The Saturday Interview : With a batting style that combines disciplined defence and aggressive attack, cricketer Murali Vijay has made a mark in all three formats of the game. He says his life revolves around cricket
Considering we live in a cricket-obsessed country where most children start playing competitive cricket when they are barely an inch taller than the willow they wield, Murali Vijay had a late start — at He started when he was 17. “I was 23 when I got selected for Ranji matches. At 24, I made it to the Indian team for the India vs. Australia Border-Gavaskar Test series. I started late, but I guess I caught up on what I missed,” says Vijay. Given his batting style — a blend of disciplined defence and aggressive attack, Vijay is the man for all seasons. The second qualifying match in this year's IPL against Delhi Daredevils saw him unleash his range of belligerent shots. The supporters of the yellow jersey went berserk as Vijay tore through a hapless Delhi’s bowling attack. It helped him notch up a 51-ball century, the fastest in this edition of the IPL. He also became the only Indian to have scored two centuries in the IPL. After a short holiday, Vijay is back on the field practising for the league matches that start in July. Excerpts from an interview with the cricketer.
What was it like to play the first match for India?
A great honour. Everybody in the team spoke to me. Sachin told me this is an experience, so don’t think too much, just go out and enjoy your game. That’s what I did, and it’s something I cherish even now.
This year’s IPL proved to be a good tournament for you
In the initial stages of the tournament, I had a wrist injury. I was hitting the ball really hard. When I scored that 100 against Delhi Daredevils, I didn’t know I was the only Indian to have scored two centuries in the IPL. After my innings, people told me about it and it felt special. I dedicate it to my mom because she is my inspiration. I just believed in myself, and if I am feeling good I do well.
Having played in all three formats of the game, which is your favourite?
The IPL format is interesting. But Test match is the ultimate. I believe if I do well in Test matches I can do well in other two formats as well. Test matches really test your skills.
Do you think the popularity of Test matches will gradually fade away given the large crowd the shorter formats of the game gets?
Test cricket is something that can never be outdated and true lovers of the game will agree with that. This format is still very much loved and it was evident from the full house at the India-Australia match in Bengaluru.
Do you think the spate of controversies that cropped up during the recent IPL can mar the future editions?
People love gossip. It is sad to see that sometimes controversies get more attention than good performances in the game. Chris Gayle’s century that inspired me to play well was unfortunately forgotten the next day because people were more interested in talking about the pub brawl. But cricketers are not bogged down by these things. We continue giving our best and playing the game. In every field there are people who make mistakes and it is important to learn from mistakes. Moreover, the IPL is a fantastic platform for young players to prove their talent.
What do you think of players using foul language / gestures on the field?
While playing the sport, some of us tend to be a little too expressive or vocal about our feelings. I believe when you are in a spot of bother because of the opponent team, the best way to prove a point is by scoring runs and not swearing.
You have been a constant in the CSK team in the last four editions. In these days of cut-throat competition in cricket and with so much talent in the team, how does one manage to stay on in the team?
I like competition. Challenges such as these make me give my best. When you perform at your best, the others keep you as the benchmark.
What do you do when you are not playing cricket?
I play a decent bit of snooker; eat food made by my mother. I love travelling and exploring new cultures.
What would you have become if not a cricketer?
I didn’t have a second option. My life revolves around cricket. Maybe I would have entered the fashion world (laughs).