Australia vs India 2018-19: Why Hanuma Vihari can be the long-term number six for India in Tests
Hanuma Vihari played a crucial unbeaten knock on the first day of the fourth Test against Australia in Sydney. At stumps, he was unbeaten on 39 from 58 balls and has already formed a valuable 75-run partnership in the company of the centurion Cheteshwar Pujara, and hopefully, there is more to come on day two.
Vihari has looked very solid during this knock in his technique against both pace and spin. He has always been extremely good against spin. But there has been some weakness against pace, especially the short-pitched deliveries directed at his body. This weakness was exploited by the Australian pacers at MCG, but he had still managed to occupy the crease long enough to dent the new ball attack before succumbing to it.
During this knock at Sydney so far, he seems to have made some technical adjustments. He is no longer trying to get behind the ball, but trying to place side on. He may have taken a leaf out of Mayank Agarwal’s book, who too employed a similar tactic quite successfully.
Vihari still got beaten or got himself into awkward positions occasionally, but there is hardly any batsman in modern cricket who is always in control against well-directed fast short pitch deliveries. Even the technically solid Pujara got hit on the body a couple of times and needed medical assistance.
The experience of opening the batting at MCG seems to have helped him negotiate the new ball better, as was seen from the way he played against the second new ball today when he was relatively new to the crease. Also, by playing a counter-attacking innings here, he has proved his versatility as a Test batsman, after his dour defensive act in the Boxing Day Test.
It is time to consider Vihari as a long-term prospect for India at number six position in Test matches. His inclusion in the team will also help bolster India’s bowling. If India goes with three pace bowlers and a lone spinner in overseas conditions, he can be the fifth bowling option.
He is definitely a more solid batsman than Hardik Pandya. So, unless it is an out and out pacey and bouncy pitch, he should be preferred over Pandya.
Similarly, he may not have the pedigree of a Rohit Sharma yet, but his solid batsmanship and the ability to bowl decent off-spin should keep him above Rohit in the pecking order, as well.