Nagpur: In-form opener Murali Vijay feels the intense pressure put on the visiting South African batsmen by India's spin bowlers has paved the way for the home team's domination of the four-match Test series so far.
"To be honest, the pressure we have put on the batsman, it was incredible to watch from close-in. It is a cat mouse game, everybody trying to come one up and the bowler trying to come up on the batsman and it has been going well for us," Vijay told reporters at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha on Monday ahead of the third match of the four-Test rubber commencing on November 25.
"It is the pure pressure we put on them and obviously the same vice-versa. When we go out to bat we have our plans and they are also putting immense pressure. So it is a good contest to be part of," the opener remarked further about the series in which India are 1-0 up after winning the opener at Mohali that was followed by the rain-hit, drawn second game at Bengaluru.
The Proteas' batting line-up folded up for scores of 184 and 109 at Mohali, which India won by 109 runs, and 214 in the first innings of the Bengaluru Test to which the hosts replied with 80 for no loss on day one after which no play was possible because of rain and wet ground.
The visitors collapsed in a heap against the home team's triple spin attack in the two innings at Mohali and were equally clueless in Bengaluru too - barring AB de Villiers - against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja (Amit Mishra was left out) in the only completed innings.
Vijay said the team's confidence was high after the good show so far and did not thought the Mohali batting show, when they were shot out for 201 and 200, was a cause for worry.
"The confidence is really high as for now because we had a good game and the first day was in our favour. I don't know the batting is a worry for us because everybody is one match away from a big knock and this match may be the one."
He was modest about his own form that has seen him score 75, 47 and 28 not out in conditions that have helped spinners.
"I am trying to play my best and put the Indian team in a good position and so far so good, it has been coming out well for me. I am a good state in a mind and that is more important for me at the moment," said Vijay, who made his debut at this venue in 2008 against Australia.
Recalling that game, the Tamil Nadu batsman said it gives him a good feeling to be back at this ground where he opened with Virender Sehwag.
"This ground means a lot to me because I made my debut here. It is a special feeling to come to this dressing room. It is always nice to come here."
Vijay said while it may be too early to assess his own recent performance, he has benefited from being a regular part of the Test team.
"I think it's too early to answer that question because I have a lot of seasons to go. I prepare my game for all the three formats of the game but at the moment I am fitting into the Test team, so obviously I am working hard. My aim is to keep improving every session and add value to the team.
At the moment I am the right space and as I told you for the past two years I have been travelling around and got good experience of how you got to organise yourself out in the middle, so a lot of learning happened," he said.
Asked about opening with a flamboyant batsman like Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay said he has a good rapport with all the top order batsmen through playing in domestic cricket.
"All of us in the top 5, I have a good rapport with everyone because we have played the domestics together. It has been good but as I told you before it is just a knock away for Shikhar to get the big one and for everybody it is the same. We are working as a pack so obviously our goal is to the win the game and put the team in a better position when we go in to bat. That is our criteria at the moment."
Vijay said he could not talk about the pitch prepared for the match, which according to reports is dry and would aid spin, as he had come directly to the media briefing without going to the ground.
"I straightaway came to the press conference and didn't go to the ground. Hopefully it should be a good, sporting wicket."
On Jadeja's fine comeback after being left out, Vijay said he was an asset to the team with his all-round abilities. "He is a great asset to the team because he can bowl, he can field well and he is a good batsman at that slot and he has done really well for himself after coming back."
The Test opener said he was not affected too much either by criticism or praise.
"It is the way you take things. People are always going to talk, whether you perform or not. It is a very individual oriented thing. Actually I like to be criticised because I can get good points out of it, maybe I can work on it. At times it helps, so I don't give too much thought about criticism or praise. It should be balanced I think."
While agreeing that a big crowd support was welcome, he said the players don't have time to think about this aspect.
"If you get into a game with this intensity you don't really think about the crowd because already there are a lot of things to think about. But it will be adding value if lot of people turn up at the ground and support us and it will be great fun."
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