Birthday special: Murali Vijay – A stylish batsman, a classy opener

Murali Vijay

An average of 38.28 in Tests doesn’t do justice to the immense potential Murali Vijay possessed. Technically very sound, Vijay had the knack of scoring big hundreds.  A solid performance in the domestic circuit earned him his maiden India call up and he was drafted into the Indian squad for the Border Gavaskar Trophy as a replacement to Gautam Gambhir in 2008. Even though he didn’t score big, his impeccable technique and temperament earned him huge praises. However, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were at their peak and thus Vijay couldn’t find a place in the team and mostly played as an injury replacement.

The beginning

The Test opportunities were limited but he ensured that he remained in the limelight with hefty performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Vijay scored his maiden Test hundred in 2010 but the breakthrough in his career came in 2013 when he stroked two back-to-back 150+ scores against Australia at home. Even after performing well at home, some people still doubted his skills in the challenging conditions of South Africa. However, he silenced his critics with a scintillating 97 in Durban.

By this time, he had established himself as a regular opener for India. He continued his excellent overseas run and notched up a magnificent 146 at Trent Bridge. He then scored a brilliant 95 in the 2nd inning of the Lord’s Test to set up a magnificent win for India. Vijay was the only bright spot on a miserable tour for India and ended the series as India’s highest run-getter with 402 runs in 5 matches. He was at his peak when India toured Australia in 2014. A magnificent 99 in Adelaide was followed by a career-defining 144 on a pacy Gabba surface. Vijay was India’s second-highest run-scorer after Virat Kohli in the series against the kangaroos. While his Test career was blooming, he couldn’t replicate his success in the ODIs.

Vijay had all the ingredients in his batting to serve the Indian side for a long time. However, marred by injuries, his career did not take off as expected. Post the rise of players like Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, Vijay couldn’t retain his place as a first-choice opener in the Indian squad. Later, he scored two hundreds against England at home in 2016 and followed it up with twin centuries against Sri Lanka the following year. However, between those big knocks were a string of poor performances which didn’t help his cause. He went through a severe lean patch on the tour to England and Australia in 2018 which led to his ouster from the team.