Murali Vijay: My philosophy is that I can survive on the streets
In an informal chat with the Indian Express, India’s Test opener Murali Vijay held forth on his humble beginnings, the roadblocks that he has had to overcome to get where he is, and on his controversial marriage to the former wife of Tamil Nadu teammate Dinesh Karthik.
Vijay revealed that he had left the comfort of home after failing his Class XII exams, trying his luck on his own. A stray remark from his father about him becoming a peon had cut him to the core, and the future India international had walked out, checked into a hotel room with no beds – to be shared with two other men – and found work at a snooker parlour.
The man from Chennai says, “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.”
The 31-year-old talked about the hardships that he had to face during this period of trying to make a livelihood of his own, somehow fitting in his pursuit of cricket into a frantic schedule.
“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 says.
“I was always street-smart and if so required, I can survive on the street. Maybe that’s my philosophy. That period helped me become independent. I knew I could survive on anything and anywhere. There was always this fear back then though, about money and hunger”.
Vijay’s lived experiences have moulded him, as evinced by his cricketing temperament even in the face of the rockiest adversaries. In his last nine Tests, five in England and four in Australia, he has averaged 49.11 with two hundreds and six fifties. All other Indian batsmen have struggled miserably in the same period.
Could have played for India earlier if carried myself better: Murali Vijay
Vijay’s desire of appearing for his country was fuelled by seeing Sachin Tendulkar bat against Pakistan in the famous Chennai Test in 1999 where Tendulkar made an epic 136 in the run chase. “As a youngster, I would go and see S Sharath and S Sriram (Tamil Nadu’s Ranji Trophy stars) bat there and my desire of playing there strengthened,” he says.
Despite having glittering domestic figures, Murali Vijay’s career graph was not all smooth. At the age of 21, he found out that he wasn’t selected for the Tamil Nadu team 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 am 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.
“It was difficult for me to change people, so I decided to change myself. I told myself I can grow back the hair anytime. Cricket was my ultimate thing. I don’t have an ego when it comes to cricket. I was a little brash perhaps, arrogant, short-tempered; I didn’t know exactly what to say to people.
“In team sports, people usually judge you on your performance, but how you carry yourself also matters. That’s what I didn’t understand or else I could have played for India much earlier.”
Always a gift to play for India: Vijay Murali
In 2012, there was a triangular mess involving a Tamil Nadu Ranji teammate and India player, Dinesh Karthik, his wife, and Vijay, which played out in the tabloid press in Chennai and across the country in salacious detail. It subsided only after it came out that Vijay had married the woman.
Vijay said on how that incident had played out, “I am not one to share personal stuff. I didn’t feel like saying anything then. 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.”
Vijay has been one of India’s most trusted batsmen of recent times, cementing his place as India’s premier Test opener over the last 18 months, but was not selected in the team for the 2015 World Cup.
On that disappointment, he says,“Look, it’s a gift to play for the country and earn a living playing this wonderful game. You can’t get too greedy. All I can do is to give my best”.
The boy who left home at 17, still the fighter he was then, is expected to feature in his familiar role when India take on Bangladesh in the upcoming one-off Test match on 10 June.