Having played under his guidance and mentorship for India 'A', right-hand batsman Hanuma Vihari has revealed that speaking with the great Rahul Dravid, a night before receiving his debut cap at The Oval, helped him calm down significantly for the biggest occasion of his career.
While Vihari started off nervously during the little period at the end of Day 2, he played a very assured innings at the start of Day 3 and his knock of 56 and the 77-run partnership with Ravindra Jadeja helped India make a comeback in the game.
One of the features of Vihari's batting was his temperament at the crease and you can understand where that has been toughened up. Vihari has been part of 'A' setup for a while and it's a place where Rahul Dravid is shaping up, not just cricketers, but better human beings with his presence.
"I called him (Dravid) the day before and told him I was making my debut," revealed Vihari at the end of Day 3 in the press conference and added, "He spoke to me for a couple of minutes and it eased my nerves a little bit, because it’s coming from a legend and you know that you belong here. He just told me, 'You have the skill set, you have the mindset and the temperament, just go out there and enjoy yourself.'"
"I'd like to give him a lot of credit because my journey with India-A has been important in my coming here."
On understandably feeling nervous for his first International innings, Vihari said, "Initially, I felt the pressure, I was nervous. Nerves make you do unusual things. If I settle down nicely, I don't think any ball will cause me trouble.", and added, "On Saturday, I had problems facing the incoming delivery but Virat gave me some cues so that I could play it comfortably. But once I settled down, the wicket was good to bat on."
While Vihari averages 59 for over 5,000 first-class runs domestically, he has not played an IPL game since 2015. When asked how much has that helped him technically prepare for the realms of Test Cricket, Vihari quietly explained, "If I get picked in the IPL, I will definitely play, But my only route coming into the Indian team is grinding through the domestic circuit. I have to score big runs to be recognized."
"Also, I'm coming from Andhra. People don't recognize those states as much as the other states. So I try to get big scores, I try to bat patiently." he reiterated.
He also expressed how it felt to have batted alongside Indian Captain and of the world's best players, Virat Kohli, saying, “He (Kohli) also had a go at him(Ben Stokes, when Vihari hit Stokes for a six off his short ball) and that’s how the game is played nowadays; that's how Indian cricket is now,”
“Obviously if it gets personal then I might say something back. But as long as it’s healthy, then everyone likes to have some banter on the field. My style of play is to ignore that and focus on my own game.”
Rahul Dravid's contribution to Indian Cricket is immense and invaluable and we can see that in every Hanuma Vihari that his setup is helping prepare for the International game. A true legend of Indian Cricket, Rahul.
(Inputs from SPORTSTAR Live)