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KT Exclusive: Why Hanuma Vihari could be the next VVS Laxman

Coach John Manoj with Indian batsman Hanuma Vihari. (Supplied photo)
Coach John Manoj with Indian batsman Hanuma Vihari. (Supplied photo)

Dubai - It’s Vihari’s indomitable spirit that Indian captain Virat Kohli admires


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 12 Jan 2021, 7:56 PM

Hanuma Vihari’s pain-defying resistance against a hostile Australian attack in the gripping finale of the third Test has now become a part of the Indian cricket folklore.

But John Manoj, Hyderabad’s revered cricket coach who counts VVS Laxman among his former pupils, reveals Vihari has been battling pain and performing miracles since the age of 12.

When Manoj tells you of pain, it’s not the pain of the physical kind — like the injured hamstring that made Vihari (23 not out off 161 balls) limp for three hours at the Sydney Cricket Ground when he painstakingly blocked every Australian attack with the support of an inspired Ravichandran Ashwin (39not out off 128 balls) at the other end.

“What Hanuma has done today hasn’t surprised me because when he was 12, he lost his father. Then three days after his father’s death, Hanuma turned up for the final of a junior championship and made 80 odd runs to win the trophy for his team,” Manoj told Khaleej Times over phone from Hyderabad.

But there were those who believed Vihari stayed back at the Sydney wicket after pulling his hamstring not just for the sake of his team.

Having made just 49 runs in four innings against Australia, it was natural for some people to assume that he was fighting for his place in the team.

But Manoj says Vihari is a selfless man who has a habit of making sacrifices for the teams he plays in.

“I remember his double hundred in Ranji Trophy against Himachal (in 2015). It was one of the best knocks I have seen him play. In that match, he was the captain, but he decided to keep wickets as well because we had to accommodate Pragyan Ojha (former India left-arm spinner) in the team,” Manoj recalled.

“After keeping wickets for two days, Hanuma came out to bat at number three and scored a brilliant 263. As a captain and leader of the team, what he did was outstanding. He is a selfless cricketer who is always ready to make sacrifices for his team.”

And it’s Vihari’s indomitable spirit that Indian captain Virat Kohli admires.

And it’s the spirit that Manoj’s famous former pupil, Laxman, displayed a myriad times in his career, conjuring epic match-winning knocks against all odds.

“Kohli has been one of Hanuma’s biggest supporters because he loves his fighting spirit. He is very much like Laxman, he plays so well when the chips are down. Whenever the team is in trouble, he is there to bail the team out. He has always had those fighting qualities,” Manoj said.

Now Vihari, who has been ruled out of the fourth Test, is unlikely to be fit for the England Test series next month at home.

But Manoj remains confident that the 27-year-old batsman, who has played 11 of his 12 Tests abroad, would soon become one of the pillars of the Indian Test team.

“I am sure he will get the big runs soon. Once you play in India, it’s very easy to score runs. When he had a full series in the West Indies, he had a 100 and 90. In New Zealand also, he scored a brilliant 60,” Manoj said.

“And today (Monday) he showed what he is capable of when he batted on one leg!”

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