Murali Vijay says opening up key to Indian openers’ success vs Sri Lanka

As India go into the third and final Test against Sri Lanka on Saturday, it is unclear which two from among Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan will open the innings.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Dec 01, 2017 14:09 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,Murali Vijay,KL Rahul
India opener Murali Vijay is looking to play the third Test against Sri Lanka in New Delhi.(PTI)

Three may be regarded as a crowd, but Murali Vijay believes enjoying each other’s company has helped India’s opening trio back each despite their constant shuffling in the Test squad over the last three years.

As India go into the third and final Test against Sri Lanka starting at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground on Saturday, it is unclear which two from among Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan will open the innings.

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Left-handed Shikhar Dhawan just missed a century in the drawn first Test in Kolkata and pulled out of the second in Nagpur, which India won by a record margin, for personal reasons.

The Delhi batsman is back and in contention for a place in the playing eleven as India fine-tune preparations for the tough tour of South Africa, starting early next month while aiming to clinch their ninth series victory in a row.

Selection headache

However, the Indian team management have a tough call to make as Vijay, who missed the Sri Lanka tour following a wrist surgery, struck a century on his comeback in the second Test win in Nagpur. Dhawan had grabbed the chance in Sri Lanka due to Vijay’s absence and has produced some strong batting performances since.

On the 2015 Sri Lanka tour, Dhawan missed the last two Tests due to a hand fracture while Vijay was out of the final game due to a hamstring injury. In the 2016 West Indies tour, KL Rahul opened with Dhawan in the first two Tests and with Vijay in the next.

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Rahul, 25, has been very consistent since his debut in Australia three years ago, and will be eager to play in Delhi after twice being bowled cheaply in this series due to poor foot movement.

In a different set-up, the constant changes could leave players frustrated, but that is far from the case, said Murali Vijay on Friday.

“We three are very good friends off the field, so it makes it much easier. Definitely it will (shuffling) unsettle the opener who is playing regularly. (But) we three have a good rapport outside the field. It will help us big time in the series coming ahead, and in the future as well. We three are in good form,” he told the pre-match news conference.

Frank discussions

The key to bonding was not letting any tension build in the dressing room.

“Make it easier, make it lighter, make it more fun, talk about it openly, and chat over it, rather than keeping it to yourself and make the other person feel it,” Vijay summed it up.

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“Whatever I feel or Shikhar feels, we generally put it out in the open. We clear that thing and move forward. Basically they are fun-loving people; we do things together, get to have a good time outside the field. So, it is really helping us as a team.”

Not playing all formats adds to the challenge for Vijay, who plays only Tests. After the Kotla Test, only Shikhar Dhawan will feature in the ODI series.

Vijay, who faced tennis ball throw downs to prepare for the extra bounce on South African pitches, will not play any first-class cricket before the first Test in Cape Town, starting on January 5, as his Tamil Nadu team have been eliminated from Ranji Trophy.

“Preparing, trying to do something different in my practice,” he said when asked about batting at the nets against the tennis ball. “Some fun in my practice; it challenges me, (I) try to be better each and every day, if possible. I’ll definitely occupy myself with fitness and more skill (training) (ahead of the tour). I want to go and improve a little bit.”

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 13:58 IST