When Murali Vijay arrived in England for the 5-match Test series, he was a sure shot member of the team. The selectors had shown confidence in the right-handed Vijay for the much-talked England series. But now, after failures in 4 innings, the 34-year Chennai-born Vijay finds his place in the side hanging through a thin wire.
After the terrific T20 series win against England, Indians were thumped in the one-dayers. However, the tougher times awaited India in the 5-match Test series. Horrid batting performance in the first Test confirmed that things won’t be easy for the Indians, especially the openers of the side who will have to face the swinging music from James Anderson.
Openers have the responsibility of laying the foundation for the coming batters. India had named Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay as their openers for the first 3 Tests. In the first innings of the first Test, Dhawan and Vijay provided a solid start but failed to convert those into big innings. Vijay could only last for 17 balls in the 2nd innings and Dhawan just 24 balls. Apart from Kohli none of the Indian batters could provide any resistance. Kohli led India’s batting again but the team tumbled, again, losing the first Test by 31 runs.
Skipper Kohli is known for not playing the same XI for 36 straight games. He was criticized for not playing Cheteshwar Pujara in the first Test. With the heat on, Kohli and management dropped Dhawan and brought back Pujara in the side with KL Rahul partnering Murali Vijay.
However, the agony for Murali Vijay continued in the 2nd Test. James Anderson had his stumps rattled in the overcast conditions at Lord’s in the first over itself. With India bundling for just 107 runs, England taking a lead of 289 runs after a Chris Woakes century, India needed Murali Vijay to step up. Well, all he could do was face 3 more deliveries than his first innings, collecting a pair.
But if you look at Vijay’s numbers away from home in the past couple of years, they have been sensationally awful. He was hailed as India’s solutions on away tours because of his monk-like composure at the crease. Notably, during India’s last tour of Australia in 2014-15, Vijay had proved his mettle. In the four-match Test series, Vijay had scored 482 runs which included a century and four half-centuries.
Terrible numbers not on the side of 34-year old Vijay
Interestingly, after that Australia series, the numbers are not on Vijay’s side. In 9 away Tests post that series Vijay scored 367 runs at an average of 26.21. His lone century, 150-run innings had come against Bangladesh. If we do a further analysis of Vijay’s away performance by omitting his performance against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh away from home, Vijay’s averages drop to a dismal 12.27, where he hasn’t crossed a 50-run mark in 11 innings.
During the South African tour earlier in the year, Vijay could only manage 102 runs. The poor run has continued for the right-handed Vijay against England as well where he has failed to soak up the early pressure against the likes of Anderson and Broad.
The way India dropped Shikhar Dhawan after his failure (who looked more sorted than any of the Indian batsmen after Kohli) in the first Test, one would think that Vijay might well be the victim of cut & chop technique of skipper Kohli for the third Test at Trent Bridge.
Maybe Vijay can get one last opportunity, maybe Kohli and management can trust him one last time but a failure at Trent Bridge would mean that the thin wire has broken. The Indian selectors might well start to think beyond Vijay post the series, or maybe we might as well have a surprise when the selectors sit to name the team for last 2 Tests.