Murali Vijay's astonishing onslaught at Chepauk on Wednesday was underlined by methods that were largely correct. He hit through the line of deliveries around the off-stump, ruthlessly put away balls on the leg-stump past the on-side fence, hooked and pulled the short-pitched ones and used his feet to shorten the length.
There was no hint of slog. Picking the length in a jiffy, Vijay was ready with his response; this was precisely why he possessed plenty of time to play his strokes.
Royal Challenger Bangalore's vaunted attack was ripped apart by a high-quality batting display.
During his 39-ball 78, the 26-year-old Vijay also demonstrated his ability to adapt to the different formats. In Test cricket, Vijay is an opener from the classical school. Importantly, he can play and leave in the corridor and sway away from the line of the short-pitched deliveries with his eye never leaving the ball. Both these attributes are high on the scale of difficulty.
In the Twenty20 arena, he eased into drives that sped through the gaps on either side, dumped the ball into the stands and unleashed the horizontal bat shots when the paceman bounced at him. His bat-speed was exceptional.
The strength of his batting lies in his balance — off either foot — and a back-swing that is straight and crisp. Resultantly, he often presents the full face of the bat to the ball; a critical element in his success.
“I am not exaggerating, but the manner in which he bats reminds me of Mark Waugh. The ease with which he plays is stunning really. He is graceful and elegant and does not get desperate even in Twenty20 cricket. We have seen a lot of batsmen trying something fancy after conceding two dot balls. It's not so with Vijay,” says former Indian video analyst S. Ramakrishnan.
Indeed, Vijay has stayed calm without compromising on his levels of intensity. He has also worked on a chink in his game.
He did have a tendency to get squared-up occasionally, particularly to deliveries around his middle and leg stump and spinning into him — Vijay had been troubled by off-spinners bowling at him from round-the-wicket. He was attempting to whip the ball away with his powerful wrists or muscle it than getting his body into proper alignment.
Now, his left shoulder is leading the way and he has been gloriously still-headed when venturing into his strokes. Even while clearing the field, he has been in control.
In the earlier IPL matches this season, Vijay veered away from the basics and got out attempting to strike across the line. He has now realised the value of playing his natural game.
And the man who has a wonderful sense of timing has timed his performances for CSK when the side needed them the most. The think-tank, on its part, deserves credit for giving Vijay another run at the top of the order. A settled opening pair often holds the key to success.