enjoy batting at both positions, my role depends on the situation and the need of the team.”
The 27-year-old also shed light on the difference between batting alongside Pujara and Rahane, and claimed he enjoys batting with both.
“Obviously, batting with Puji is completely different - he tells me what the bowler is trying to do and we always have a good communication. Ajinkya is more flamboyant and he is got a good sense of game situation. I enjoy batting with both of them.”
Vihari, however, was not the only centurion for India in the pink-ball warm-up game, as he was given company by young Rishabh Pant, who struck a whirlwind 73-ball 103 to stake his claim to be the first-choice keeper. Pant, who didn’t play the first warm-up game, has not been assured of a starting spot despite being the incumbent in away Tests, but his ton on Day 2, many believe, sealed his spot in the XI.
Vihari did not give away who will start on Thursday, but the right-hander said that both Saha and Pant have given a ‘good headache’ for the selectors.
“Healthy competition is always good for the team and I feel for every spot we have good competition. But who they pick depends on the team management, it’s not in my hands. Both (Pant and Saha) of them are looking in good form, so it’s a tough call, but it’s a good headache.”
Vihari’s judgement and shot selection were impeccable in the second innings at the SCG, and one feature in his batting which stood out was his ability to judge and leave the ball on length. In fact, all the Indian batsmen who posted big scores in the second warm-up game, be it Gill, Agarwal, Vihari or Pant, left the ball to perfection. Vihari feels that the tourists leaving the ball with authority is an indication that they’ve adjusted to the bounce of Australian wickets, and believes the Men in Blue are well-equipped heading into the Tests.
“Bounce plays a major role in this part of the country. We as Indians, we tend to play at every ball because of the bounce back at home but we are coping with it very well. If you see the practice games, we left the ball very well; we tried to acclimatize to the conditions. I think heading into the first Test, we are very well equipped to deal with the pace and bounce of the wickets, and I’m pretty sure we’ll do well,” the 27-year-old said.
In the team primarily as a batsman, Vihari is also someone who can roll his arm over and provide unlikely breakthroughs with his off-spin. The 27-year-old, in fact, has 5 Test wickets to his name and on Day 3 at the SCG, he bowled 7 overs and picked the all-important wicket of Alex Carey. When asked about his bowling, the Andhra Pradesh batsman said that he was happy with how he was faring, and claimed that the number of overs he bowls generally will depend on what the captain wants from him.
“I feel I’m bowling decently. Today Ajinkya asked me to bowl to a certain plan and I was happy doing it. I thought I did pretty well, getting a wicket is a bonus. The number of overs I bowl depends on the captain and what he wants. It also depends on the situation of the game, whether it’s the first innings or the second innings.”