Middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari played a key role in India’s historic Test series victory Down Under as he batted for four hours despite struggling with hamstring tear in the drawn third Test at SCG.
While chasing 407 in the fourth innings in Sydney, Team India had 8 wickets in hand when they came out to bat on Day 5. Despite losing skipper Ajinkya Rahane early, the visitors continued their fight as the duo of Cheteshwar Pujara (77 off 205 balls) Rishabh Pant (97 off 118 balls) shared a 148-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Although India lost both of them in the second session, Vihari (23* off 161 balls) and R Ashwin (39* off 128 balls) showed immense grit and determination to deny Australia a likely victory. The pair lasted 258 balls before both sides decided to shake hands with the tourists scoring 334/5 from 131 overs in the second essay.
Reflecting on the third Test, Vihari said win was not a possibility once Pant and Pujara got dismissed.
"If you look at the first session and most part of the second session, we were looking good for a win. The way Rishabh [Pant] and [Cheteshwar] Pujara played. To be honest, once they got out, I don't think a win was a possibility. Even before my injury, Ash [R Ashwin] was struggling with his back, [Ravindra] Jadeja could have played only a few overs if needed. The draw came in when we knew that Ash couldn't run, and then when my hamstring injury happened. We knew we just had to bat out time. And it is not an easy task [for one partnership] to bat out 43 overs. Australia, day five, against that attack," ESPNCricinfo quoted Vihari as saying.
"We batted one ball at a time, one over at a time, me and Ash. We had a conversation every over about what we needed to do. The strategy also helped. We got messages from outside but we had already decided that he was going to face [Nathan] Lyon and I would face the fast bowlers. One he was batting well against Lyon and also I couldn't stretch against the spinner with my hamstring. It panned out well. He was facing Lyon with ease on a day-five pitch, and I was pretty comfortable against the fast bowlers," he added.
Due to the hamstring injury, Vihari missed the fourth Test at Gabba, where India defeated Australia by 3 wickets to clinch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1.
"Two feelings came to mind. One was pain, the other was relief. The pain was there and sigh of relief that I could do the job for the team. It was a sweet pain. The pain was all worth it at the end of the day. If I hadn't been able to save the match, it would have hurt more. But because we saved the Test, the pain was not so painful," said Vihari.
"I hardly had any sleep. Again, with pain. One thing was pain and the other thing was I was happy and overwhelmed with the respect and love I got on the internet, in the messages I got. I think I slept for one hour and got up again at 6 in the morning. That is the kind of feeling I got. I would say for all the years of hard work I had done in first-class cricket, where there are no people watching you play and you have to go through the grind and struggle and to have 1.3 billion watching back home and all the people in the world watching you save a Test match... That was the thought that came into my mind. Real satisfaction of going through the grind in the first-class arena and then achieving this, the satisfaction was really amazing," he added.
It was a remarkable effort from Team India considering the fact that they were bowled out for 36 in the first Test at the Adelaide Oval.
When asked about the Adelaide debacle, Vihari said: "After the Adelaide Test, you won't believe, we as a team we never spoke about the game. We only felt that it has never happened before, I don't think it will ever happen again. It was a freak inning. So let's move on and let's look at it as a three-Test series from Melbourne. Now if you look at it, we have won the series 2-0. The Indian team, the character, and the fight we show, we leave everything on the ground. That's the hallmark of the Indian team. That's exactly how we played."
(With ANI inputs)