Is it the beginning of the end for Murali Vijay?
Murali Vijay was the number one opener in Test cricket for team India at the beginning of the year 2017. The opener had a prolific 2017 and in six Tests and 10 innings, he scored 520 runs at an average of 52 with 3 centuries. Out of the 6 Tests which he played in 2017, 5 were at home and 1 was in Bangladesh.
The year 2018 was the ultimate test for the experienced Vijay with three tough overseas assignments of South Africa, England and Australia. But the opener has failed to deliver and has struggled with the bat in conditions away from the subcontinent.
The year started on a bad note for the 34-year-old opener and in 6 innings in South Africa, he scored only 102 runs at an average of 17 with the highest score of just 46. The opener from Chennai was dismissed by Kagiso Rabada on 3 occasions and by Vernon Philander twice.
Thereafter Vijay scored a century against Afghanistan at Bangalore in the only Test against them and was on the flight to England.
Scores of 20,6,0 and 0 against England at Edgbaston and Lord's led to his ouster from the team for the remaining three Tests. Vijay thus failed to deliver in another Test series away from home and averaged a dismal 6.50.
Vijay then had a season with Essex and was back scoring runs which led to his inclusion in for the Test series against Australia. While he was grinding at the county level, Prithvi Shaw made his debut against West Indies and was named the player of the series.
Shaw impressed one and all with his positive approach with the bat at the top of the order and averaged 118.50 in the three innings he batted against West Indies which included a century and a half century.
An injury to Shaw before the Adelaide Test opened the doors for Murali Vijay to open the batting in Adelaide. However, he failed to get going in both the innings and scored 18 and 11 in both the innings this Test.
The year 2018 in international cricket has been a tough one for Vijay. Excluding his century against Afghanistan, the opener has scored just 157 runs in 12 Test innings this year. An average of just 13.08 at the top order in 12 innings is a cause of concern for team India,
Vijay's performance in the last 12 second innings has been dismal. He has scored 3,0,7,2,8,9,13,9,25,6,0 and 18 add up to just 100 at an average of 8.33.
With Shaw likely to be fit for the boxing day Test at Melbourne, time is running out for Vijay to justify his selection in the playing 11. Mayank Agarwal has been making rapid strides in domestic cricket and was a part of the Indian team which played a Test series at home against West Indies. The presence of the duo will be a definite competition for Vijay who is having a torrid time with the bat.
The Test at Perth will be the last opportunity for Vijay to justify his selection in the Indian squad. If he fails to deliver, it will be very difficult for the 34-year-old opener to make a comeback to the Test team.
Vijay's Test career has been highlighted with various highs and lows and he has been a part of many famous wins especially in home conditions. A Test average of 39.44 in 102 innings with 12 centuries provides evidence that Vijay has played many match winning innings for India. However, at this moment, time is running out for Vijay and with the emergence of young openers, it will be difficult for Vijay to justify his position as an Indian opener if he does not score runs.