With Gautam Gambhir concentrating on off-breaks at the net marked for spinners almost from the moment the Indians started training on Wednesday, everyone was looking for the man who was not there. Having taken an early morning flight from Mumbai after being airlifted from Nashik the previous evening following a 243 in a Ranji Trophy match, M. Vijay joined the Indian team about half-an-hour into its practice session.
After being introduced to coach Gary Kirsten, the Tamil Nadu opener's first brush in India colours was through some fielding practice under Robin Singh. It wasn’t long before the 24-plus became the centre of attention at the old VCA Stadium. If MS Dhoni sticks to his words that Vijay would open in the final Test, he is sure to become a centre of attention for the rest of India too.
He had to make do with what Amit Mishra, Dhoni and two local bowlers tossed up at him in the net for spinners and had to be content with a few deliveries from bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and some more local stuff after shifting to the net for medium-pacers. The newcomer with some big first-class hundreds under his belt did well in the recent Challenger Series, but the challenge awaiting him is infinitely bigger.
Dhoni made no bones about it and added that the team will do what it could to make him feel at home. “The seniors will have a chat with him. There is no point in pressuring him and making him aware of the fact that a lot is expected of him. He will find out the difference between domestic and first-class cricket when he makes his debut, be it now or after 10 matches. The opposition will always look to put pressure on the new guy.”
Besides drawing extra attention from a pack of hungry bowlers led by Brett Lee, Vijay will also be closely watched by many more because he has been selected ahead of the likes of Wasim Jaffer and Aakash Chopra.