Vijay Shankar turned hero in India's second ODI against Australia as he successfully defended 11 runs in the final over of the Aussie chase to hand the "Men in Blue" an improbable victory. The win saw India take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Since the time of Kapil Dev, India has been searching for the next Kapil Dev but that kind of generational – perhaps lifetime – talent is hard to come by. The comparisons with the World Cup winning captain are bound to rage yet again but one must afford Vijay Shankar time and let him carve out his own niche on the international stage.
Born in Tamil Nadu, made in Ranji Trophy
Vijay Shankar was born on January 26, 1991, in the city of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. Vijay Shankar belongs to a cricketing family and his father had a makeshift net constructed on the terrace of their house. Here, Vijay and his elder brother used to hone their skills from a very young age.
Vijay made his List-A debut at the age of 21 against Andhra Pradesh in February 2012 but his first outing didn't go according to plan. But on his first-class debut for Tamil Nadu, he scored a half-century and picked up two wickets.
Vijay burst onto the scene only in the 2014-2015 season of the Ranji Trophy for his performances in the knockout stages of the tournament which propelled Tamil Nadu to a runner-up finish in the competition. In the quarterfinal and semifinal, he received the man of the match awards for his all-round performance.
Following a few more consistent performances in the domestic circuit and for the India A team, he earned his maiden India call-up.
Baptism by Nidahas Trophy and subsequent rise
Vijay Shankar's debut outing with India did not really go according to plan as he was largely considered a bowling all-rounder who can score quick runs. Basically, the team wanted him to be another Hardik Pandya, when he clearly someone else. The fact that he could not score quick runs in the Nidahas Trophy final made matters worse for him and he was subsequently dropped from the national team.
Vijay made his return to the India side by putting in consistent performances for the A team. On his comeback to the India side in the Australian tour, he was still looked at as a bowling all-rounder until the Indian batting collapsed against New Zealand in Wellington. Since then, Vijay has proved himself as a worthy batsman who can be selected solely for his batting skills in the Indian middle order. His recent score of 46 with the bat against Australia was proof to the pudding.
World Cup inclusion and possible starter
Vijay Shankar may have won the game for India in the last over but he is hardly the genuine all-rounder India is looking for at number 7. Vijay is a batsman who can bowl and is not someone the captain can rely on when he needs a wicket. But there is another place he fits in perfectly – the number 4 slot.
Ambati Rayudu has consistently failed to make his presence felt in that position despite the management's backing. His only notable contribution was in the fifth ODI against New Zealand where he scored 90 runs. Retiring from the domestic circuit hasn't helped either as Rayudu has no place to go back and get himself back among the runs.
Vijay, on the other hand, has shown that he is very comfortable against pace and is equally adept at rotating strike against spinners in the middle overs. He is exactly what Virat Kohli wants in a number 4 batsman and he is also capable of moving the innings along in a brisk pace. On the field, he is more dependable than Rayudu and when required he can chip in with the ball giving India a host of bowling options along with Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya.