Hanuma Vihari quits Andhra captaincy, wants to fully focus on batting | Crickit
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Hanuma Vihari quits Andhra captaincy, wants to fully focus on batting

By, Mumbai
Jan 11, 2024 10:16 PM IST

The 30-year-old hasn't played for India since July 2022.

It’s rare for a captain to step down immediately after his team puts up an impressive performance, hence it must have come as a surprise for the Andhra players when their long-time skipper Hanuma Vihari decided to relinquish captaincy a day ahead of their Ranji Trophy game against hosts Mumbai.

Hanuma Vihari wants to move on from captaincy(Getty) PREMIUM
Hanuma Vihari wants to move on from captaincy(Getty)

In their tournament opener against Bengal, Vihari led the side well as Andhra grabbed the first-innings lead by making 445 in response to the opposition's 409. He is also the team’s main player with 8,854 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 52.70 with 23 hundreds.

In an attempt to make a comeback to the national side, he wants to fully focus on his batting and make a strong case for selection. Relinquishing captaincy is part of the plan to channel all his energy into run-making, leaving the job to Ricky Bhui, who smashed 175 against Bengal.

“He (Vihari) has stepped down due to personal reasons. He wanted to focus on his batting more," Bhui said.

Earmarked as the successor to Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 3 in the Indian Test batting line-up at one stage, Vihari was given chances by the team management but couldn’t take that big step and cement his spot. It was not about any technical shortcoming. The issue was his inability to convert starts into big scores and anchor the innings. At the start of 2022, after a tough unbeaten 40 against South Africa at Johannesburg, he got 58, 31 and 35 in two home Tests against Sri Lanka. He was also picked for the Test against England at Edgbaston in July 2022, but scores of 20 and 11 mean he hasn't played for India since. The hundred against West Indies at Sabina Park, Jamaica, remains his only three-figure score. The 30-year-old's international career is stuck at 16 Tests (839 runs at an average of 33.56).

The Andhra stalwart has had his struggles even in domestic cricket recently. In the 2022-23 Ranji season, he didn’t get a century in 14 innings (490 runs at an average of 35). The jinx has continued in the current season after he got out for 51 in the Ranji opener against Bengal.

The new Andhra captain, Bhui, expressed confidence that Vihari is one big knock away from regaining his batting rhythm. About Vihari's conversion rate being an issue, Bhui said: “The last season we played on difficult pitches — our home wickets were seaming — but this time we have good spinners so we made sure we play on different surfaces and batters also get good amount of runs. He (Vihari) got a good start in the last game also but couldn’t continue. We know he is capable of getting big hundreds, it is a matter of one knock (before) he gets his confidence back of getting big hundreds. I am sure he will come back to that rhythm.”

India's below-par batting show in the recent Tests in South Africa means that some positions in the line-up are still up for grabs as the youngsters picked failed to convince. Along with Vihari, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara are also eyeing a good season to stay relevant. The Ranji fixture beginning on Friday will see a straight fight between Vihari and Rahane, who is back as Mumbai captain after missing the first game due to neck stiffness.

Rahane is an example of how runs in the Ranji Trophy still matter after he earned a recall to the Test team on the back of a good run in 2022-23. He made 634 runs in 11 innings at an average of 57.64, including two centuries.

Saurashtra’s Pujara has started with a bang by getting an unbeaten double hundred against Jharkhand.

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