Vijay Shankar — living his father’s dream

‘The great guy’ who put behind him adversities with aplomb

Away from the chaos that’s part of every Indian metropolis resides Vijay Shankar, in a two-storey house in the suburbs of Chennai.

Krishnan, the owner of a juice shop across the road from Vijay’s house, describes him as “a great guy”. So do family, friends, coaches and school principal.

The principal at his first school, Modern Senior Secondary, K. Mohana, remembers Monday morning prayer assemblies (she was vice-principal then) when Vijay would invariably be present with awards and trophies after exploits over the weekend.

For the sake of cricket

It was around Class X that Vijay’s father, Shankar, asked him if he wanted to take up cricket seriously. He then switched from the Central Board of Secondary Education to a State board school, King’s Matriculation.

But regular cricket engagements meant maintaining required attendance became a problem. Vijay dropped out and gave his Class XII examinations via correspondence.

Shankar, meanwhile, provided his sons, Vijay and elder brother Ajay, with everything needed to pursue a cricketing career — move to a bigger house, space to put up nets and work out.

“Through school to college, we used to practise on his terrace,” said N.S. Chaturved, who plays Twenty20 cricket for Tamil Nadu.

Today Vijay is living his father’s dream.

Now a medium-pacer, Vijay switched from off-spin after the age of 22. S. Balaji, his personal coach, felt he could use his height and strength to add pace bowling to his arsenal.

There was a point in time during his Ranji days when Vijay feared he would lose his spot. He had made 190 runs in six innings during the 2014-15 season before the quarterfinal against Andhra.

Coach W.V. Raman pulled him aside for a quick chat in the lead-up to the game. Vijay values Raman’s backing in getting over his insecurities.

“He backed me at the right time and I delivered,” he says. Vijay scored 111 and 82 in the win over Andhra. He followed that up with a 91 in the semifinals and 103 in a losing cause in the final against Karnataka to finish as Tamil Nadu’s third highest run-scorer that season.

The 28-year-old has had many ups and downs in his career. His momentum in domestic cricket and India-A series were halted by what Vijay considers “freakish injuries.”

But none were as painful as the time when he had to undergo a knee surgery in 2016, which ruled him out of the India-A tour of Australia.

Vijay’s introduction to international cricket was a trial by fire.

Followers of the game will remember how he struggled to put bat to ball in the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh. Luckily for Team India, Dinesh Karthik’s late cameo saved the day.

But Vijay wasn’t too lucky. He was the subject of vitriol and jokes on social media. And it wasn’t just limited to the virtual world.

Hitting back

Vijay immediately put the disappointment behind. He scored 212 runs for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL that season before impressing on the ‘A’ tour of New Zealand in which he finished top-scorer.

His impressive run led to the call-up to the India side for the shorter formats on the tours of Australia and New Zealand.

For Vijay, who enjoys long drives, the journey has only begun.

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