Hanuma Vihari, now a household name in India, had two choices when he reached the crease on the 5th day of the now epic Test match in Sydney between India and Australia.
To carry on the good work done by Rishabh Pant (who shouldn’t have lost his wicket to such a shot) and give India a realistic chance of winning the test match. Or to defend and block and make sure that his team doesn’t lose and at least draw the match; even if they can’t win.
It is a very fine line. One bad shot in the quest of the former and he would have been labeled naïve and reckless and inexperienced. Too many balls defended to make sure he preserves his wicket and blame would have been laid on him that he let away a very realistic chance of winning what would have been a historic win. Twitter trolls etc.
Vihari is not known for his flamboyancy. If Pant is exciting like a yacht; Vihari is a ship- calm and stable.
After he played few balls and before he could decide how to pace his innings; his choice was made easier by his injured hamstring. He was unable to run anymore. As the runner is no more allowed; it was either bat or wait in the pavilion.
Vihara chose the gallant route and stayed on the crease. With thin batting to come next and with a half-fit Ashwin with him; he decided to block everything. As easy as it sounds; the execution of the same is extremely difficult. And that too against the world’s most potent bowling attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood. Add to that a certain Nathan Lyon and half a day, roughly 250 balls do not sound great. And there is an obvious Aussie cockiness.
Vihari faced everything. With every ball he blocked, ducked, and left alone; he made another fan of himself in the country. Aussies were rattled. Their captain decided to be a lesser gentleman and increased the chatter. Vihari was unperturbed.
At the end of the day; everyone who follows cricket had praise for Hanuma Vihari. And he richly deserved it. What is ironic is that after such an innings; he will not play the next match because of his hamstring injury. The same hamstring that made his choice easier and made him a national hero.
It does not mean that a fit Vihari couldn’t have won the match for India. But with low scores in previous 4 innings; a Rishabh Pant who is good with the bat and awful with the gloves and Wriddhiman Saha would have been the preferred 6 and 7 in the last match in Brisbane. Vihari’s failure would have certainly meant his ouster in the team and as Karun Nair can tell; it is not easy to come back into this Indian team. By the time, you sharpen those rough edges; another guy had taken your place and you are out of reckoning.
For a moment, imagine yourself being Hanuma Vihari. You have just saved a match for your country. It was one of the best bowling attacks. It was a 5th day pitch on away soil which is unpredictable in turn and bounce. But you braved everything. The batting scorecard is not great but you can’t care less. Twitter is celebrating you. National hero!!!!!
And then it sinks in. You are not playing the next match because of the injury that elevated your status. You don’t know if you will again play for India. What if somebody else claims your place as his own?
You sure don’t have an answer for that today. But that thought just can’t go away from your head.
Life, sometimes, is cruel.