Hanuma Vihari is not like the typical Indian international cricketer of today: his lean arms have no tattoos and he wears his hair in a simple, no-nonsense way.
However, as the 25-year-old showed on the second day of the Kingston Test against West Indies, he belongs in the No.1 Test side in the world, with or without tattoos. Going into the day with an overnight score of 42*, the right-hander exhibited maturity and class to take India past 400 with his maiden international century.
With his 225-ball 111 at Sabina Park on Saturday, August 31, Vihari took an important step towards cementing his place in the Indian middle-order. He came in at 164/4 on the first day, and was the final wicket to fall on the second, having guided the visitors to 416.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) August 31, 2019
Vihari also batted well with the lower order, adding 112 runs for the eighth wicket with Ishant Sharma, who notched up his maiden fifty in Test cricket. “Happy that I got a century and credit should go to Ishant,” Vihari said after the day’s play. “He looked more like a batsman today than me. The way he was going, we kept discussing what the bowler was doing, and his experience really helped.”
While a maiden international ton is always special for a cricketer, it was also an emotional milestone for Vihari. “Really happy that I was able to get my first ton,” he said. “It was challenging and I am really happy. My dad passed away when I was 12. So I had decided when I get my first international century, I want to dedicate it to him. Today is an emotional day and I hope he’s proud.”
The rise to international cricket has not been easy for Vihari. Despite churning out runs in Bradmanesque fashion in domestic cricket, Vihari had to wait for his national call-up. He was also let go by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, before being selected by Delhi Capitals four years later. Despite being under the shadow of Prithvi Shaw’s brilliance, Vihari rose steadily and had racked up 15 centuries and 24 half-centuries in just 63 first-class games before his maiden India call-up.
— BCCI (@BCCI) August 31, 2019
His introduction to international cricket hasn’t been easy either. Unlike Shaw, who made his debut against West Indies at home, Vihari was thrown into the mix during India’s high-intensity tour of England last year. He responded with an impressive fifty on debut, and was selected for the Border-Gavaskar trophy in Australia later that year.
However, he struggled to get going Down Under, before getting a patient 42 in the fourth Test in Sydney. After a gap of almost seven months, Vihari returned to international cricket in the West Indies series, where he is now the leading run-scorer with 236 runs at 78.66.
“It’s been challenging because all my Tests have been away,” he said. “I am the sort of person who relishes challenges. Playing away is a tough challenge and I want to do it for my team. I am happy that I am going in the right direction.
“I knew they will come hard in the first session because that was their best chance to get us out. They did get an early wicket, but I just wanted to bat patiently.”