Hyderabad is on the roll; Siraj and Vihari are in the Indian Test team

With the onset of December, a slight winter chill has arrived in Hyderabad. But the national selectors of the Indian cricket team have brought warmth to the hearts of all the city’s cricket lovers by picking two players from Hyderabad in the Test team which is to tour South Africa soon. After many years, two Hyderabadis will be seen together in the Indian squad. The players are fast bowler Mohammed Siraj and batter Hanuma Vihari.

Yesterday the All-India Senior Selection Committee picked an 18-member squad for the upcoming three match Test series against South Africa starting from 26th of December. The Test series will form a part of the new cycle of the ICC World Test Championship. The first Test will be held between December 26 and 30 at the Supersports Park Centurion ground, the second Test from January 3 to 7, 2022 at the Wanderers ground, Johannesburg and the third Test from Jan 11 to 15 at New Lands, Cape Town.

While Siraj’s selection this time was almost certain because he has proven himself whenever he has been given a chance, Vihari’s earlier exclusion despite good performances had left his fans disappointed. But now that he has been picked again, it is an encouraging development and it will give him a chance to cement his place in the Indian squad. Also young players of Hyderabad will feel encouraged to strive for excellence.

It was Vihari’s hard work and determination that has brought him this success. Despite being a prominent player in the longer format, Vihari was surprisingly dropped. But after his recent good showing for India (A) team against South Africa (A), he could no longer be ignored. On the fast South African tracks Vihari was rarely in trouble and he played the host team’s fast bowlers with confidence. This factor counted when the selectors sat down to pick the team.

Vihari’s first coach Noel Carr, speaking to siasat.com, said:  “I am absolutely delighted that both Siraj and Vihari are in the squad for the South Africa tour. Plus there are two more, namely T. Dilip, who is the fielding coach and Girish who will be the manager. They too are from Hyderabad. So it is great news for all of us,” said Noel.

“I was Vihari’s first coach during his Under-14 stage at St. Andrews School. In fact Vihari was training at Nagesh Hammand’s camp. But Nagesh closed the camp and asked me to take care of Vihari. That is how Vihari joined St. Andrews and then St. John’s Cricket Academy,” explained Noel.

“When he first came to St. John’s Academy, there was a coach who said Vihari is not good enough. I don’t want to name the person but he knows by now that he was totally incorrect. One day John Manoj asked me to watch Vihari in action. After I had seen him playing just two balls, I realised his potential. I told John, let us develop this boy. The rest, as they say, is history,” said Noel Carr.

John Manoj, Vice President of the Hyderabad Cricket Association was also delighted at the turn of events. “Vihari should have been included in the home series against New Zealand. He has proved himself at home as well as abroad and perhaps at last the selectors have realised his true worth. We trained him at the St. John’s Academy and we want him to be another V.V.S. Laxman. I am glad that he accepted our suggestion and came back to represent Hyderabad,” said John to siasat.com.

“This is only the beginning. You will soon see more Hyderabad players reaching the top. I have great hopes for Tilak Varma. He is an outstanding player and has a bright future. Tanmay Agarwal, Milind, Ravi Kiran and others also have tremendous talent. But the IPL franchisees have to give some opportunity to the young players. It is the IPL which provides the biggest platform nowadays for young players,” said John Manoj.

So if all goes well, the year 2022 may turn out to be a good one for Hyderabad cricket. A revival of sorts seems to be in sight. Much will depend upon Siraj and Vihari to show the world what players of Hyderabad are capable of doing. If Siraj puts his name in the record books and if Vihari scores a century or two, it will rejuvenate Hyderabad cricket and set it on track for bigger achievements in the months to come.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects

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