Mumbai: Hanuma Vihari's animated celebration clearly reflected his delight as he steered the ball off the leg side and sprinted towards the non-striker's end to bring up his maiden Test ton against the West Indies. An elated Team India along with skipper Kohli lauded Vihari's triumph as he thumped his fist in the air, looked up to the sky and thanked the almighty for his century.
Vihari's ton helped him become the first Indian batsman since Sachin Tendulkar in 1990 to score a century and a fifty in the same Test while batting at No. 6 or lower.
Before bursting on the international stage, Vihari had 18 first-class tons in his arsenal along with a triple century against Odisha in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy. However, Vihari was aware of the fact that he needed to deliver consistent performances to break into the national side.
The 25-year-old felt jubilant after bringing up his maiden Test ton, especially since he had missed that goal by seven runs in the first Test.
What was going through your mind when you missed the ton in the first Test?
It was obviously a disappointing moment for me. It was hurting but I was happy with my contribution. I also felt it was the start of something big in my career and it was a surreal feeling when I scored my maiden ton in the next match.
Do you feel that your entry on the international stage was a bit late?
India is doing quite well in Test cricket as well as limited-over cricket. Hence, it's not easy to get into the No. 1 side in the world. But whenever the opportunity knocks on the door, I'm ready to show my calibre.
I was never really worried about not being selected despite scoring runs in first-class cricket. That's something which is not in my control. Hence, getting runs for my team --whether it was Andhra cricket team or India A -- was my sole focus at that period of time.
I always aspired to break into the Indian team but knew that I had to deliver consistent performances in domestic cricket to get into the national side.
What do you think of the No. 4 conundrum which has been haunting the Indian team for quite a while? Are you ready to bat up the order?
I will never say no to what the team requires me to do. I won't be reluctant if the team wants me to bat up the order instead of taking the guard at No. 6. I am also inclined to bat at the No. 4 position if the team needs me to do so.
My primary role is batting and that's what I am known for. But I also want to contribute with the ball by taking wickets at crucial intervals in the game. So, I'll be focusing to enhance my bowling as well.
How has your journey been with the Andhra Cricket Association?
It was a brave decision when I changed sides from Hyderabad to Andhra. But the support I got from the Andhra Cricket Association was phenomenal as I was immediately offered the captaincy role. Hence, a lot of credit should go to the Andhra Cricket Association for making me comfortable in a different environment.
How was the feeling when you were touted as the next VVS Laxman?
People tend to get into comparisons and you can't really stop that. But I'll be beaming even if I play half the matches as VVS and achieve what he has at the international level. It's a great compliment for me to be compared with such a player but there's still a long way to go.
Who was your role model while growing up?
My role model while growing up was Sachin Tendulkar. Most kids during the 90s era started playing cricket by watching Tendulkar's batting. I was quite ecstatic when he lauded my maturity when I scored my maiden ton against Windies.
Do you plan to develop your forte only in Test cricket or you plan to cement your place in the ODI and T20I side as well?
I want to play all formats of the game but I can only do things which are under my control. My objective is also to break into the ODI and T20I sides. Test cricket challenges you but limited-over cricket compels you to mould your game according to the situation.
My batting technique has not gone through any major changes over the years but adding minor tactical changes according to the opposition certainly helps to elevate your game.
What are your long term objectives?
I'm a guy who lives in the moment. So, I haven't thought about any long term objectives yet. I'm just preparing for the upcoming series and will deliver my best while taking one step at a time.
I will start preparations for the South Africa series in a couple of days and I'm quite excited. I am looking forward to playing in Vizag as that's my home ground. I'm planning to go to NCA in a couple of days and I'm excited to meet Rahul Dravid if he's present there.
How was your experience batting with Ajinkya Rahane and stitching up a crucial partnership with him against West Indies?
Ajinkya Rahane has got that sublime touch and it's a pleasure to watch him bat from the non-striker's end. He was also in good flair in the Caribbean and it was quite interesting to build a crucial partnership with him against West Indies. We both have good chemistry and understanding with each other. I'm sure we can build good partnerships in future too.
How has the support been from your family? Has 'lady luck' visited you?
It's always great to have the support of my two driving forces -- my mother and my wife. It was my first tour after my marriage and you can say that lady luck smiled on me. But as I said, it's just the beginning and I plan to go a long way in my career.
How was it sharing the dressing room and playing under Virat Kohli?
Kohli as a skipper is quite supportive. He always backs youngsters in the team. Every youngster's desire is to get such backing from the skipper in the initial days of his career. I'm very happy that Kohli is quite efficient in doing that....