India batsman Vihari owes his success to 'curator' mother
mid-day pays a visit to G Hanuma Vihari's home on his 25th birthday and discovers what a key role the India batsman's mother Vijayalakshmi has played in his cricketing life
G Hanuma Vihari is spending his 25th birthday in 'almost' the best possible fashion — as a squad member of the Indian cricket team playing the West Indies — in the second Test here. Of course, the word 'almost' wouldn't have been used had the batsman been in the playing XI just like he was in the final Test against England at the Oval last month.
Not very far away from the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, the Vihari bungalow in Kowkur, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, is decorated with flowers. But that's for Navratri and not because of her son's birthday, the batsman's mother Vijayalakshmi clarifies.
G Hanuma Vihari's mother Vijayalakshmi at her H'bad residence on Saturday. Pic/Harit N Joshi
Small birthday party
He is scheduled to visit his family members later in the evening when his mother and close friends will gather for a short cake-cutting function before Vihari dashes back to the team hotel. "I follow and read a lot about cricket," Vijayalakshmi says as we gaze at Vihari's trophies and photographs that adorn the living room.
"As a child, he would watch matches on television with me. Playing with the colony boys, he would take diving catches on the road without any fear. That's when we thought he has the spark and should pursue the sport seriously."
Vihari's parents enrolled him in a cricket academy at Khamman district when he was eight. Vihari's father was an engineer with the Singareni Coal Mines company and had to shift base quite often. So, when the Viharis moved to Hyderabad, he got coached by Nagesh Hammond. The former Hyderabad cricketer then suggested that the kid, then 11, be sent to K John Manoj at the St Johns Cricket Academy. But six months into formal coaching, Vihari father's passed away.
Vihari washes his cricket whites as a kid
Vijayalakshmi had to make a big decision at this point: Take up the job offer with the company where her husband served or manage with Rs 22,000 as monthly pension. She chose the latter because it would help her focus better on Vihari's cricketing development. "He was equally good at academics and that is why he got a free seat at St Andrew's School. Had I taken up a job, I wouldn't have been able to focus on his cricket. We struggled a bit from 2005 to 2010 as we had to manage the house rent, education expenses of my daughter [who is elder to Vihari] and the household," Vijayalakshmi says.
Vihari's mother took a gamble after receiving a lump sum from her husband's company. "We received close to Rs 15 lakh. I decided to buy a plot [400 sqm yards] and prepared a cement wicket to provide extra practice for my son. I also purchased a bowling machine and would bowl to him in the nets," Vijayalakshmi recalls.
A young Vihari posing in a photo studio in Hyderabad. Pics/Hanuma Vihari's personal collection
All these steps were taken when Vihari was dropped from the U-13 state team. "I was worried because, if he didn't make the state team, we had no business in letting him play the sport. To make a comeback, he had to work hard and do something extra. So, with the help of a groundsman, I prepared the pitch," she says. Kit expenses were negated when he bagged an equipment and apparel contract with Nike at 16. "Cricket-wise we never had to spend a lot of money on Vihari. Everything just fell in place at the right time," his mother says.
Vijayalakshmi sold the plot as soon as her son made his first-class debut (against Jharkhand in 2010-11) since top-class facilities were now at his disposal. "I always knew my son was capable of playing for the country. There have been ups and downs, but we have remained positive. All he needed was support which I provided," she says.
It is this positivity that has worked wonders for Vihari.He scored 752 runs at 94.00 in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season. His triple-century for Andhra Pradesh against Odisha earned him big accolades and so did his 183 in the Irani Cup for Rest of India.
More recently, his inclusion in the playing XI at the Oval was criticised because there was a strong case for Karun Nair to come in. Vihari scored a half-century and made a good impression. He appears to be a silent achiever. Good days are as imminent as the rising sun. And there could well be another reason to decorate that quaint bungalow.
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