Having earned a recall to the Indian Test squad for the series against Sri Lanka in November following after recovering from a wrist injury, opener M Vijay says he is “prepared mentally and physically” for the sterner tours to South Africa, England and Australia over the next year and beyond. Vijay notched up hundreds in England and Australia and 97 in second Test of the 2013 tour to South Africa in Durban.
“I am prepared for them [overseas tours] rather than thinking about it,” Vijay told ESPNcricinfo in Mumbai on Monday. “I am looking forward for the tours coming ahead. I am a person who takes one match at a time. I have a domestic tournament now, so I have to contribute here and take the form and momentum to the Sri Lankan series.
“Definitely opening becomes very crucial when you play abroad. A good start will make a whole lot of difference in a side’s mindset. We are aware of it. We have been giving good starts. It is just a matter of time when we collectively go about it, first innings or second innings. We create our own situation rather than succumbing to the situation. I feel you have got to be ahead of what’s happening and be a little smarter overseas. We are working on that and hopefully we can win this time.”
Vijay was originally included in the Indian squad for the series in Sri Lanka in July-August before deciding to pull out after experiencing pain during a preparatory match. After an underwhelming series against Australia earlier in the year – he made 113 runs in three Tests at 22.60 – he opted out of the IPL and underwent surgery in England.
Recovery took longer than expected. Since returning, Vijay has featured in a Duleep Trophy game, few matches in the Tamil Nadu Premier League and the state side’s Ranji Trophy opener. Though he hasn’t produced a substantial score yet since his return, the national selectors have decided to stay invested in him as one of their three choices for the opening position, besides KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan.
“Actually, I could not get much cricket before calling myself fit,” Vijay said. “I was pushing myself to play against Sri Lanka. That was my first choice to get ready when we went to England to get the operation done. Unfortunately, I did not get a lot of games before that. I wasn’t 100% mentally because I didn’t find myself in a comfortable position to pick my bat. So, I thought I should be honest there and put it across to the management so that a fit player goes for the tour. I was pretty sure that if I wasn’t going to be giving the team 100% then I shouldn’t be playing.
“I am competitive about improving my game, about going about my cricket in a stronger manner than where I left. These are the things that are more of a kick for me rather than thinking about fighting for spots.”
“I feel every sportsperson would have faced an injury problem at some point in their careers. I have been facing injuries for a couple of years, but I have been managing it. It is more of a mental thing than physical. I am pretty sure everybody can push themselves to any limit, but once it’s in your thought process that’s when as a sportsperson you have to think, ‘what am I going to do about my cricket.’ Being a batsman, it is very important to have my game plans right, so if something is hampering on that it is going to be a tough call. So, I was battling with that, rather than physical pain.
“Nobody can trust their body fully if you are a sportsperson but yes, I am charged up. I have thought about my game. It is a good opportunity for me to start from where I stopped and be more consistent. So, there are a lot of things to look forward to.”
In Vijay’s absence, Dhawan, his replacement in Sri Lanka, and Rahul have made strong cases to retain their spots at the top. Dhawan made two hundreds in Sri Lanka and Rahul has constructed a sequence of seven consecutive half-centuries in Tests. Vijay, however, is undaunted at the prospect of having to convince the team management to restore him to his spot. He insists watching his replacements make the most of their opportunity while he had to sit out with injury wasn’t frustrating in the least.
“When I was 23, I really gave this issue a lot of thought, because I wasn’t enjoying my cricket so much,” he said. “Once I got to play for India I thought, whoever plays for India it is going to be difficult. When I got the call for the Indian team, from that day I started believing that everybody who puts in the effort should perform. One day their turn will come. I know whoever is performing out there, I know what difficulties they would have gone through and I know what it takes to perform at that level.
“I started enjoying it and take some good things about what they are doing right rather than feel bad that it’s my turn and somebody has picked up my spot. It happens in any sport, so I channelise myself in such a way that to ensure I see the right things.
“I was just wishing them (the other openers) luck. I am sure that’s how I will go for the rest of my phase in cricket. It was a great learning for me. I have to search what is happening inside me rather than think about what is happening to others and their performance. I can only wish them luck. I don’t have time to sort my issues, I am more in that mode rather than thinking about who is performing or not.
“I want everybody to perform because it is a good thing for Indian cricket. I am like that. I like to have fun if it comes to me. I should be in the best place possible to go and perform. I am competitive about improving my game, about going about my cricket in a stronger manner than where I left. These are the things that are more of a kick for me rather than thinking about fighting for spots.”
With the first Test against Sri Lanka still nearly three weeks away, Vijay intends to use his time on the domestic circuit to notch up consistent scores. The troublesome wrist wasn’t permitting him to manoeuver the ball into gaps on the field like he wanted to. That will be one of his focus areas before he fronts up against Sri Lanka.
With his confidence fully restored, Vijay is now eager to make up for lost time and is also convinced he can shut up doubters who have bracketed him as a one-format player by earning a recall to India’s limited overs teams.
“I have a lot of dreams, few have come true, and few are there for me to go and achieve, so I am looking forward to those,” he said. “I am pretty confident about how I am going to go about it. I am a person who relishes challenges and likes to tell in advance and go and achieve it but with my injuries at the moment, I have to be a little silent and conservative. But once I start getting into the groove, it will be much more fun for me.
“I am in the mode to play all three formats and I am working on every aspect possible that I possess. So, these are the things that give me a good kick rather than my competition. It is about how ready I am going to be when the call comes up. These are the things I am waiting for and I think I will make it happen.”