It was almost the perfect belated birthday celebration for Hanuma Vihari, who turned 25 on Saturday. On Monday, Vihari smashed 95 against his former team Hyderabad in the quarter-final of the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy but failed to get them across the line as Mohammed Siraj picked up three wickets to derail Andhra’s chase.
Vihari got to play the quarter-final only because he wasn’t included in India’s playing XI for the Hyderabad Test against Windies. He was left out of the side for the previous Test too, despite scoring a half-century in his Test debut against England at The Oval.
Vihari, however, looked at the brighter side and was delighted that the work he has done on his limited-overs game paid off.
“My mindset has changed in limited-overs cricket. I want to be more aggressive," said Vihari after the 14-run defeat.
“I have a formula in the four-day format, which I don’t want to change much. But in the one-dayers and T20s, I want to be more expressive; I know I have the shots. I want to be the X-factor in the team. I just don’t want to contribute to the team score but I also want to win matches. With my game, I want to create some fear in the opposition when I’m there in the crease."
After going unsold in the 2014 IPL auction, Vihari opted to play for Hutton CC in the Essex league in England. During his free time, Vihari went to the Lord’s Test in 2014 where Ajinkya Rahane scored a superb century. Almost four years later, he made his Test debut at the Oval, and after surviving a few nervy moments, scored a half-century and also scalped three wickets.
“It was a wonderful Test where Ajinkya got that hundred. I think I went to watch the second day, but after four years actually me representing India was also wonderful. It was a great feeling," gushed Vihari.
Vihari would have bagged a duck on his debut had England reviewed when Stuart Broad pinned him right in front of the stumps. The 25-year-old was struggling to find his feet before a piece of advice from captain Virat Kohli helped him calm down.
“I was just looking to get the runs to get the deficit down and obviously having Virat at the other end helped because he gave me clues of what Broad was doing," Vihari said. “I was making adjustments with my front foot because he (Broad) was getting it in quite sharply. I (opened my stance), giving more space with my front foot and those were the adjustments I made to ensure I counter the inswing.
It was only after he drove Sam Curran down the ground for a boundary that he believed he belonged there.
“That was the moment where I got confidence because if you move your feet in and drive the ball, you get your eye in," he said. “Those are one of the moments you need in international cricket to be confident about yourself."
The rise to the Indian team and such levels of confidence, however, hasn’t been easy. One of the setbacks included being neglected from the IPL, where he hasn’t played since 2015.
“These setbacks have made me a better person," Vihari said. “Once you reflect on it, it will make you more humble and whatever you achieve, you have to keep going consistently and not relax or get complacent. But those are things, which make you stronger. If you are strong enough, it can make you a stronger person."