Murali Vijay: Super Sub

Murali Vijay was only 5 years old when Sachin Tendulkar made his international debut in 1989.

Today he took his place at The Little Master’s side to help India to a total of 435-5 at stumps on Day 3 against Australia at Bangalore.

As usual, the focus of the large crowd’s attention was Tendulkar’s faultless batting – he scored his 49th Test hundred and finished the day not out on 191 – but his partnership with his young apprentice added 308 runs for the 3rd wicket, and has made it very unlikely that India will lose this match.

The only times I have seen Murali Vijay bat in Tests he has been filling in for someone else. His first Test appearance was in November 2008, when Gautam Gambhir was banned for elbowing Shane Watson during the previous Test at Delhi. The debutant acquitted himself respectably, scoring 33 and 41 and, probably more importantly, running out Matthew Hayden when the god-bothering flat track bully was on 16.

Since then he has been in and out of the Indian team, called up to the ICC World Twenty20 squad in April to replace Sehwag who was suffering from a back injury. He has played 8 Tests including this one, and, until today, his highest score had been 87. Today he went one better, and despite suffering a couple of nerve-wracking moments – a run-out chance early on when a Nathan Hauritz throw missed the stumps, and an lbw shout off the bowling of Ben Hilfenhaus – he brought up his hundred with a scampered run and a celebratory leap. It was an innings of composure, elegance, superb driving and invaluable in the support it lent to his more illustrious partner at the other end.

The problem with being a substitute is that you will invariably be outshone by the established superstars that surround you. Today Murali Vijay made some progress in emerging from their extremely long shadows.

As a footnote, I was amused and exasperated to learn that since scoring that magnificent 139 (his innings ended with a tired swipe at a wide delivery from Johnson), Vijay has received “an official reprimand for breaching the ICC Code of Conduct and regulations governing clothing and equipment”. He apparently was displaying too many logos on his pads.

The laughable bit about all this was that the forbidden logos received a good long camera close-up while they were being covered up with tape yesterday during a break in play.

Only in cricket…

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