Not shying away from the upcoming challenge, Hanuma Vihari has thrown his hat in the ring to take up the toughest role in Test cricket – the opener’s slot. After scoring a gutsy hundred and helping India to recover from a precarious position, Vihari said he won’t mind taking up the opener’s role if the team management asks for it. On Friday, India’s inexperienced opening options were technically exposed by a second-string New Zealand attack on the opening day of the warm-up game at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
After opting to bat first, India suffered a top-order collapse they lost the likes of Prithvi Shaw (0), Mayank Agarwal (1), Shubman Gill (0) and Test deputy Ajinkya Rahane (18). The trio’s (Shaw, Gill and Mayank) performance raised doubts about its ability to face the likes of Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Matt Henry.
Coming in to bat at number 6, the 26-year-old Vihari showed great skill and temperament to withstand extra bounce and seam movement.
“As a player, I am prepared to bat anywhere. As of now, I’ve not been informed anything. As I said before as well if the team requires me to bat wherever I am ready to bat,” said Vihari, who retired after scoring 101.
Vihari was surprised by the bounce on offer on Friday but is happy to have countered the challenge in the warm-up game which provided him with an opportunity to prepare well. He added 195 runs for the fifth-wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara (93) after none of the other batsmen crossed the 20-run mark.
“Initially, I thought the extra bounce surprised us. (In) the couple of matches I played against New Zealand A, the pitch didn’t do as much as what it did in the morning today.
“Once we adjusted, me and Puji (Pujara’s nickname), we got our eye in, then we knew we had to bat long and that’s exactly what we did,” Vihari said after the end of day’s play.
If the Seddon Park track is any indicator, New Zealand, with a pace-heavy line-up, will be offering seamer-friendly tracks at both Wellington and Christchurch.
“Maybe we will get pitches like these because New Zealand’s strength is their fast bowling. They have a very experienced bowling attack but it’s good that we got some time in the middle and we experienced these conditions.
“They were tough and it’s good to experience tough conditions before the series and we’re happy with the way the day went,” he added.
So what was the advice from his senior partner Pujara?
“Pujara told me to leave more balls on this wicket, get my eye in and it will make my job easier. I listened to him and it paid off.”
The Andhra player has delivered whenever given a chance. Does he feel bad about not getting to play four successive Tests after the series-opener against South Africa at Visakhapatnam last year in October?
“Sometimes you have to understand the team combination as well. You can’t get disheartened by it. I understood when you are playing at home, we play five bowlers. It’s obvious that one batter has to miss out. So I took it in my stride. I don’t want to prove anything to anyone but just follow the process,” Vihari signed off.