Earlier this year, for the first time ever, two openers from Tamil Nadu opened for India. M. Abhinav went on to play the test series in England while for M. Vijay, who opened alongside Abhinav in West Indies, it has been downhill since then. Having missed the England tour, he would have hoped to make his claims for an India recall with a strong performance in the domestic tournament alongside his India partner Abhinav.
But while Abhinav has smashed his way back into the reckoning with over 600runs in just 5matches- (one match was washed out) including two double hundreds, M. Vijay has been struggling for runs except for two rapid second innings performances. In fact, he has been the odd man out for TN in the top order with most of the others getting a decent hit in the first half of the season with Badrinath, Karthik and Vasudeva Das scoring a century each.
The worrying sign has been that he has not even stayed for a reasonable length of time in the middle having got out pretty early in most of the knocks. In the two 2nd innings bursts, he scored 40odd batting in the middle order when TN came close to chasing 140 in 13overs and in the last match he put a 100run partnership in 14overs with Abhinav on the final evening against Gujarat.
Finally, on a grassy pitch at Chepauk in the final league encounter of the season and with pressure on him to perform ahead of the knock out stage, Vijay put his head down and came good on the first morning showing he has a classy touch to his game.
Playing some sweet strokes including his trade mark cover drives and delectable late cuts ( at least three of them stood out) against a pretty fired up MP new ball attack and running hard between the wickets picking several twos (not necessarily a trade mark with TN batsmen in the past) in the first session of play, he raced to 70 by lunch. There were very few across the line strokes, not too many wristy flicks to the leg and one also did not find him playing wide of mid on as he so often has tended to do in the recent past.
It was particularly pleasing to find Vijay letting many balls go to the keeper, another indication that he was determined to get some runs and not be totally left behind by Abhinav for the contention for the reserve opener’s slot in the Indian team (which any way currently is with Rahane).
This was the kind of commitment one would have expected from Vijay right from the start of the season after having come back from a poor series in West Indies and given that Tamil Nadu has been going for the big one- the Ranji Trophy- that has been elusive for a long time now.
This knock of Vijay will give him a lot of confidence and will mean that Tamil Nadu will go into the knock out phase with both the openers ‘amongst runs’.