Former India spinner Pragyan Ojha said Hanuma Vihari being a Test specialist early in his career has its own advantages and disadvantages, stressing that the middle-order batsman needs to consistently perform to retain his palace in the highly-competitive squad.
Pragyan Ojha added that Hanuma Vihari does a “thankless job” for India in Test cricket, saying he will be the first one to get the axing if India don’t do well in the longest format of the game. The former India spinner, who featured in 24 Tests, likened Vihari’s situation to that of VVS Laxman during the nascent stages of the batting great’s career.
Hanuma Vihari has featured in 9 Tests for India after making his debut in England in 2018. He has scored 552 runs at an average of over 36. In his nascent career, Vihari has donned several hats, including that of an opener when he was asked to step in along with Mayank Agarwal at the Boxing Day Test in 2018-19.
The middle-order doesn’t get to feature often at home as India play an extra spinner and Ojha believes that the 27-year-old needs to have a big series in Australia to be assured of his place, considering the competition for the middle-order spot.
Ojha pointed out that Vihari doesn’t get as much attention as some of his contemporaries who are featuring in the Indian Premier League and playing limited-overs cricket for India but believes Vihari has the potential to do well in the longest format for the team.
“Hanuma Vihari, this boy doesn’t feature in IPL, doesn’t feature in limited-overs for the national side. Being a Test specialist at the starting point of his career, it has both advantages and disadvantages,” Pragyan Ojha told Sports Today.
“If you perform in Test cricket, especially abroad you earn respect. But on the flip side, your name is not circulating in that zone, a lot of people keep discussing the likes of Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan or Suryakumar Yadav because they are performing on a platform where a lot of people are watching. It’s the truth.
“I feel this series is very important for Vihari. India will not have Virat Kohli, those are big shoes to be filled. Vihari got a brilliant hundred (pink-ball warm-up). But it is not going to be easy, especially in the pink-ball Test. He has to perform consistently well to survive there.
“He is someone like VVS Laxman, I would say. Every game Laxman played used to be p[ay was a very important game for himself because he was a Test specialist. He has to consistently perform to be in the reckoning because he is not a regular in the limited-overs format. It’s become important for him to deliver in every game he plays.
“At home conditions, it becomes difficult for him to play because India play an extra spinner. And if Hardik Pandya starts bowling, he straightaway walks in.
“It’s a very thankless job. A young boy like Hanuma Vihari, if he is getting runs he will be picked, but if he doesn’t get runs or the team doesn’t do well, the first one who will be on the line will be Hanuma Vihari.”
As Ojha pointed out, Vihari grabbed the opportunities that came his way in the warm-up matches. At the Sydney Cricket Ground, Vihari hit an unbeaten 104 in the drawn pink-ball warm-up game, stitching a solid stand with Rishabh Pant.