Middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari comes into the India side with a weight of first-class runs behind him but, what’s his story?
Who the hell?
Vihari was called into the squad after the third Test of the series alongside teenage prodigy Prithvi Shaw, but it is Vihari who debuts first. Aged 24, at the time of his debut Vihari had the accolade of having the highest first-class average, 59.45, of any current professional cricketer.
What’s his story?
Vihari is the first Andhra cricketer to play for India in 19 years. His call-up comes off the back of an immensely successful Ranji Trophy season in which he averaged 94 with the bat. Whilst not an IPL regular, he once dismissed Chris Gayle with his part-time off-spin for Sunrisers Hyderabad. A member of the Indian Under-19 World Cup winning squad in 2012, he first received senior international recognition this summer in his selection for the India A tour of England.
Other than dismissing Gayle, scoring a triple century against Odisha in this year’s Ranji Trophy ranks as a career highlight. He also performed well for India A earlier this summer, scoring a century in a List A game against West Indies A and another in a first-class game at home to South Africa A.
Vihari has played very little cricket outside of India so it remains to be seen how he copes with the rigours of playing Test cricket overseas. He spent the summers of 2014 and 2015 playing club cricket for Hutton CC in Essex, but has never played a first-class game outside of Asia. He has toured Sri Lanka with his state side Andhra on a couple of occasions, but a Test match in England is uncharted territory. It will be a challenge for him to transfer his prolific form in India abroad.
“He is very strong square of the wicket on both sides, and that is a direct sign of good back-foot play. His picking of lengths is a great strength; it gives him more time to play his shots.
“In the 2017-18 red-ball season, he worked a lot on his bat-swing, playing straight and close to the body, in tough conditions. His discipline to leave and eliminate those extravagant drives got him the runs. If you purely go by the numbers, many others may have outscored him, but in terms of quality, he was right up there. In the shorter versions, there was some reluctance to bat higher initially, but his strike rates have improved tremendously without making a compromise on his methods.”
Sanath Kumar, Vihari’s coach for two years at Andhra