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Murali Vijay has had a remarkable transformation

Last updated on: May 30, 2011 11:55 IST

Murali Vijay has had a remarkable transformation

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Despite of his recent success in the T20 version, it is Test cricket that remains Murali Vijay first preference, writes Bikash Mohapatra.

It's been a remarkable transformation so to speak.

When Murali Vijay made his Test debut for India -- against Australia at Nagpur in November 2008, courtesy an injury to Gautam Gambhir, he was predominantly considered a good player in the game's longer version.

The first impression was good, if not spectacular. Vijay scored 33 in the first innings and helped Virender Sehwag (66) put on 98 runs for the opening wicket.

In the second innings, he performed even better, scoring 41 and adding 116 runs for the first wicket with Sehwag (92). The result, a memorable match and series win for India.

The return of Gambhir though meant no subsequent opportunities for Vijay. It took more than a year, and another Gambhir injury, for the youngster to get his second opportunity -- against Sri Lanka at the Brabourne.

The second impression was, without doubt, spectacular. The Tamil Nadu batsman scored a magnificent 87 and was involved in a record 221-run opening stand with Sehwag (293). India again notched a comprehensive win.

And Vijay's performance got the recognition it deserved. He has since played in seven more Tests and accumulated 537 runs overall (@ 38.36) in his 14 innings thus far, a superlative 139 against Australia at Bangalore in October last year being his most memorable performance.


Image: Murali Vijay
Photographs: Reuters
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Vijay has established himself as a big match player

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In the meanwhile, the 27-year-old adapted very well to the game shortest format -- the Twenty20.

In three seasons for the Chennai Super Kings, the right-hander has aggregated 952 runs in 35 matches -- their fifth highest scorer overall, thereby contributing significantly in their successive title triumphs.

Moreover, established himself as a big match player.

If his 58 against Eastern Cape Warriors in 2010 Champions League T20 final last September was a match-winning effort, his spectacular 52-ball 95 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL final on Sunday was even better, making the match a no-contest with an entire innings left.

Having had a sedate start to the tournament, Vijay improved gradually, and his effort in the final not only helped him earn the man-of-the-match honours but also bolstered his tournament aggregate to 434 in 16 matches -- the third highest for Chennai, behind Michael Hussey (492) and Suresh Raina (438), and the eighth best overall.


Image: Murali Vijay

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'Test matches are something I really love'

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No wonder he was pleased with his effort.

"I am enjoying this moment," he gushed, adding, "It was a great effort by the whole team that helped us retain our title."

If CSK's successful IPL defence made Vijay happy, then the fact that he retained his place in the national test team for the upcoming tour of West Indies made him even happier.

"I am looking forward to a break now," he said, hinting at the fact that he is not part of the Indian ODI squad.

"Then I look towards joining the Indian team for the Tests (beginning June 20). Test matches are something I really love."


Image: Murali Vijay

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'I am working hard on my game'

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With the absence of both the regular openers -- Sehwag and Gambhir -- the onus will be on Vijay to guide his state-mate and new opening partner, Abhinav Mukund, and help India to good starts.

The 27-year-old was palpably confident of the same.

"I am working hard on my game," explained Vijay, adding, "I am trying to improve on all the aspects of my cricket, my batting and everything else.

The Caribbean tour is definitely an opportunity for the Tamil Nadu batsman to secure his place in the national side. And the fact that he brings good fortune to the team should give him ample confidence in this endeavour.

For the record, India has won seven of the nine Tests that Vijay has played. And, considering the slump the West Indies find themselves in, at the moment, that record looks certain to improve. 


Image: Murali Vijay

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