“A little outside the off-stump, the length was perfect and I had enough width to place the ball wherever I wanted to... Again, I tried to hit it hard, vent out all my anger at it. On another day, that would have been a six.”
But on Sunday night, in the penultimate ball of the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh, Vijay Shankar was out caught a few metres ahead of the sight screen. India needed five runs off the final ball.
He received flak on social media for playing too many dot balls (eight) in a clutch situation. But it might have been worse had India lost the match because of that. Dinesh Karthik, however, launched Soumya Sarkar over the cover boundary in the final delivery to clinch the game for India.
“I’m not exaggerating, that was the most unforgettable moment in my life,” he told the Indian Express in this interview.
Vijay felt vindicated after that six.
“I keep thinking what would have happened to me if DK (Karthik) hadn’t struck that six and we’d lost. I also think what would have happened if I hadn’t soaked up those many dot balls, maybe we would have won easily, and I would have been an anonymous figure. I’m thankful to him for winning the match, but at the same time I’m rueful that I missed a great opportunity to win the match myself,” he said.
When Vijay walked in to take guard for the first time in international cricket, his team required 69 runs from 40 balls. With every ball he missed, pressure kept mounting within him. He conceded that he let the occasion overwhelm him.
“I have only heard in commentary of pressure-cooker moments. My mind that evening was like a pressure cooker,” he said.
Even after the final, after he was in his hotel room, he continued to repent his dismissal. But his senior teammate from his state was there to console him, he said. “He told me not to be too harsh on myself and relax. ‘I’ve been through several such instances, and if you keep brooding over it, you will have the tendency to repeat the same old mistakes. It’s the time to show your strength and take lessons from it.’ Those words lifted my morale and I could sleep peacefully.”
That night in Colombo, despite ending well for the team, continues to haunt Vijay.
“I’m usually a very practical person, but I can’t get over this. Maybe, I need to bat exactly in the same situation and win a match for the country,” he said.