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India vs England: From Hyderabad to Oval - Hanuma Vihari's Journey to the Test Call-up

Here's a lowdown on the middle-order batsman, who is also a handy offspinner.

Hardik Worah |Cricketnext |September 7, 2018, 3:35 PM IST
India vs England: From Hyderabad to Oval - Hanuma Vihari's Journey to the Test Call-up

Hanuma Vihari became the 292nd player to be handed an India Test cap on Friday for the fifth and final Test against England at the Oval. The 24-year-old was brought in to the playing XI in place of All-Rounder Hardik Pandya. Vihari becomes the first Andhra cricketer in almost 18 years to represent India in the longest format of the game. Selection committee chief MSK Prasad, who is also from Andhra, played his last Test in January 2000 and since then no one from the state has donned the white Indian jersey.

Vihari, alongside U-19 World Cup winning captain Prithvi Shaw were summoned into the squad for the fourth and fifth Tests in place of Murali Vijay and Kuldeep Yadav.

"I was over the moon, to be honest," Vihari had told Cricketnext after being selected for the last two Tests. "It is a great moment for me and my career. I have played before in England, but the experience of international cricket is going to be very important and hopefully I can express myself there. So, I just want to go there with an open mind and see what I can learn from the tour."

Before we move to the 5Ws and 1H, here's a fact about Vihari that solidifies his resume: Among all present cricketers, Vihari has the world's best first-class average of 59.45. The next best Steve Smith is at 57.27.

Here's a lowdown on the middle-order batsman, who is also a handy offspinner.

2012 Under-19 World Cup: A tournament not to remember

Vihari was a part of India Under-19 team that won the World Cup under the leadership of Unmukt Chand in 2012 in Australia. He was picked as a replacement for Manan Vohra, who fractured his thumb a day before India's departure to Australia. However, Vihari could only manage 71 runs in six outings at 11.73.

Hanuma Vihari

Decision that changed his career

He made his first-class debut in 2010 aged 17 for Hyderabad but it was his move to neighbouring state Andhra in the 2016-17 season which proved to be the turning point for his career. Vihari straightaway made an impact, scoring 688 runs in 15 innings in his first season at an impressive average of 57.33. However, it was his spell-binding performances in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy that brought him into the national reckoning. The right-hander amassed 752 runs in just six matches at a marvellous average of 94. This included a career-best 302 not out, his maiden first-class triple century, against Odisha. In total, Vihari has scored 5142 runs in 63 first-class games, including 15 hundreds and 24 half-centuries.

He even top scored for Rest of India in the Irani Cup in March against Ranji Trophy champions Vidarbha. Vihari scored 183 against the bowling attack comprising of Umesh Yadav and 2017-18 Ranji Trophy leading wicket-taker Rajneesh Gurbani.

'A' outings with India A

After scoring tons of runs in the domestic seasons, Vihari was named in both the 50-overs and four-day squads for India A's tour of England. He made the most of opportunity by finishing as the third-highest run-getter in the one-day tri-series. He hit 253 runs in just three innings in the tri-series that involved Windies 'A' and England 'A' with a highest score of 147. He then also scored a crucial 68 in the second four-day match against Windies A to help his team chase down a stiff 321-run target in the fourth innings.

His most recent first-class knocks include a 54 against South Africa 'A' at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, which he followed up with a classical 148 at Alur against the same opposition.

Hanuma Vihari

His strengths

A rock-hard technique coupled with the hunger to score the 'daddy hundreds', Vihari is your quintessential old-school batsman who just loves staying at the crease.

"I have always had the hunger of scoring big runs but once you have that maturity and experience and exposure then you tend to have more confidence within yourself and that is what has helped me," said Vihari. "So once I get to a hundred I will have the confidence to score a double hundred or even a triple hundred, last year which I got."

Unlike most of the current Indian batsmen, Vihari is more of a back-foot player.

"He is very strong square of the wicket on both sides, and that is a direct sign of good back-foot play," Sanath Kumar, who was the head coach of Andhra in last two seasons, had told ESPNcricinfo. "His picking of lengths is a great strength; it gives him more time to play his shots. In the 2017-18 red-ball season, he worked a lot on his bat-swing, playing straight and close to the body, in tough conditions. His discipline to leave and eliminate those extravagant drives got him the runs. If you purely go by the numbers, many others may have outscored him, but in terms of quality, he was right up there. In the shorter versions, there was some reluctance to bat higher initially, but his strike rates have improved tremendously without making a compromise on his methods."

Not rich on IPL experience

Vihari has only played 22 IPL games and last featured in the competition in 2015 (for Sunrisers Hyderabad). However, Vihari kept himself busy by playing in the Bangladesh Cricket League, and Shephered Neame Essex First Division League in England.

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