On a fast outfield at MRF Pachaiyappa Grounds, Hyderabad captain Hanuma Vihari walks in during the third over. He was welcomed with a few nasty blows to the helmet by Madhya Pradesh’s Ishwar Pandey and Avesh Khan. But Vihari did his talking with the bat as he sliced one to square for boundary. From 7/1 to 112/3, he kept the scorecard ticking, making 61 from 60 balls chasing 185. Seeing him, one might wonder how good a bottom-hand player he is. But what is surprising is the way he has scored runs in the domestic circuit in recent years.
626, 688 and 752 runs in the last three Ranji Trophies might not reveal his improvement much. But from having an average of 48.15 in 2015-16 season to 94 now speaks volumes. Though many criticised him of his stodginess with bat, he has evolved with time. “Now I have understood that along with scoring runs you have to bat at a good pace if you are playing on a good wicket. It’s not about the target or how many runs I get but having a positive intent is what matters when you play one-dayers and T20 cricket,” the 24-year-old said.
His captaincy role has also had an effect on his game. Moving from Hyderabad to Andhra in 2016 meant he was going to straightaway lead a new side. Despite that giving him many sleepless nights, Vihari got better once he figured out that his focus should be on playing the natural game.
“It was a challenge for me last year, coming into the side directly as a skipper. Last year, I used to take a lot of pressure because I was the captain. Though I did score runs, I never used to bat freely. Not having a strong middle-order kept worrying me. But then I made up my mind that I should be playing my natural game even when I am captaining.”
Vihari last played IPL in 2015 and he didn’t get picked this year too. But it doesn’t bother him. Playing club cricket in England during that busy period has taught him many lessons over the years. Vihari played for Hutton CC in the Shepherd Neame Essex first division league in 2014 and 2015. During that period, he scored six centuries and had an average of 31.53. “Playing in England teaches us how to take responsibility. If you are given a chance in club cricket, you have to score and make your team win. Along with that, you also have to keep the wicket intact. It was quite a challenge for me but I have learnt it in two years. It helped me to transform into a better player.”