The Chhattisgarh

Beyond The Region

I knew I had to perform double of others to be recognized: Hanuma Vihari

Hanuma Vihari is a product of Indian cricket’s rigorous domestic system. He has built his reputation by scoring runs by the truckload across all levels of cricket to force his way into the Indian Test team. Having scored one century, two half-centuries and averaged 96.33 in the two-Test series in the West Indies, Vihari has shown he can add solidity and resolve to India’s middle order. He spoke to TOI moments before boarding the flight back home from Jamaica and reflected on his journey.

It’s been exactly one year since you made your debut…

I feel there has been some transformation in me. The conditions I have played in have been difficult. The Australia tour was difficult. It was a big tour. I didn’t get many runs but managed to make an impression. That was very important. I won’t lie. I was very nervous.

You have gone through the full grind of India’s domestic cricket, right from U-19 to zonal teams to India ‘A’…

It’s a different equation for players coming from smaller states in terms of cricket. Hyderabad and Andhra are such states. You have to perform double of others coming from stronger states to be recognised. But over a period of time, you get habituated (to this). Each season and match becomes important. That helps you to become mentally stronger.

You were a part of the victorious U-19 World Cup-winning team in 2012 but didn’t get a game. Your journey has not been as flamboyant as your teammates in that campaign or even the youngsters who are coming up now…

I made my first-class debut at 17. I had already got a taste of senior grade cricket. After the U-19 World Cup, I knew that first-class cricket is my only chance to make it big. Ranji Trophy became the most important thing for me. I realized I needed to score around 1000 runs year after year. I told myself, ‘Never drop your guard.’ I had to work very hard on my fitness. Eventually, when I became prolific, I got to play Test cricket.

How much have things changed since those U-19 days?

(Smiles) Well I have changed a bit. (Pauses) I mean I try not to change as a person but I’ve changed a lot when it comes to my cricketing skills. It is a huge boost for me when Virat said that the dressing room is calm when I am batting in the middle.

You also switched states in 2016. How did you plan your move from Hyderabad to Andhra?

I was scoring consistently for Hyderabad but was not getting picked for the next level of cricket. Moving to Andhra was the best decision of my life. I got recognition after that.

Bharat Arun was the coach when you played India U-19. When you made your Test debut, he was also there in the Indian dressing room as bowling coach. That must have been comforting for you…

Arun sir is a wonderful person. Right from the U-19 days, he has helped me and was always available for me. He is like a father figure to me. He was very happy to see me in the Indian dressing room.

Chief national selector MSK Prasad is also from Andhra…

It was MSK sir who called me and offered (me) a place in the Andhra team. When we meet even today, we talk about cricket in Andhra and building the team there.

Your father passed away when you were just 12. That must have been difficult to come to terms with…

It was a difficult phase. We moved to Hyderabad after my father passed away. It was a difficult period financially, adjusting to a bigger city. The academy (St. Johns) I went to, they offered me full support. They never took fees for my coaching, but the first four-five years were difficult. It was tough to balance my studies and cricket. My mother backed me to become a cricketer.

%d bloggers like this: