Ready to open if needed – Hanuma Vihari

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After coming to India’s rescue in their tour match in Hamilton, Hanuma Vihari has said he’s open to the idea of opening the innings in the upcoming Tests against New Zealand, although he’s “not been informed anything” by the team management.

While India have both Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill in their ranks as prospective partners for Mayank Agarwal, Vihari presents a tempting stop-gap option in conditions where his experience and technical prowess could prove valuable. The pitches that had welcomed England late last year lacked any great spice, but on the first day of India’s tour match on Friday (February 14), the “wicket was doing a lot” in keeping with its green appearance. In that scenario, it’ll be a challenging initiation for Shaw and Gill, both of whom fell for a duck in Hamilton after being undone by extra bounce.

Vihari, meanwhile, went on to score a hundred after coming in at 38/4. He was involved in a 195-run stand with Cheteshwar Pujara who made 93 and spoke of the importance of adjusting his approach according to the nature of the pitch.

“You have to understand what shots to avoid on these pitches – initially at least,” Vihari said. “Then if you can control it in your mind then I feel it’s not so difficult to adjust. But once you have a certain gameplan and if you can stick to it, then I feel it’s easy enough to adjust.

“In international level, you have to be thinking on your feet. And I was quick enough to adjust my games according to the conditions so whenever I bat next, New Zealand or Australia, wherever it is, it is up to me what I want to do with my game and how quickly I adjust and I’m happy that I could do it.”

Vihari is no stranger to making these adjustments though – be it on the field or off it. After a productive tour of West Indies last year where he scored one hundred and two fifties in four innings, he played just one Test through India’s entire home season as dictated by the team combination. He has even opened for India before at the MCG in 2018 after their regular openers went into a rut.

“Sometimes you have to understand the team combination as well,” Vihari explained. “You can’t get disheartened by it. I understood as well when you are playing at home, we play 5 bowlers. It’s obvious that one batter has to miss out. So I took it in my stride. And I thought when I bat next for my team, I’ll just go out there and follow my process and not try too much or not try to prove anyone but do my basics right and stick to my processes.”

After this three-day practice match, India will play New Zealand for two Tests starting February 21. And, in how Vihari echoed Gill’s comments from yesterday, it’s clear they’re bracing up for a short-ball examination.

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