Hanuma Vihari had quite an eventful start to his Test career for India. He scored a fifty in his debut innings at the Oval against England in 2018, was made into a makeshift opening batsman for the Melbourne Test against Australia towards the end of the same year and then emerged as the highest run-getter during India’s tour of West Indies in 2019 as well.
Just when it looked like he was becoming a regular in India’s Test side, he had to sit out of the last two Test matches of the home series against South Africa and the following series against Bangladesh as an extra batsman looked like surplus to India’s requirements at home.
However, as another overseas Test series knocks on India’s door, that too in the challenging conditions of New Zealand, Vihari looks all set to slot into India’s middle-order once again to give them the extra batting cushion against the dangerous Kiwi seamers.
What makes Vihari’s spot in the XI even more certain is his recent string of scores in these conditions for India A and during the practice match for India against New Zealand XI. Vihari had scored 55, 100* and 59 in the three innings he played during the two-match unofficial Test series between India A and New Zealand A. Moreover, he followed it up with yet another century in the practice match against New Zealand XI as well.
So Vihari has made his intentions very clear ahead of the series. He is here to bat, bat and just bat. India can expect the 26-year-old to step up whenever they are in trouble, whenever they find themselves staring down the barrel.
What makes Vihari a perfect fit for this format is his grit, rock-solid temperament, patience and sound technique. He can see off even the most lethal spells of fast bowling, something which has been an Achilles heel for the Indian batsmen over the years. That’s why there can’t be a better batsman than him to hold fort at No.6 in these conditions for India.
As far his numbers in his short Test career so far are considered, Vihari has 466 runs to his name at a healthy average of 42.36. That includes one century and three fifties as well. In fact, Vihari doesn’t only add value to the side with his batting skills but he could be an equally potent weapon with the ball. Vihari has claimed five wickets in his seven Tests for India so far at a decent average and strike-rate of 36.00 and 69.0 respectively. He bowls some tight lines with his off-breaks and his habit of attacking the stumps always keeps him in the fray of picking of wickets.
So, India will expect Vihari to bat in the forthcoming series in the same way as he has performed for India A and in the practice match on this tour so far. And whenever they would find themselves struggling to break a partnership, they won’t hesitate to turn to Vihari’s off-breaks as well.