Hyderabad: An affectionate hug from his mother, sister and coach; a bright boquet to celebrate his batsmanship and several roses to collect as he made his way out under an arch of bats held up by budding cricketers at the Hyderabad airport. Gade Hanuma Vihari has arrived indeed.
“To come home to a warm welcome is such a pleasure. It was a sweet gesture from the camp,” he told this newspaper on Friday. Having contributed considerably with both bat and ball in India’s last Test against England in the just-concluded series, the world’s latest Test cricketer is relishing his decent debut. Not many get 56 runs against the odds and pick three wickets in their first big match. “Making your debut in England is quite a feeling. It was a good experience, I learnt a lot on the tour,” Vihari said.
“It was very satisfying. I knew I could play a big innings once I got set but unfortunately I was out after making 56 — it was disappointing,” the 24-year-old said.
He could not repeat the feat in the second innings though, and was out without scoring. That would’ve been the case in the first too had it not been for a quick review after the umpire ruled him out leg before. “I knew I was not out — the ball had hit too high on my pad. I was jittery, but settled down gradually and it helped that captain Virat Kohli was at the other end of the pitch,” he explains.
“Kohli told me how international cricket is like and was very encouraging during our partnership of 51 for the fifth wicket,” he adds. Vihari did well with the ball too, in the second innings. Bowling his off-spinners, the part-time bowler got rid of England’s entrenched centurions Joe Root (125) and Alastair Cook (147) — who had put on a mammoth stand of 259 for the third wicket — in successive deliveries.
Later, he picked the promising Sam Curran to finish with an impressive 3 for 37. “I knew I would get to bowl at some stage because that was the plan since we were playing only four regular bowlers. I was prepared for it... actually getting Cook in his farewell Test was surreal, so was taking three wickets in my first game,” he gushed.
The big names have commended his craft. “(VVS) Laxman called today morning and told me I had done well. Rahul Dravid sent me a text complimenting me. All my teammates also appreciated the way I played in the first innings. It felt so good,” Vihari said.
Having fielding coach R. Sridhar in the side was beneficial too. “He is someone I have been very comfortable with (Sridhar was one of his coaches during his junior days at the St John’s Sports Coaching Foundation in Marredpally, Secunderabad). I have known him for a long time and him being around definitely calmed my nerves a lot. Big games do have a mental effect on you,” he says.
Now, his mind is sharper. “I am focussing on the Vijay Hazare (national limited overs tournament). I don’t want to look too far ahead but concentrate on the games I am playing and keep improving by the day,” he says.