India skipper Virat Kohli paid Hanuma Vihari a big compliment at the end of the two-match Test series against West Indies when he said that the dressing room feels calm when the 25-year-old is batting.
Vihari scored a century and two half-centuries to aggregate a total of 289 runs at an average of 96.33 against West Indies and laid the foundation for the series sweep.
The middle-order batsman, who was part of India’s Under-19 World Cup-winning squad in 2012 but did not get a game to play, made his debut in England and later impressed everyone with his temperament and technique against Australia in the three-match Test series victory Down Under.
Vihari insists that the grind in the domestic circuit to get noticed for national selection has made him mentally strong. “It’s a different equation for players coming from smaller states in terms of cricket. Hyderabad and Andhra are such states. You have to perform double of others coming from stronger states to be recognised. But over a period of time, you get habituated [to this]. Each season and match becomes important. That helps you become mentally stronger,” he told The Times of India in an interview.
“I made my first-class debut at 17. I had already got a taste of senior grade cricket. After the U-19 World Cup, I knew that first-class cricket is my only chance to make it big. Ranji Trophy became the most important thing for me. I realised I needed to score around 1000 runs year after year. I told myself, ‘Never drop your guard.’ I had to work very hard on my fitness. Eventually, when I became prolific, I got to play Test cricket,” said the batsman who has an average of 45.60 after six Test matches.
Vihari, who shifted from Hyderabad to Andhra Pradesh in 2016 with a desire to impress the national selectors, said the ability to take up challenges head-on has helped him perform for India.
“Opening the batting in Australia was more about my mindset. I wasn’t a natural opener and that was the biggest challenge,” said Vihari about opening in Melbourne, where he blunted Australia’s new-ball attack, allowing Cheteshwar Pujara to consolidate.
“Either I could have just sat and sulked that I am being asked to bat in an unfamiliar position or just accept the challenge and make the best use of the opportunity that I was being given. I decided on the second option” he told Press Trust of India.
Speaking about his exploits in West Indies, Vihari said, “Obviously I am very happy that I have done well but I went into this tour with a clean slate. I decided to take one Test match at a time. For me, every Test match is my last. It helps me get into a mindset that I have nothing to lose and play accordingly.”
Life hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses for Vihari, who lost his father at the age of 12 but he is grateful for the hard lessons he learnt early on.
“I was only 12 years old and my elder sister was 14 when we lost our father. My mother Vijayalakshmi is a homemaker. Those were hard days,” he remembered.
“My mother ran the household on my father’s pension. Yet, she allowed me to pursue my dreams and not for once did me or my sister feel that we lacked comfort. I still can’t figure out how she even managed,” he got a touch emotional.
But things have changed since he established himself as a first-class player, had his time in Indian Premier League and is now slowly making a mark in international cricket. “I have built a house in Hyderabad now. I want my mother to relax,” he said.