By his sheer perseverance and determination, Murali Vijay has made himself into one of the best Test openers in the world at present. Not known to betray much emotion, it is his patience and calmness that has made him such a fine Test player.
But let us for once try to go behind the calmness and composure and try to unearth 10 lesser known facts about Murali Vijay. Quirky, vibrant and sometimes funny, these facts tell a very different story and help us to form a more wholesome view about India's stoic yet successful Test opener.
1. Murali failed in his Class XII exams
Never one to be over-awed by bookish knowledge, Vijay initially decided to give up studying after failing his class XII exams. His father was particularly unhappy with his results, but Vijay decided that he had had enough and would go out to experience the world.
Speaking about his indifference for the academic curriculum, Vijay said, “My whole family was into studies and would cry for that one mark which didn’t get them 100. I was the complete opposite. My sister scored 98 per cent in Class XII. I got 40.
“My outlook was to get out there, travel, meet people and do something. Bookish knowledge never appealed to me. I got no kick out of it. I was not a bad student, mind you.”
2. Murali Vijay Left home at the age of 17
Having flunked his exams and a stray remark from his father that he was fit to be a peon, Vijay decided to leave home at the tender age of seventeen. Homeless, Vijay checked into the Deluxe Hotel in T Nagar.
It was a small hotel without any beds and Vijay shared his room with a driver and another man. Vijay admits that he did suffer from moments of self-doubt. “What am I doing with my life? Am I making the right decisions? Can I live alone? I wanted to try it out before I fell back on my parents’ support,” he said.
3. Vijay worked in a snooker parlour
Desperate to earn some money, he hid his plight from his friends and found work in a snooker parlour. He exercised, worked in the snooker parlour and somehow even found time to nurture his passion by practising cricket.
He even joined a 'chain business' later and tried to influence other people to join it as it would get him some commission. Vijay feels that that was the period in his life which made him independent.
It also taught him that he could survive anywhere and anyhow. He learnt that he had it in him to even survive on the streets. That made him tougher as an individual.
4. Murali got serious about cricket while in college
Vijay later went back to his studies, cleared the board exams and went to Vivekananda College in Mylapore, Chennai. Vivekananda College was well-known for promoting cricket and it suited Vijay in an apt way as he tried to further his ambition in the sport he loved.
His friends were particularly supportive of his obsession with the game and he ended up spending nights at the YMCA and the IIT cricket ground. When he was not selected for the Under-19 state team, he took up college cricket seriously playing every possible game he could.
Recalling his fond memories about those days, Vijay said, “Whatever game would be happening, I would go and play. If I got a call about a match, I would be there: 8 am or 1 in the afternoon, multiple times a day. I also wanted to show my parents that I was doing something.”
5. Was not selected for the Tamil Nadu team for his long hair
Vijay's ambitions suffered a rude jolt when he was apparently not selected for the Tamil Nadu team at the age of 21 because he had long hair.
“That’s what my sources told me and I was shocked. It’s a weird feeling: I didn’t understand. What’s hair got to do with cricket? What does it really say? How can you judge my attitude on that?
“If I do not supporting my teammates, or come late for training or make mistakes on the field, these things can be addressed. Not your hair or the way you speak, or smoke,” Vijay said.
Not one to let anything come between him and his love for the game, Vijay had gone that very evening to have a hair-cut. “I told myself I can grow back the hair anytime. Cricket was my ultimate thing," Vijay said.
6. His talent was spotted by Bharat Arun, India's bowling coach
It was Bharat Arun, India's bowling coach and a well-known figure in Tamil Nadu cricket, who first spotted Vijay's talent during his early days. Arun asked Vijay to play for the Chemplast team in Chennai's club cricket league.
Former Tamil Nadu player Diwakar Vasu was in charge of the Chemplast team and he assured Vijay that though he might not get a chance to play in the first five matches, his opportunity will surely come if he waited.
Not one to undermine the virtue of patience, Vijay latched on to the offer and it paid him good heed. “I got a chance and haven’t looked back since,” he said.
7. Mural Vijay’s nickname is Monk
Murali Vijay has earned 'Monk' as his nickname possibly because of his calmness, patience and composure. It is Vijay's true grit and steadfastness that has transformed him into one of the better openers in Test cricket.
And patience has always been a virtue for him. During the early part of his career, Vijay had to wait for his turn as he was always the reserve batsman in the Test squad and got his opportunities only when someone got injured.
But Vijay has also revealed that his nickname could also be possibly attributed to the fact that he had once shaved his head.
8. Murali Vijay’s wife is Dinesh Karthik's ex-wife Nikita
The rumour mills were rife as reports of Vijay's relationship with Nikita, Dinesh Karthik's childhood sweetheart and wife, broke out into the public domain. Almost every newspaper and tabloid latched on to the news and churned out salacious details.
This culminated with Vijay later marrying Nikita, something for which Vijay believes he is still seen in a negative light in some quarters. Breaking his long silence on the issue, Vijay said, “Something had gone wrong. I felt it inside me. I didn’t have to say it to others. There were major things happening, of course, and it involved three human beings.
“I thought we handled it well. There was no need to explain to people. Because people are going to talk anyways. And you can’t stop them from talking.”
9. Ishant Sharma was the cause of his most embarrassing moment
Vijay recalls that his most embarrassing moment in life was being hit in the box by Ishant Sharma in his maiden Ranji Trophy match. Vijay still vividly remembers the pain and the embarrassment that the incident brought to him.
“It was very chilly at the Feroz Shah Kotla and I was cramping badly for the rest of the day. And the worst part was, I could not tell anybody about the discomfort," Vijay said.
10. Murali Vijay loves tattoos and Kamal Hasan
Vijay admits that though he was never a movie buff, he absolutely adores Kamal Hasan and has not missed any of his films since he was ten years old. He was one actor whom Vijay desperately wanted to meet when he was young.
And a man of fine tastes, tattooing is one more thing that Vijay absolutely enjoys. He has three tattoos including the one on his left bicep that is his Test number. “I don't want to reveal where the other two are!" he laughs.