A bundle of nerves ahead of his Test debut, Hanuma Vihari said a phone call to former Indian captain Rahul Dravid put his mind at ease and helped him get the maiden fifty that rescued India from a difficult situation against England.
Vihari scored 56 and put on a vital 77-run partnership with Ravindra Jadeja (86 not out) to help India post 292 in their first innings on Sunday. England finished the day with a lead of 154 runs. The home team has an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
“I called him the day before I made my debut. He spoke to me for a couple of minutes and I thought it eased my nerves a little bit. He is a legend of the game; and his inputs especially in the batting department (helped me),” Vihari said Sunday of the influence of the former captain, who is currently the India A coach.
“He just told me 'you have the skill set; you have the mind set and the temperament, just go out there and enjoy yourself'...I would like to give him a lot of credit because my journey with India A was very important for me to come here, his inputs made me a better player.”
Vihari said that he was nervous while facing James Anderson and Stuart Broad in his maiden innings.
“Initially I felt the pressure to be honest...But once I got myself in, it eased my nerves and it was an important partnership between Jadeja and me,” he said.
“They are world-class bowlers. They have 990-odd wickets between them. Going out to bat, I just wanted to be positive in my intent. Especially when Virat is there, you just have to be there with him, rotate the strike and try to build a partnership.
Vihari also credited skipper Virat Kohli for guiding him in his Test debut.
“...having Virat at the other made my job a little easier I guess. His inputs helped me initially. He gave me some cues so that I could play it comfortably,” he said.
“I will give a lot of credit to him for helping me out initially. But once I settled down, the wicket was very good to bat on especially with the medium pacers it got a lot slower yesterday,” he added.
After passing the Anderson-Broad examination, Ben Stokes launched a verbal volley at Vihari after he hit the bowler for a six. The debutant said he tried to ignore it and Kohli's intervention helped.
“Just tried to focus on my own game. He (Kohli) also had a go at him and that's how the game is played nowadays; that's how Indian cricket is now. But my aggression is something, which I want to do with the bat,” Vihari said.
“Obviously if it gets personal then I might say something back. But as long as it's healthy then everyone likes to have some banter on the cricket field,” he said.
Vihari said that he found out about his selection in the team a day before the final Test.
“Obviously, I was very thrilled. Because that was my dream, growing up playing cricket. I first informed my family about it and they were very happy as well.
“It's just the start. I know I have to do a lot of things to cement my place in the Indian team, which I definitely want to do. Getting a 50 on debut is just the start. Going forward, scoring a lot of runs for India is my main goal.”
The 24-year-old, who has played in the IPL for two seasons in 2013 and 2015 but didn't find a team since, said he would like to be a part of the league if opportunity arises in the future.
“Not playing IPL is definitely not an option for me. If I get picked in the IPL, I will definitely play. But my only route coming into the Indian team is grinding through the domestic circuit. I have to score big runs to be recognised,” he said.
Vihari said his stint with Andhra Pradesh in domestic cricket prepared him for tough situations.
“Also, I'm coming from Andhra. People don't recognise those states as much as the other states. So, in domestic cricket I try to get big scores, When you play for a smaller state, if you are the main batsman you have to take a lot of responsibility,” he said.
“You face a lot of tough situations. So if you look at this match―I had a lot of experience (playing in this sort of situation). When I played for India-A, too, I faced a lot of tough situations. I got used to those situations and I could handle them comfortably today,” Vihari said.