With no IPL contract, Hanuma Vihari uses Ranji, Irani performances to make cut
Hanuma Vihari, who was included in India’s squad for the remaining two Tests against England, is a quintessential old school batsman who loves to bat for hours on end without trying anything fancy.
Known for daddy hundreds in domestic cricket, Vihari’s selection in the national team comes on the back of a purple patch he has enjoyed in recent times.
“It’s just the consistent performances from the last 4-5 years (that helped). Because I don’t have the Indian Premier League contract which other players have to get into limelight, playing domestic cricket was the only way I could get into the Indian team. That said, I knew I needed to consistent,” Vihari said in an interview.
The 24-year old, who became the first player from Andhra in over 18 years to be selected to the Indian Test squad (after current selection committee chief and former Andhra wicketkeeper MSK Prasad represented India in 1999-2000), was among the leading run scorers in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season, amassing 752 runs in six matches at an average of 94. He also slammed his maiden triple hundred during the season (302* against Odisha).
Vihari continued his good form in the Irani Trophy where he displayed fighting spirit on way to a 327-ball 183 for Rest of India (RoI) against Ranji champions Vidarbha. Up against India pacer Umesh Yadav and season’s leading wicket-taker Rajneesh Gurbani, Vihari helped his side draw the game even as other top-order batsmen struggled.
His prolific run in domestic cricket earned him a place in India ‘A’ squads for both 50-over and four-day games in England in June this year. He was impressive during the One-day tri-series, finishing as the third-highest run getter of the tournament with a tally of 253 runs that included a knock of 147 against West Indies ‘A’.
In his most recent first-class game against South Africa ‘A’ in Bengaluru, he hit a match-winning 148.
“Eight years is a long time. There’s a lot of competition (in domestic circuit). There are a lot of good players. So to perform in domestic circuit and get selected for India A and India is big. I’m happy with my progress so far,” he said.
Though Vihari made his first class debut at 17 for Hyderabad, he didn’t have much success in the initial phase. He was also part of the India U-19 team that lifted the World Cup in 2012 though he could muster only 71 runs from six matches in the tournament.
Vihari played for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for three years from 2013 to 2015. His IPL stint, though, is remembered more for his dismissal of Chris Gayle with the new ball than a tally of 280 runs from 22 matches at 15.56.
The turning point in Vihari’s career came when he left Hyderabad to join Andhra in the 2016-17 season. Since then, he has not looked back. At present, he has a first class average of 59.79, which is more than that of any contemporary cricketer.
“It’s disheartening if you perform and don’t get selected. But I knew my time will come. The best part is that I know my game very well. I try to visualise the game which keeps me a step ahead. Once I’m set, I try to dominate the opposition,” he said.
Vihari’s first class average of 59.79 is the best in the world among contemporary cricketers with banned Australian skipper Steve Smith occupying second spot (57.47).
He also acknowledged Rahul Dravid’s contribution to his improvement. “He told me to stick to my natural game, not alter the technique much. Honestly, that put me in a great mental space and luckily, I performed.”