Not looking at any competition with Pandya: All-rounder Vijay
Kolkata : Having made it to the Indian squad, batting all-rounder Vijay Shankar is not in any way losing his sleep thinking about a certain Hardik Pandya and possible comparisons and competition with the in-form cricketer as he prepares to join the Indian team for the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur.
"Pandya has done well so far and his rise has been amazing. I am not thinking about any sort of competition. It's not about competing with anyone but improving on a personal front and trying to cement a place in the starting XI," Vijay told IANS in a telephonic interview.
After opener Shikhar Dhawan and pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar were released from the Indian squad the same night they drew the first Test here at the Eden Gardens, Vijay, a right-handed middle-order bat who bowls medium pace, was called up as a replacement.
Like every aspirant, Vijay wants to make the most of this opportunity to break into the Indian team.
But all-rounder Pandya's success in recent times has ensured him a place in the starting XI across all formats. To feature in the team regularly, the 26-year old Tamil Nadu player Vijay has to dethrone the wiry Gujarat boy currently on a break.
Vijay has featured regularly over the past three years, in the India A set-up under coach and batting great Rahul Dravid.
"I had just come back home from Indore when I got the news and I was very happy. It's a dream come true moment for me to get a call-up from the Indian team," gushed Vijay who averages 49.14 in first-class cricket with five hundreds and 10 fifties.
Vijay was involved in Tamil Nadu's Ranji Trophy match against Madhya Pradesh in Indore.
"I got a call from MSK Prasad sir (chairman of the selectors). He said: 'You will get an official mail soon.' Till I got the mail, I was anxious as it was hard for me to believe. I was waiting for the mail, which landed around 9 p.m. I was over the moon then and so was my family," Vijay said.
Particularly strong off the pads, and with a fondness for driving on the up, Vijay said his primary job after getting to share the dressing room with the Indian team would be to observe the way the senior pros react to different situations during Test match sessions.
"I put myself in everyone's shoes. I will sit out and keep thinking what I could do if I was there. This would be an opportunity for me to talk to the stars of the team. I want to learn the way they practice and approach. Sitting with the team I will observe them closely," Vijay said.
Vijay has always been among runs and wickets whenever he has taken the field for India A or his state side. A spate of injuries though has not helped his cause over the last 18 months.
"For me it is about giving my best in every game. It is important for me to satisfy myself at the end of the day. That's what I have been doing for quite sometime," said Vijay who is now one of the fittest players in the country and an excellent fielder.
"I generally don't think about what will happen if I don't perform. When I started expressing myself, I am always there in the game. It's important to learn everyday," he added.
Stressing that he is not being diplomatic, Vijay, who has played with the likes of India regulars R. Ashwin and Murali Vijay for his state and Cheteshwar Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli during India A stints, rated every player as among those he looks up to in the Indian team.
"I look up to everyone in this team and I am not being diplomatic about it, trust me. I played with Ashwin and Murali Vijay in Tamil Nadu team. There will be times when the team attacks and times when they hold themselves back, I will be looking at those things minutely. I always put myself in the captain's shoes. So while observing those things, I will look to learn from every single player in the team," Vijay signed off.
India take on Dinesh Chandimal's Sri Lanka in the second Test from Friday.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at email@example.com)