Murali Vijay: The Monk who ̶s̶o̶l̶d̶ ̶ flaunted his Ferrari –

Murali Vijay was never content in life, his ambitions only grew taller. Ever since he left home at a very early age, cricket was always on his mind. Even his decision of retiring from all formats of the game in the country was taken with cricket in his mind.
Over the last two decades and more, Vijay has been on the journey to find himself and safe to say, he has found that and more since the journey began. From trading snooker table for the 22 yards of grass, from swapping the cue stick for a well-crafted piece of bat, the path he set on was more than fruitful.

Vijay was always a rebel, and for more reasons than one, he loved being that. But over the last decade, the perception around him has changed and the hype has all died down. 
As the proverbial phrase goes, “The streets will never forget Vijay, the opener,” for he is still hailed as one of the best from Tamil Nadu to have played the game.
The memories of the 38-year-old are vivid and vague. Vivid in terms of how he bailed India out on numerous occasions, vague in terms of how his journey panned out. It was a curious career, one that took off multiple times and when it landed, it was never presented an opportunity to return. 
So, for more reasons than one, his decision to retire seeking for greener pastures is truly justified. But where does Vijay, the opener, hold his place in Indian folklore?
To put it in simple terms, Murali Vijay had a lot of shots but it was that leave that was mighty effective. Vijay had many avatars but it was the Monk-one that stood the test of time. His patience might remind of you a monk but inside and out, the 38-year-old was a true Rockstar, who lived like one his whole life. 
And the quest for perfection kept him going and going.
At every phase of his life, he was in constant search for the ‘kick’, whether it was facing tougher bowlers, whether it was playing in tougher conditions, whether it was getting smacked on his head or whether it was being challenged by people way beyond his age-group, he always got a kick.

That was broadly visible even during his India days, he would often get a kick taking the spinners on with his feet. But amidst all of this, there was this Vijay, the opener, who was largely successful in leaving the ball. And at one point, he was amongst the most reliable batters in the country if not the most.
In between his debut (November 6, 2008) and his first real Indian run (January 24, 2010), there was 444 days where he had only played three Tests. The frustration can creep in but the resistance against that was brutal, just as his technique against the moving ball during his peak. 
Vijay’s Indian Test career had three phases – 2008-10, 2010-11 and 2013-18 – and across all of them, there was a journey that saw several ups and downs.
During his first phase (2008-10), Vijay played just the two Tests where he averaged 53.67, and struck at 63.1. In comparison, the two best openers in the country were Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir who averaged 87.64 and 58.53 respectively. There really wasn’t a place for Vijay back then.
When an opportunity presented itself, due to various reasons, from injuries and players missing, it was there for the Tamil Nadu batter to take with two hands. He didn’t take it then either, a phase which saw him score only 448 runs, with an average of 26.35 and a strike-rate of 44.8. It was a phase where he had the sixth-lowest average for any opener, and the others ahead of him were Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Imrul Kayes, Adrian Barath and Tim McIntosh.
It was a phase of self-seeking search for the right-hander, a process that has stuck with him ever since the start of his career. But he hadn’t found a way through, which sent him back to the domestic wilderness. What followed defines Vijay’s life: never give up.
The third life for Vijay was perhaps the most successful one. Perhaps the one that really has made him one of the most successful Indian openers, perhaps the phase that cemented his place amongst the greats in Indian cricket. It was his biggest virtue – leave – that really put him on the world map.

Most of his trademark knocks during his booming period was a result of the process that he had trusted, the process that saw patience, hard-work and endurance all combine each other excellently. Somewhere deep down your mind would try to make an excuse to not acknowledge his greatness, stating that these numbers might have come in home conditions.
But that’s where the sheer arrogance of the thoughts seemed to be in battle with the truth. What’s the truth? The truth is that Vijay was for a large chunk of two years, the third-best opener in Tests, with an average of 41.54 in SENA countries. The other Indian opener – Shikhar Dhawan – had an average of 29.
That was also the phase where no other opener in world cricket had faced more deliveries than the Tamil Nadu batter, and very often, the success of an Indian opener is defined by their performances in SENA countries.
"Patience is something that I have been working on. You need to bide your time at the crease and not be in a hurry. It is a five-day game and you want to tire the opposition out. So that has been my game-plan and this is what I have been working on all this while. Once you get set and the rhythm gets going, you enjoy in the middle,” Vijay had said during that phase of his career.

During that phase, Vijay had two centuries – 146 in Nottingham and 144 in Brisbane – and had three scores of 90s — 99 in Adelaide, 97 in Durban and 95 in London – which have all gone down in the history as a real life-saver for India.
2443 deliveries, that’s what the right-hander had faced during that period, mostly away from home and had a staggering control percentage of 86.2%, where he had left 34% of the deliveries. In that phase, only one batter had better batting numbers than Vijay – Virat Kohli – who himself had scored 1312 runs.
It is not just hard but impossible for anyone looking back at Indian cricket to forget his contribution at the top of the order, especially when the rest of the batting unit was seemingly walking on a thin shell.
Vijay’s success wasn’t down to just succeeding one conditions, his success wasn’t down to just the one shot but how he had timed his innings to perfection across different conditions. From the lateral movement in England, the swinging pearlers in New Zealand to the bouncing conditions in South Africa and the raw pace of Australia, he has seen it all, and on more occasions than not, conquered them as well.
“I am almost done with BCCI (smiles) and looking for opportunities abroad. I want to play little bit of competitive cricket,” Vijay told WV Raman on Wednesdays with WV, a weekly show on Sportstar.
61 Tests, 17 ODIs and just 9 T20Is later, Vijay has called it a time but isn’t moving away from the sport. If anything, he is only moving to a slightly off-beat chapter in his cricketing career, one where now he will play all over the world with the exception of India.
Vijay, the Monk, never sold his Ferrari and only flaunted it so much via skills during his playing days.
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