Hanuma Vihari's strong case to be a regular member of the Test side

Prashanth Satish

Hanuma Vihari

A fifty on debut against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in testing conditions. The no-fuss backup opener who batted out a testing opening spell against the pace of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins on sudden notice. Such is the competition in this Indian side that a player who has shown the potential to make it big in Test cricket is still not the first choice in the current Indian side.

The beginning

The 24-year-old middle-order batsman was called into the Indian side after some consistent performances in the first-class scene. Hanuma Vihari averages a staggering 59.79 in 63 first-class matches, even better than the averages of Steven Smith and Virat Kohli.

His 302* against Odisha was the real icing on the cake that bolstered his chances for selection. It's hard to look past consistent performances and he finally got his reward in one of India's toughest away tours, the tour of England.

Hanuma Vihari showed promise on his debut against England

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He scored fifty on his debut but what stood out about his innings was the temperament, something you don't associate with most modern-day batsman going around. Played out a tough spell from Anderson and grew in confidence as the innings progressed.

Done the hard yards

Apart from Vihari's grind that began from the U-19 days which showed the tough side of this Kakinada lad, His international career also has seen him climb up the ladder doing the hard yards. Hanuma averages 42.36 so far in his seven-match career with one three digit score and three fifties to his name.

His real show of grit and character was not the 100 he scored in Kingston but his innings on Boxing Day. India couldn't carry on with KL Rahul and Murali Vijay at the top after their dismal starts and India suddenly had a new-look opening pair and the thought of accommodating Rohit Sharma in the middle made India send Hanuma Vihari to open the innings with the debutant Mayank Agarwal.

The boxing day innings showed grit and character

Vihari scored only 8 runs but there was real substance in that innings. 60 balls, 80 mins, and add to that some hostile fast bowling. He didn't get a massive score but he did more than enough for a makeshift opener. Survived a hostile spell of fast short-pitched fast bowling and played the new ball out before India's No.3 Pujara walked in.

Competition for places

India doesn't really like investing heavily in the batting department for home tests as they expect their top order to come good regularly and score big runs. A template that has worked for India for quite some time now and doesn't look to be changing soon.

The home season saw Hanuma Vihari sitting out more often than not for no fault of his because India didn't need a batsman coming in at his position they needed a bowling option. 

Speaking of the competition for places earlier this year he said,

“Whatever opportunity you get at the international level, you have to make sure that you make an impact. You have to be consistent to survive in that level. I try to contribute as much as I can for Team India"

This saw Hanuma Vihari sit out during the home season purely because of the team balance and combination in mind. A very harsh call but happens to many players only because of the pool of quality in this India side.

Why should we expect more?

If you look at Hanuma Vihari bat you just know he is tailor-made for the longest format of the game. His bat speed is perfect for the red ball as he doesn't have the super-fast bat speed which many of the modern-day batsmen possess and also doesn't go hard at the ball which is key in Test cricket.

He might not be the eye-catchy batsman you associate with this star-studded Indian side but he surely has got the game go make a mark for himself and not to forget his canny off-spinners which has got some big names when they were well set.

Hanuma Vihari is most likely to be back in the mix of things when India face New Zealand tomorrow because of the depth that India seeks for in conditions overseas but there is a strong case for this young man to be a regular in this Test side.